Software and web development requires a specialized subset of project management (PM) tools. Due to their unique processes and fast-paced workflows, development teams often follow an agile PM methodology that can support and drive the software development lifecycle.
That’s where application lifecycle management (ALM) software comes in: ALM solutions support agile workflows and create a standardized, centralized environment for software development teams to collaborate with related departments, e.g., test and operations.
They help automate the processes related to application design, development, testing, delivery and maintenance.
In this article, we’ll review three ALM solutions highlighted by research and advisory firm, Gartner, in their 2015 Magic Quadrant for Application Development Lifecycle Management (ADLM).
(Full report available to Gartner clients.)
We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each system and let you calculate the estimated cost for each platform, so you can find the best fit for your small or midsize business (SMB).
Here are the three ALM solutions we’ll review:
Products listed in alphabetical order.
Atlassian’s JIRA Software is a project and issue tracking platform used by software development teams of all sizes. By itself, JIRA is an advanced agile PM tool that supports both scrum and kanban PM methodologies. Teams can build, test and release software and gain actionable insight from the tool’s agile reporting capabilities.
However, when coupled with additional products from the Atlassian portfolio, it becomes a capable ALM solution. In fact, Gartner named Atlassian as a prominent leader in its 2015 Magic Quadrant report for ADLM (this content is available to Gartner clients).
- Confluence: Knowledge and document management.
- HipChat: Communication and real-time collaboration.
- Portfolio for JIRA: Product portfolio management.
What makes JIRA Software great for SMBs: JIRA Software’s project and issue management capabilities has made it a popular solution in the software development industry. Atlassian allows for many customizations and add-ons. A team can configure JIRA Software in various ways to match their exact needs using the following features:
- Custom workflows: Define workflows to streamline development processes according to the needs of the user.
- Custom filters: Using JIRA Query Language (JQL), teams can create filters to make critical information easily accessible.
Teams can connect to code repositories, such as BitBucket (Atlassian’s Git-powered code repository), so code changes are seamless and traceable between the platforms. Additionally, JIRA users have access to over 1,000 add-ons from the Atlassian Marketplace that help extend the capabilities of the platform.
JIRA Software Pricing*:
Pros: JIRA Software is sold as a single, full-featured solution. The pricing is broken down by number of users rather than tiered, feature-packages (where capabilities increase as packages scale). This means that all teams, regardless of size, have access to the same capabilities.
Cons: JIRA’s pricing is reasonable for small teams using the cloud-based version ($10/month flat fee for 10 users). However, the price moves from a flat fee to a per user fee when teams grow beyond 10 users: For 11 – 100 users, the price is $7/user/month. This means that if a 10-person team wants to add one more user, they have to jump from $10/month to $77/month.
*The table above only shows pricing for up to 100 users, as SMB teams are most likely below this threshold. Discounts for annual subscriptions may apply, but are not reflected. Potential costs for add-ons, setup, maintenance and other service fees are also not reflected. For specific pricing information, contact Atlassian.
Gartner named Inflectra as a key challenger in the 2015 Magic Quadrant for ADLM. There are three products that make up Inflectra’s “Spira” brand. Each product targets a different set of user needs:
- SpiraTest: Requirements, defect and issue management
- SpiraTeam: Integrated ALM solution, containing all the features and capabilities found in the other two products: SpiraTest + SpiraPlan = SpiraTeam
What makes SpiraTeam great for SMBs: As an all-inclusive ALM solution, teams can use SpiraTeam to manage the entire product development lifecycle—from requirements management to QA and testing to reporting and portfolio optimization—all within one tool.
The platform supports teams of every size, from single users to teams of up to 500. What’s more, single users benefit from the same functionality as an enterprise team of 500 because SpiraTeam isn’t sold in tiered, feature-based packages, but rather by number of concurrent users.
Pros: Inflectra provides unlimited phone and email support to every user, regardless of the size of the team. Additionally, users have access to an online knowledge base and support forums and can submit a helpdesk ticket for issues not answered in the online documentation.
Cons: While pricing is based on the number of concurrent users, it is not sold on a per-user basis, but rather in user blocks. Meaning, if a three person team using the cloud-based software wants to add one more user, they have to jump from $79.99/month to $119.99. If a 10-person team wants to add an additional user, they have to jump from $199.99/month to $399.99.
*The table above only shows pricing for up to 100 users as SMB teams are most likely below this threshold. Discounts for annual subscriptions may apply, but are not reflected. Potential costs for setup, maintenance, annual renewal and other service fees are also not reflected. For specific pricing information, contact Inflectra.
VersionOne was also recognized as a leader in Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant for ADLM. Their product is an agile PM solution designed to assist organizations with scaling agile practices from the team level to the product portfolio level. As such, it is sold in four packages with capabilities increasing as the product scales:
- Team: Supports up to 10 users and a single project. Includes basic planning, testing and burndown and velocity reports.
- Catalyst: Supports up to 20 users and multiple projects. Includes customized workflows, issue tracking and enhanced reporting.
- Enterprise: Supports unlimited users, projects and teams. Includes advanced reporting and program management.
- Ultimate: Supports unlimited users, projects and teams. Includes custom reporting, product roadmapping and portfolio management.
What makes VersionOne great for SMBs: Whether your development team is just starting to adopt agile practices, or if your organization has institutionalized agile workflows across the business, there’s an edition of VersionOne designed to fit your needs.
Additionally, investing in a solution that is sold via tiered feature packages means that teams can continue using the solution as they grow or their needs change. They can invest in the package that best fits their needs now and scale to a more advanced package in time, never having to pay for features or services outside the scope of their current processes.
Pros: VersionOne offers training and support options for all customers, including webinars, white papers, product videos. They also provide consulting and agile training services, and have conducted an industry-renowned “State of Agile Report” for ten years running.
Cons: The downside to a tiered, feature-package pricing model is that features which offer the most return for users (e.g. custom fields, data visualization tools and resource management planning), are often available only in the higher-end editions.
This is true in this case as well: VersionOne offers basic dashboards and reporting in the Team and Catalyst editions, but more advanced program management capabilities, such as cross-project reporting and resource capacity planning, are reserved for the Enterprise and Ultimate packages.
Furthermore, many critical ALM capabilities, including product roadmapping and most data visualization tools, are available only in the Ultimate edition.
Conclusions and Next Steps
SMB teams have a lot to consider when evaluating ALM solutions. As demonstrated by the products above, functionality and pricing can vary greatly from system to system.
To make it easier, here are three key factors to keep in mind as you evaluate the various ALM tools on the market:
1. Needs of your team: If your team has standard practices already in place, finding an ALM solution that allows for customizations is critical. This ensures that the tool can support existing workflows rather than dictating them.
2. Scalability of the solution: It’s likely that over time, the needs of your team will change as your department grows or the applications you’re developing become more complex. As such, it’s important to consider both your current and future needs and invest in a solution with capabilities that can support you now and into the future.
3. Pricing structure: We saw various pricing structures in the tools discussed above: Pricing based on number of concurrent users or based on tiered, feature-packages. Prospective buyers should consider how often they add users to their team as this could impact the decision to buy a software sold in blocks of users or a tool priced per user per month.
If you’d like to learn more about application lifecycle management or want more information about any of the platforms discussed in this article, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m available to answer any questions you might have and can help get you set up for a price quote or product demo.
If you aren’t sure the solutions discussed here are right for you, head over to our ALM tools buyer’s guide for information about highly rated alternatives. You can read reviews from real users and see how your peers have rated each system for qualities such as ease of use and customer support.