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Neuma White Paper:
CM: THE NEXT GENERATION of CM/ALM Architecture
CM architecture has the ability to influence the market,
even more so than vice versa. The
complexity of CM and ALM forces vendors to take the lead in market
development. But the market will have its
influence, and those solutions with strong architectures will be in the best
position to serve that market.
Last year at this time, I identified where I thought the CM
solution space was heading generally.
Looking back two and three years ago, I painted a bit of a picture of
what defines 3rd and 4th generation CM/ALM solutions. Over the next couple of years, we should
expect to see competitive and market pressures push the industry into the 3rd
So this year, I'd like to anticipate a few specific trends
that will start to shape the market over the next year or two, as third
generation solutions begin to emerge: Pricing,
Ease-of-Use and Customization.
Before we do, let's review briefly the key capabilities that
constitute a 3rd generation architecture.
3rd Generation CM/ALM
What features distinguish 3rd generation solutions from
their 2nd generation counterparts? This
is one person's opinion on what additional features are required in a 3rd
generation CM/ALM solution, so expect there to be a certain level of
subjectivity. As you go through the feature list, try to envision the
architectural requirements of a 3rd generation solution. If there are
particular areas you wish to zero in on, look at the CM Journal January 2005
and January 2006 articles by this same author.
Administration and Operations
Low Administration (single administrator)
Fully Interoperable between Windows/Unix, Big/Little
Endian architecture, 32/64-bit architecture
Low Risk, Rapid Roll-out and Upgrade Capabilities
Scalability to Hundreds of Users per Server
Platform-independent scripting integrated along with
repository data access
Basic Multi-site Capability Across Entire Tool Suite
maintaining Low Administration
High Reliability and Availability
Data Transaction Journaling and Data Recovery
Advanced Backup and/or Redundancy Capabilities
Change Package-based CM Model and Processes with
Change-based Promotion Model
Formal Support of Stream Based Development
Minimizing Branch/Merge Requirements (e.g. thru use of
1st Order Objects)
Stream-based Automated Branching/Knowledge of Branching
Strategy and Product Road Map
Easy Build/Release Compares: source, changes, defects,
Automatic Build/Make/ANT File Generation
Easy Bulk-load Capability for End Users, including
multiple Source Baselines and Problem/Feature/Change Data
Applications and Process
Integrated, Configurable Process State/Transition
Role-based data access and functionality
Broad set of Integrated Applications from Requirements
Management through to Test Case Management
Seamless Integration of CM/ALM Applications on a single
repository, common user interface
Extensive High-Level Customization: Process, GUI, Schema
Real-time Metrics to Support Decision Making
Ease of Use
Unix, Windows, Web Access Interfaces
- Role-based Operation
Flexible Reporting and Interactive Query
Context-sensitive on-line help
Advanced Merge Operations with Selectable Diff/Merge
IP-based and File System-based Connectivity Capability
So with this as a background, let's look at three key trends
that will help shape the CM/ALM solution market over the next couple of
years: Pricing, Ease-of-Use and
The cost of ownership for CM technology, including
consulting, operations, licenses, maintenance, training and customization, has
been historically high. In fact, such
costs have, in some cases, been the difference between a profitable and
unprofitable year. When these costs are
compared against the bottom line, it becomes clear that such costs cannot be
sustained year after year, especially while other technology costs continue to
drop. So pricing changes will be coming.
Open source tools have encroached on the low end CM solution
space. More to the point, they've taken
it over except for a couple of significant commercial players on which enormous
price pressure has been placed. As long
as they can continue to differentiate themselves from the open source solutions,
they will have their market share. But
there may also be some pricing pressure to contend with from higher end
solutions. In any event, low end CM
solutions will be dominated more and more by open source solutions.
Moving up to the middle of the solution space, there are a
number of older solutions and some new ones, including open source solutions,
which are competing. These are typically
big IT solutions which knit together a number of tools into a somewhat coherent
ALM solution. The verdict is still out on the open source ALM solutions, but
the market will not support the big ticket prices of the big IT solutions much
longer. Cost is too much of a risk,
especially with other alternatives emerging.
It's easy enough to do some homework and find equivalent or even better
solutions at a lower price. The real
question is whether or not the big ticket prices are needed for some vendors to
maintain adequate margin. And open
source is not necessarily a solution to high costs in the middle tier, because
of the demand that the tools do more. As
a result, consulting, customization, training and operations costs are usually
much more significant than licensing costs.
The high end solution space is still emerging. This is the third generation CM/ALM solution
space. It will continue to emerge slowly
with only a couple of exceptions. One
question here is how will new technology capture market share when dealing with
a backbone technology. And one component
of the answer is new pricing strategies.
The high end solution space is 3rd generation (3G) technology. This means that the cost of ownership of such
solutions will be significantly lower than that of the older counterparts. This in turn will lead to pricing
Think about it for a minute.
3G is easier to use, so less support is required - both for sales and
technical support - so higher support margins for the vendors/consultants. 3G is integrated technology, so an ALM suite
produced by a single vendor on a single middleware engine increases vendor
margins while still reducing customer costs for the suite. 3G solutions require little administration,
so customers will realize greater return on their investment. 3G technology is more easily customized and
covers a wider solution space, so it will be used over a longer period without
Some new pricing options we'll begin to see might include:
Paying a percentage of customer savings (as compared to
the current solution)
- Using it for a year or more before significant financial
commitment has to be made
- Combining the licensing and maintenance costs into
- Lower product pricing, especially until the benefits are
proven in the market place
If a vendor believes it has a solution with a compelling
"long-term" advantage, it can give the customer a wider variety of
payment options. These are attractive to
the customer, but also can be attractive to the vendor. For example, if payment is based on savings
and the vendor can really deliver, the margins can be dramatic. Or if up-front licensing is replaced with
monthly leasing, total revenues over the years can be substantially
higher. The key is clearly demonstrating
the gains of 3G technology and ensuring that the capabilities offered will continue
to be competitive over the life of the contract. As well, consulting and
training revenues will decrease, while consultant margins (for fixed price
solutions) increase. This increase will
be a result of being able to deliver higher value with less effort, as compared
to 2G solutions.
And the cycle will be repeated when 4G technology emerges
down the road.
Ease-of-Use means Broader Use
Two key factors have kept CM/ALM solutions in the hands of
the CM managers and developers and their managers. The first is the target functionality of the
solutions - aimed at these roles. The
second is the ease of use, or more specifically, the lack thereof.
This is going to change rapidly over the next couple of
years, and, in fact, the change has already begun. CM/ALM tools will be targeted more to the
entire management team, as well as to other players in the product camp. This includes technical support staff (some
CRM functions), project management, the documentation team, and to all levels
of management. Perhaps not all roles
will be supported all at once, but there will be a definite progression of
roles addressed by advanced tools.
Management requires greater transparency to product data and
this will require effective data navigation capabilities. What will emerge are very-easy-to-use role-based
interfaces which allow metrics to be easily defined and tapped, and which allow
management at all levels to keep a pulse on each product while allowing
effortless drill-down and summary capabilities.
Dashboards technology will advance significantly, and will be defined
and refined by the customer to meet specific requirements of the management
team and management meetings. In
particular, there will be a dashboard defined specifically to run a CRB for a
specific product development stream.
Ease-of-use will be dramatically improved by the
introduction of to-do lists/in-boxes which drive each member of the team. As 3G solutions mature, role-specific tabs
which present a series of dashboards, summaries and other information that
otherwise would have to be requested, will further simplify the user
interface. A simple click on a tab will
put the required information front and center.
Where integrated solutions sit on a single database, there
will be the ability to easily define metrics, both with a measurement
component, and a drill-down capability.
This will be further enhanced with the ability to navigate integration
links in a natural fashion so that required information is never more than a few
clicks away. For those who have a
tendency to avoid using tools, a "live" export capability will permit
current views of a report by simply opening up the report from the file system
explorer, or perhaps from an intranet web portal.
The developer will not be left out of the ease-of-use
advances. Bulk file loading will be done with a simple drag and drop operation,
with similar capabilities for populating and synchronizing workspaces. The CM industry will finally start to see
command-based "incantations" and menu/dialog intensive operations as
archaic and will replace them with a more succinct and natural set of
operations that require little, if any, training.
Customization - User Interface, Applications and
CM is not headed in a one-size-fits-all direction in the
near term. There are too many ways of
doing things today. The ALM suite is
expanding much faster than standardization could be applied. And today's vendor architectures are vastly
Customers are tired of trying to shoehorn their requirements
into vendor solutions that are not flexible.
The result is apparent in some more recent ALM offerings: customization
is a clear requirement and where the architecture allows, vendors are starting
to deliver (see MKS and Neuma for example, both Canadian offerings).
From a user interface perspective, customization will be
much easier. The ability to easily
define or refine menu definitions and forms will emerge from a much more
complex capability. And additional
features will allow dynamic customization, based on role, object state, and
context. The same goes for forms and
interactive displays. The ability to
customize the to-do lists and role-specific tabs to the customer and user
specific requirements will eventually be both available and
straightforward. No more months of
consulting and charges (and business cases) to get the user interface to behave
the way you need. The vendors who are able to deliver extensive and easy user
interface customization will emerge as the winners. Large customers will find the cost savings
and the capabilities compelling. CM
consultants will see an opportunity to turn CM solutions into high-level tool
kits that they can use to generate wider profit margins (i.e. use less effort)
while delivering more value with more accurate adherence to customer
Process customization will continue to dominate the
direction of newer tools, with some new twists.
A stronger focus on existing process frameworks will emerge in the form
of specific configurations or plug-ins for CM/ALM tools. Expect to see this for
CMM/CMMI frameworks to start, with some more specific ones to follow, including
CMII frameworks for both hardware and software development. These in turn will widen the ALM function to
ensure that peer reviews are properly tracked, as are CRB and CIB meetings. The
customization capabilities will eventually have to permit definition of such
related applications within the same ALM framework. And it will have to be in such a manner that
operating and support costs remain lean.
Process definition will start from the user interface and
will work towards the resulting workflow and data requirements: What "tabs" (information views) and
dashboards are required? What to-do
lists are required for each role? What
are the roles? What state/transition
diagrams are needed for each type of object?
What object-oriented actions are permitted on each item in its current
state? What rules and triggers govern
state transitions and permit full workflow automation? How should data schema
be modified to support the requirements?
Ultimately, customization of process will be enhanced with
configuration management of those processes so that it is always possible to
know which processes were used at which points in time during each product
The real challenge will be to ensure that upgrades can be
properly managed across the configuration-specific deployments. If customization results in a long and
tedious upgrade process, customers will not move forward and the solutions will
eventually grow old. But where
architectures permit customization to persist alongside upgrades, an enviable
vendor/customer relationship will emerge.
So these are the three key trends that will start to shape
the CM/ALM marketplace: pricing alternatives, ease-of-use, and effective and
easy customization of the solution. Some
of todays tools will be able to support such an architecture, others will not.
Continued Pressure on Older Technology
As newer technology emerges, there will be significant
levels of pressure on older technology.
Some technologies will be able to adapt and carve out market
niches. Others will simply disappear
from the face of the earth because they've been overtaken or overshadowed by
the newer technologies.
It will become much more clear as to which solutions truly
possess a good architecture for moving forward, and which are simply tools
built around one or two key concepts that helped them to grab an initial market
niche. CM tools that focus primarily on
developer and CM manager tasks may still have their markets, but these will
shrink into niche markets. Tools with
architectures that have the ALM picture in mind, and which are positioned to
handle the upcoming changes in pricing, ease-of-use and customization, while
growing into and surpassing 3G functionality, will gradually take hold as the
longer term solutions while 3G becomes mainstream.
This is why the industry should resist the urge to associate
3G technology with a particular new feature or capability. 3G technology encompasses a wide range of
capabilities which really define a new architectural capability which can
continue to evolve. And solution
architecture will dictate the survivors.
Joe Farah is the President and CEO of Neuma Technology . Prior to co-founding Neuma in 1990 and directing the development of CM+, Joe was Director of Software Architecture and Technology at Mitel, and in the 1970s a Development Manager at Nortel (Bell-Northern Research) where he developed the Program Library System (PLS) still heavily in use by Nortel's largest projects. A software developer since the late 1960s, Joe holds a B.A.Sc. degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. You can contact Joe by email at email@example.com