The best (and worst) features of 5 leading ALM suites

Managing a portfolio of ever-changing software development projects is never easy, but application lifecycle management suites are intended to keep track of all the details. Here’s what software engineers say are the pros and cons of five top tools.

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Application lifecycle management (ALM) suites allow corporate IT managers to supervise in-house software projects from cradle to grave — closely tracking every development in between. Five of the top ALM suites are CA Agile Central (formerly Rally ALM), JIRA, HP Enterprise ALM, HPE Agile Manager and Team Foundation Server (TFS), according to online reviews by enterprise users in the IT Central Station community.

But what do software engineers really think about these tools? Here, users give a shout-out for some of their favorite features, but also give the vendors a little tough love.

Editor’s note: These reviews of select ALM suites come from the IT Central Station community. They are the opinions of the users and are based on their own experiences.

CA Agile Central (formerly Rally ALM)

Valuable Features

“We are able to identify individual teams, and those teams can then break down their work, and watch it flow through their process. The benefit is that it provides transparency into the work that teams are doing.”
Associatc975, associate project manager at a healthcare company
“It's designed around agile, so it has all of the pieces that match up with the process. At the portfolio management level, we can see everything at one glance — all projects, where they're at — and view progress reports.”
Jon R., senior curriculum development manager at a software R&D company
“For me, it is the burn up and burn down chart, so I can measure progress easily. It shows me the progress of the team and it helps me show the progress to my business.”
Srishti S., IT manager at a transportation company

Room for Improvement

“I think the UI could use some improvement. I believe they're working on it. Also, it's not the most developer-friendly tool.”
Krisztian G., program management director at a software R&D company
“In the next version, I'd like to see more of a focus on reporting at that overall level. I want to find a way to do analytics on what's going on within the tool, how many people are using it, and not so much detailed reporting on individual teams. I want to see how the organization is doing as a whole as they use the tool.”
ManagerA18d9, application developer at a healthcare company
“There should be different ways to decide on the [user] requirements, not only a flow chart. Maybe with use cases or another more graphical way to represent the business requirements.”
Suzana G., architecture manager at a communications service provider

You can read more CA Agile Central reviews on IT Central Station.

JIRA

Valuable Features

“Multiple features make this product a delight to use. Using this for backlog prioritization is the key to either kanban or scrum processes. JIRA does a great job of articulating the story and adding elements to the story to help in the prioritization.”
Joe F., technologist at a consulting firm
“I like how it shows the sprints remaining. Being able to instantly see where you are in a project, and what is coming up, is invaluable.”
Aimee W., website and ecommerce professional
“The ability to keep stories, bugs and documentation in one application is a valuable feature, as is the ability to easily create swim lanes for organizing work.”
SnrTestAnalyst987, senior test analyst at a maritime company

Room for Improvement

“Managing a large number of users on the cloud version is extremely challenging… [so] I wrote my own command line admin tool in order to manage users more easily.”
AaronKo1, senior IT project manager at a consumer goods company
“JIRA is written in Java and therefore is a bit hard to troubleshoot. It also is very expensive once you have a lot of users.”
Valentin H., cloud architect at a communications service provider
“The reporting out of the box is minimal; I would like to see a report-building capability out of the box.”
Joe F., technologist at a consulting firm

You can read more JIRA reviews on IT Central Station.

HPE ALM

Valuable Features

“We use it to support Performance Center, and it runs underneath it as one big system. The advantage is that we can test applications before they go to production, and as long as we're testing in a production-sized environment, we have a pretty good idea how an application will perform in production.”
Bruce C., senior systems engineer at a financial services firm
“The fact that it works with a vast number of technologies [is good] for us, because our internal customers use the tool for testing a lot of different applications.”
John F., software QA lead at a healthcare company
“We have a pretty strong emphasis on quality, so ALM is our gold source repository for quality. That's where we store everything: requirements, test cases, defects, and all of the artifacts certifying that quality is evident in every release.”
Mike P., director of service transition and quality management at a health insurance company

Room for Improvement

“The web client doesn't match the quality of the rest of the features of this solution. HPE needs to improve it.”
Samahmud, senior performance engineer at an airline
“As an administrator, [I’d like to have] the ability to add users to their appropriate user groups from inside of the Site Administrator tool, instead of having to log into the ALM project itself to make that user group assignment.”
Mark H., QA at a healthcare company

You can read more HPE ALM reviews on IT Central Station.

HPE Agile Manager

Valuable Features

“It's really user-friendly and syncs with Quality Center ALM, which is our testing tool.”
Carl P., professional software engineer at an insurance company
“It provides visibility on the progress of backlog item completions for sprints and the impact progress is having on the overall release date. Integration with HPE ALM/QC, Jenkins and Subversion allows us to view the project’s health through one product.”
Jonathan G., senior configuration/QA engineer at a pharma/biotech company
“The dashboard summary views and product backlog management are valuable. It is helping us organize and manage our agile development process to get solutions to market faster.”
ITAdmin897, IT administrator at a financial services firm

Room for Improvement

“They need to make further improvements with the graphs for each business unit. For example, if we want to track work done by QA or Development, there are no built-in graphs available.”
Sravan M., QA manager at a tech services company
“Resource allocation and management across multiple products. We have the same resources working on multiple products each with their own releases, and Agile Manager does not handle this well, so the overloading or underloading of resources is difficult to monitor.”
Pip N., director of enterprise applications at a logistics company
“Most of the enhancement requests we have are minor, but the biggest challenge we have is around integrations. Defects seem to integrate well; however, we are still trying to figure out how to get requirements to integrate with how we set ALM up.”
ManagerIT358, IT product support manager at a retailer

You can read more HPE Agile Manager reviews on IT Central Station.

TFS

Valuable Features

“TFS replaced a number of separate source control, work item and build solutions that were stretched to their limits; since adopting TFS we have been able to scale the development department without any limits from our tooling.”
Dave S., lead developer at a software R&D company
“With TFS we can manage the whole application lifecycle with a single product, and it is visible for all team members.”
Raúl Á., head of department projects at a tech services company

Room for Improvement

“TFS administration tools need to be more controlled and easier to use.”
Ali A., technical manager at a tech services company
“Scrum Board implementation and Backlog viewer require some improvements to make its usage simpler and interactive.”
Alexander I., software development leader at an energy/utility company
“Continuous integration in most of .NET developments (web and desktop applications) is easy to configure. But in the case of other kinds of developments (SharePoint or Xamarin) it is not so easy, and you have to spend a lot of time making customizations. It would be nice to have some integration tools for these kinds of projects.”
Raúl Á., head of department projects at a tech services company

You can read more TFS reviews on IT Central Station.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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