Why do all-in-one ALM tools fail?

Software development lifecycle has become extremely complex with the pressure of reducing time to market and rapidly changing technology ecosystem. Cloud and mobile technologies have given rise to newer development methodologies and processes. Realizing the opportunity, a large number of application lifecycle management (ALM) tools for different stages of application lifecycle have sprung up. There is a flood of requirements management, test management, test automation and defect tracking tools in the software development market. This market has so far been a green pasture for most of these tool companies to feed upon and co-exist in harmony. The key to success of so many tools is that they have been able to find their own niche, be it a particular industry, a development process, customer size or geography.

Some players have time and again attempted to broaden their offering by trying to go after areas they had never touched before. The idea of becoming a one-stop shop for all ALM solutions should seem like a knock-out punch to all the other players that are busy trying to solve one or the other problem in application lifecycle. However, this strategy has proved self destructive and many companies that were once market leaders in their own niche have vanished from the map.

The reason why all-in-one ALM tools fail is not too far-fetched to be seen. Bundling products has been one of the successful strategies that companies have employed over the years. For instance, Microsoft successfully packaged IE with windows for many years before users realized they are being denied the freedom of choosing the browser they like. Consumers today want flexibility, and software professionals are no different. They want to be able to pick and choose the best solutions for managing different stages of application lifecycle, based on their goals and processes.

Users should be able to choose JIRA or Bugzilla for defect tracking, QMetry for test management and different tools for test automation and so on, depending upon their priorities and business goals. The condition however is that, once integrated, these best of the breed tools should be able to provide a seamless experience to the end users.  With open web APIs and technology, most of the tools today are able to provide a deep integration with one another.   All-in-one ALM tools could prove useful for teams that follow very standard processes and do not change them for long time frames. However, such companies not wanting to change in today’s world don’t survive for too long. Software teams need to quickly respond to changing technology ecosystem by adapting their processes. They need to be able to change one part of the process without affecting the other. All-in-one ALM tools do not allow this flexibility. If you want to change one part of your process, say for example, the way you manage defects, you will need to get rid of the tool itself. On the other hand, if you were using an integrated solution, you could easily plug in a different defect management tool without having to change your test management workflow.

In sum, the key to success for ALM tool companies to focus on a niche and develop products that are flexible enough to integrate with other ALM tools, rather than trying to become a one-stop shop.

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