Project Management: The Forgotten Piece of ALM?

February 15, 2006 —  (Page 1 of 3)
From design to deployment, ALM players talk up the benefits of life-cycle tools. But when it comes to project management, they aren’t saying a word.

That’s not because project management software isn’t used for development projects. It is.

And it’s not because companies that sell ALM software don’t integrate their offerings with Microsoft Project, or the widely used project management tools from Philadelphia-based Primavera. Many do, including Borland, IBM, Microsoft, MKS and Telelogic.

So, why are ALM players silent on the subject of project management? “Project management tools have never solved the problem of why software is late, or why projects fail,” said Bill Shaw, vice president of life-cycle solutions at Telelogic.

Project management tools do a good job of producing schedules and allocating resources but a poor job of conveying development effort status, said spokesmen for ALM tools companies. That’s largely because data pertaining to software projects has traditionally been subjective.

“You can say a project is 40 percent done, but you might as well make up any number you want,” said Dave Martin, vice president of product management for MKS.

Once a project kicks off, there is no good way to measure its success, added Ashok Reddy, IBM program director for Rational brand portfolio marketing. “A developer can say a project is 100 percent compete, but defects may still be there.”

The ALM tools companies agreed project management software wasn’t written with development projects in mind. It is geared, they said, to more engineering-like efforts, where task duration tends to be predictable. Ask a carpenter how long it takes to hang Sheetrock, and you’ll get a reliable answer, said Greg Rice, a senior director of product marketing at Borland, which offers ALM tools and services. “But in software there is uncertainty about these things.”

But as top management demands better software, faster—and insists on deeper visibility into development projects—project leaders are moving beyond ad hoc estimates, importing more pertinent information, such as work tracking, requirements, change management and testing data into project management tools. Armed with accurate data from ALM offerings, project management tools can help development teams make their case to the business side of the house. “For the first time, you can explain the real impact of a change request,” said Shaw. “That enables development managers to say, ‘You have to reduce the scope of the project or extend the delivery date,’” he said.

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