What is application lifecycle management (ALM)?
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Published: 10 April 2024
Contributors: Camilo Quiroz-Vázquez, Michael Goodwin

What is application lifecycle management (ALM)?

Application lifecycle management (ALM) is the process of conceiving, developing, deploying, managing, maintaining and retiring software applications.

ALM involves DevOps and business teams working together for the entire application lifecycle to deploy and deliver functioning applications that meet business objectives. It encompasses numerous related disciplines including requirements management, computer programming, software development, software testing and maintenance, change management, continuous integration, project management and more.

Application development is a collaborative process that works best when all stakeholders have visibility into the process. ALM tools streamline the creation of applications through a defined methodology intended to create quality products. Application lifecycle management tools help IT operations automate processes and workflows that lead to faster deployment and better maintenance throughout the application lifecycle.

Implementing a successful application lifecycle management strategy requires an understanding of the stages of ALM and the creation of a clear strategy and plan for development, deployment and beyond. For a successful product launch, teams must treat every step of the process with equal importance. Because organizations are increasingly reliant on applications to achieve business objectives, it's important to have tools and technologies that can help deliver apps that meet users' needs.

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Stages of application lifecycle management

There are five stages of application lifecycle management, each requiring a separate set of tools and expertise to effectively achieve. Project managers must also define a workflow for ALM. Two common workflows include:

  • The waterfall model is a sequential ALM process with a clearly defined series of steps. With this model, projects do not advance to the next phase without final approval from specific stakeholders. Waterfall models work well with projects that have more predictable steps and fewer variables.

    One of the disadvantages of the waterfall model is that it can be difficult and costly to revisit previous phases of development or make changes when issues or blockers occur.

  • Agile development takes an iterative approach that allows for smaller incremental steps, known as sprints, and the prioritization of feedback from all team members. Each sprint focuses on achieving a specific aspect of the overall project with constant feedback from relevant teams.

    An agile methodology makes it easier for teams to adapt to change and democratize the decision-making process. In agile workflows, steps are not as clearly defined as in waterfall models, which can make assessing total project costs more challenging. 
The 5 stages of application lifecycle management
Requirements management

In the first stage, stakeholders clearly define why they need an application and what business use cases it solves. Stakeholders identify intended users, plan the design of the application user interface, and consider legal compliance standards. Having a detailed and holistic understanding of business requirements during this stage can help avoid bottlenecks down the line.

During this phase, project managers draft timelines, set clear responsibilities for different teams, and establish clear pathways of communication.


Once the application requirements are made clear, development teams begin building the application. Though the development phase is highly technical, business teams, including product marketing and sales teams, should remain involved to make sure the product meets the wanted objectives. Teams establish timelines and requirements for testing during the development stage.

Testing and quality assurance

When the application is built, robust test cases make sure that the product meets business and regulatory requirements, including security and privacy requirements. Testers bring bugs or errors discovered during the process to the development team. Business team members should also be involved in the testing phase to ensure that the application meets expectations.

Test management and DevOps teams employ continuous integration (CI), a process that automates the building and testing of new code. CI helps developers integrate new code and quickly identify any issues. Testing and quality assurance should continue once a product is deployed.


After the sufficient testing of an application, it is deployed to users. Part of the release management plan involves a defined structure for maintenance and making future updates to the application. After release, the application requires constant monitoring to maintain application health.

Continuous maintenance and optimization

When applications are released, they encounter real users and use cases that might create errors or flaws that were not identified before deployment. Application performance management software and solutions help enterprises monitor application performance in real-time. Configuration management tools help maintain the systems, servers and devices that run applications. This helps organizations meet business objectives and enhance user experience.

Also, new technologies or business cases might require updates to existing applications. DevOps teams often deploy continuous delivery (CD) pipelines to automate the process of maintaining and automating apps. When a developer creates new code for an application, continuous delivery solutions automate the process of creating a testing environment for the new code. If new code meets the testing requirements, it is automatically deployed. CD enables teams to make updates and correct errors more quickly, which reduces application downtime.

When implemented correctly, ALM streamlines the process of application and software development while making sure that all stakeholders have input.

DevOps and application lifecycle management

Development and maintenance tools used in application lifecycle management help DevOps teams better streamline and automate the process of developing, deploying and monitoring new applications.   

  • An established ALM practice enables DevOps teams to more easily integrate with, and incorporate feedback from, business and other teams throughout the development process. This capability helps align disparate teams behind shared organizational goals.

  • Version control tools, also known as source code management tools, allow teams to monitor changes to code and updates made to application software over time.

  • Traceability features allow teams to monitor the many moving pieces throughout the application lifecycle to quickly identify any issues.

  • ALM also helps DevOps teams with test management, making sure that only working code is deployed.
Application lifecycle management tools

ALM solutions offer end-to-end tools for the creation and management of applications. These tools, often deployed as SaaS (software as a service) or cloud-based solutions, help manage the increased number of applications that enterprises rely on. Governance tools offer project managers solutions for maintaining communication and feedback loops across teams.

They also provide ways to organize the requirement management process, which helps ensure that organizations meet all business objectives while creating estimated timelines and cost analysis for any particular project. ALM tools provide greater visibility into the application lifecycle, which helps break down silos and allow for more efficient application production.

Application lifecycle management challenges

Two of the main challenges in implementing ALM processes are efficient scalability and consistent visibility. Deploying updates, fixes and new code across a complex system of applications while providing continuous service to users is a difficult task.

This task becomes more challenging when applications and workloads are distributed across multicloud and hybrid cloud platforms, and critical aspects of application management, such as compliance, are siloed to specific departments with their own subject matter experts. These silos can make it difficult to make real-time updates to an application while maintaining compliance, performance and other key factors.

To overcome such challenges, organizations must implement ALM solutions that provide visibility across various departments and insights that team members with different fields of expertise can understand. ALM solutions integrate existing tools and platforms to give users a centralized view of data.

ALM, SDLC and PLM: What’s the difference?

Monitoring the lifecycle of applications, software or other technology means managing it from conception to end of life. There are a few other development methodologies that use the term “lifecycle” including software development lifecycle and product lifecycle management. There are differences between theses processes, and the terms should not be used interchangeably. A quick break down of how they differ:

Software development lifecycle (SDLC)

This process refers to the methodology used to build high-quality software. Software development teams focus on the technology, testing and deployment of a specific piece of software. SDLC is one of the stages of application lifecycle management, which focuses on the software development process. ALM is a broader term that involves planning, developing, deploying and optimizing an application.

Project lifecycle management (PLM)

This process manages the design, development and sale of a particular product. Unlike ALM, PLM often implies the manufacturing of a physical product in addition to software. PLM also gives greater focus to the packaging, marketing and sales of a product with the goal of speeding time to market.

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