What Is Application Life Cycle Management? Stages, Uses and Importance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 4, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing and managing technological products involves various complex processes and industry approaches so they can continue to develop. In recent years, using application life cycle management has become a prominent choice for professionals in this field, as it allows for improved collaboration, communication and team integration. If you're seeking a method to help make the life cycle of your computer products and their development workflow more efficient, you may consider using application life cycle management. In this article, we outline what application life cycle management is, its four primary stages, why it's important and its benefits.

What is application life cycle management?

Application life cycle management (ALM) refers to the product life cycle management of computer software and applications. The system of product life cycle management encompasses the full process of developing a product from its origins through phases like design, engineering, manufacturing and maintenance to its deployment. Using this general definition as a basis, ALM entails the activities necessary to create successful computer products, such as requirements management, software architecture, change management, continuous integration, project management, quality assurance (QA) and release management.

ALM can serve as a comprehensive system that includes certain people, tools and processes that guide a computer product from its initial planning phase to its retirement upon the release of updated products. Further, ALM tools offer professionals a standardized and automated environment where they can work together more effectively across departments and disciplines. For example, ALM can help software development teams communicate and collaborate with professionals working on testing or operations. Therefore, ALM can offer teams the ability to produce high-quality work, optimize products for release and maintain products more efficiently.

Related: Managing the Product Life Cycle: Definition and Examples

ALM vs. SDLC

ALM and the software development life cycle (SDLC) are commonly mistaken for one another because of their overlap. While these two systems both contribute to the creation of computer products, SDLC is more concerned with the development phase, whereas ALM encompasses the full application life cycle and continues past the application development stage. Therefore, because ALM includes concept origination, development, maintenance and decommissioning activities, professionals in this field often conceptualize SDLC as one part of ALM.

Related: What Is Software Development: Definition, Processes and Types

What are the 4 parts of application life cycle management?

There are four primary stages of application life cycle management that follow a product from its origins to maintenance and its eventual retirement:

Application governance

The governance of an application refers to the decisions stakeholders make about it. This stage creates a new application and aims to define the idea for the product, how it connects to larger business needs and what objectives it can accomplish. During this time, stakeholders often determine the requirements for the product, allocate resources, establish data or security protections and how they plan for end-users to access the product.

Related: What Is the System Development Life Cycle? (With Steps and Tips)

Application development

With its requirements outlined, professionals can start developing the product. During this phase, a team may build and deploy an iteration of the product one or more times each day, depending on their expectations for release. Activities like designing the product, building its features, testing its functionality and deploying it are all encompassed by the development stage.

Software testing

With a fully developed product, team members can begin testing processes through which they can identify any issues with functionality or bugs. If testers find any issues, they can work toward resolving them before starting production. For some teams, testing processes may occur continuously under iterative development processes. The goal of this stage is to ensure that a product works effectively, meets requirements and can provide end-users with the value stakeholders originally outlined in the governance phase.

Read more: The Phases of Software Testing: Explanation and Steps

Operations and maintenance

When testers complete their duties and the product is bug-free, team members can work toward deploying it to end-users. In this stage, team members provide consistent maintenance, deploy updates and monitor the operations of a product. In addition, this stage encompasses the retirement of a product, as team members typically determine when a product or a certain version of it will no longer be available to users or supported by current systems. This is the stage that differentiates ALM as a process that encompasses the complete life cycle of a product.

What is the importance of application life cycle management?

ALM is important because it offers increased value to product development and management professionals. In recent years, ALM has become a popular system for creating effective computer products, as some organizations in the industry have realized the importance of collaborative project management strategies. Here's an outline of the origins of ALM to help you better understand its value:

Waterfall approach

Prior to its inception, teams working on computer products used the waterfall approach to project management in software development but realized that this method often led to project scope creep, budget ineffectiveness and inefficient workflow that resulted in missed deadlines. These poor results were a product of the fact that each discipline within the development life cycle remained separate, which made collaboration and communication challenging tasks. Such tasks required the development of an alternative approach.

Related: Agile vs. Waterfall: Which Methodology Is Right for You?

Agile approach

The Agile Manifesto, a declaration of unification of project management frameworks, offered an alternative method to the waterfall approach. Upon introducing Agile project management, organizations recognized the importance of integrated teams. Since the Agile approach allows for teams to define project requirements and plan workflow collaboratively, many professionals now recognize it as significantly more efficient than the previous waterfall approach. In Agile project management, teams work together throughout release, testing and deployment phases as they develop updates. This iterative process enables teams to work interdependently and maximize their productivity.

Read more: Comprehensive Guide to the Values and Principles of Agile Software Development

ALM approach

With industry leaders generating effective products through the Agile method, professionals in the computer product industry began using ALM as a similar approach that fit their specific needs. ALM merges all the previously separate disciplines and processes included in the product life cycle and encourages collaboration.

This has allowed teams to improve their work—rather than professionals working separately on the many processes involved in a project, ALM provides a single process that encompasses all elements for continuous delivery of features. Now, instead of waiting long periods between large update releases, computer product companies can offer updates to software, systems and applications more frequently.

Benefits of using application life cycle management

Using ALM can offer organizations and teams alike significant benefits. Here are some of those benefits outlined:

  • Competent decision-making: Since ALM encompasses the various integrated processes throughout the entire life cycle of a product, it allows stakeholders to make more informed decisions.

  • **Speed and agility:** ALM gives teams the ability to work on an iterative and efficient basis. This can help companies maintain a competitive edge while continuously working on refining a product.

  • Quality assurance: The collaborative and communicative tools and processes within ALM allow teams to produce high-quality work that better meets requirements determined by the governance stage.

  • Effective planning: ALM typically provides teams with a standardized set of procedures for planning, designing, developing, testing, deploying and maintaining a product. Through these clearly defined stages, teams can more effectively plan their activities and strategize for success.

  • Visibility: The life cycle of a product can include a complex set of processes that are often challenging to track. ALM provides teams with more visibility that enables consistent cross-departmental communication about a project's progression.

  • Customer satisfaction: Since ALM can enable teams to produce better products and maintain them effectively in the long term, this systematic approach may lead to higher rates of customer satisfaction.

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