In a sunny Seattle on Tuesday the 19th of May, I was fortunate enough to be invited to run an industry panel at ALM Forum. ALM Forum is an annual event in Seattle where ALM practitioners talk about all things tools ranging from how to configure your build pipeline to running an Agile project. It is a small event in terms of numbers, but big in terms of passion and energy. The panel, which was also live streamed included 5 of the most interesting people in the ALM field: Melinda Ballou, research analyst and program director IDC, Aaron Bjork program manager responsible for Visual Studio Microsoft, Andrew Flick product leader HP ALM group, Thomas Murphey, Gartner research director/analyst, and Distinguished Engineer John Wiegand, one of the driving forces behind Eclipse, OSLC and the Rational tools strategy. With a panel comprised of such amazing people it would be hard not to have a great panel, my only challenge was to not run over (which I failed at) and ensure that everyone had a chance to talk. And here are some the highlights:
Open and heterogeneous
The future of ALM is open, heterogeneous, always changing. Those words would not come as a surprise from me, Melinda or Thomas, but IBM, HP and Microsoft all highlighted how the tools landscape is becoming more fractured, varied and ever-changing and that ALM needs to be inclusive of varied tool chains and tool chains that will change. All three companies highlighted how their approaches were becoming more and more inclusive of a variety of tools including open source and competitor tools. Aaron made the point that the role of tools at Microsoft was yes, to help people develop on Microsoft platforms, but also to help developers build more software. I guess if the whole ocean rises then all the boats rise on it. That was echoed by both Andy and John. John talked about the role of IBM in open source projects and why IBM is so committed to initiatives like OpenStack and Cloud Foundry. The reality is that more software ensures a bigger market for companies like HP, Microsoft and IBM. That market allows them to offer capabilities that rely on information being accessible, open and rich. Tools will continue to cost money, of course, but the focus seems not on making profit from traditional capabilities but instead on capabilities around their use and the use of the applications they build.
That then brings me to
Analytics and information is the new battleground
The battleground is not activities such as development or requirements, but instead analytics and decision-making around the process of software delivery. And increasingly, smart decision-making with HP Autonomy and IBM Watson will help developers make better decisions. Tom Murphy went one step further describing the need to flow customer or Lean analytics into development to ensure that teams were building the right software. Everyone agreed that the lack of data scientists will make it harder to make the right decisions with this information. And that an increased amount of information does not mean the right decisions are being made, but being able to get access to even simple information will be a great start.
This highlighted the distinction between operating the real business process and developing the software to support that business process is blurring with truly business focused teams driving business change with technology rather than separate teams in business operations, development and IT. No one talked about DevOps, but instead highlighted something more holistic with the business I guess they were describing Business DevOps.
This led the panel to bring up the thorny subject of design…
User Experience must be integrated, but that is hard…
Everyone agreed that User Experience is a crucial property of any modern application but User Experience is still a difficult set of skills to marry into modern development. The turtle-wearing designers want to focus on perfection rather than incrementally delivering capabilities in an Agile way. Andy introduced the idea that UX is a quality attribute and thus should be tested. He talked of extending testing tools to provide subjective measures of UX. Tom and Melinda added the need to instrument applications so that customer information is flowing into development to help augment UX decision-making.
So UX, like everything else needs data to be effective and analytics could not only provide insights into how software works, but also how the experience is being perceived by the users of it.
I believe that ALM Forum will publish a recording of the panel which I will share when it comes out, but I wanted to publicly thank the participants Melinda, Aaron, Andy, Tom and John who shared their insights and ideas.