Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can PLM encompass ALM (Application Lifecycle management)?

Some time back I had raised this question in the "PLM Group" in LinkedIn - Can PLM encompass ALM (Application Lifecycle management)?

A large number of products today contain software in them. Should a company which uses a PLM system to manage their engineering data invest in an additional ALM system to manage the software development part of such products? Or as the categories of ALM tools as defined in Wikipedia should there be a convergence of PLM and ALM and PLM vendors start offering support for such embedded software development as well? Are their any PLM vendors already doing this?

To which David Fulton replied:
"If you are building a product which has a significant software portion -- you need both an ALM and a PLM system. At least today...
PLM systems are typically centered around a "part" -- meaning something that is manufactured. ALM systems are typically centered around software code files. ALM systems have to manage all of the complexities inherent in software development -- which are at a much more detailed level than the PLM system, because numerous changes to the software files usually result in a single compiled software module which the PLM system treats as a single part.
Thus, if you were (for example) a large automobile company and you were having trouble with your electronic speed control in several vehicles, the PLM system would manage the BOM for each vehicle, but the ALM system would need to manage the changes and revisions of the software used in each version of the speed control software. So, if the problem was introduced in rev 3 of a particular software file, you would use the ALM system to determine which version(s) of the speed control software module included that file -- for example, Rev 2.1
Then you would use the PLM system to determine which automobiles (ie - model and serial number) included the electronic speed control assembly that Rev 2.1 of the "speed control software" belonged to.
Yes, this is complicated -- but until PLM systems REALLY understand the idea of a "sub-part" and allow it to be associated to individual software files -- you must have both systems -- one to manage the "part relationships" and another one to manage the "software file relationships".
Otherwise, you don't have enough capability in the ALM system to effectively track the BOM for a collection of physical parts and you don't have enough visibility within the PLM system to be able to drill down and track each software file. (BTW -- this argument goes away if your device has only a few parts, like a cellular phone, or if the software component is minimal, like in an appliance.)"

And David Sherburne "I agree with David, we are working on what the integration between the ALM and the PLM platform needs to look like. In the end the PLM platform has to house the complete BOM and we want to have good relationships between the change control process and SW and HW team at the products level. PLM has to be optimized for broad access to data and ALM has to be optimized for agile and frequent change control."

PLM and ALM integration is becoming a real need specially if you are developing electromechanical devices. Last heard, PTC has proposed ALM be included in the PLM solution. The benefit, is “customers will be able to have a single solution that manages mechanical, electrical and software development.”
Most of the features like Project Management, Change management, Issue management, Monitoring and reporting, Workflow, and Versioning will be the same for PLM as well as ALM systems. However note that a PLM system is more of a “part-based” system whereas an ALM system needs much more levels of granularity. For a mature PLM system to add some kind of logical layer over their original core to attain such levels of granularity will need a major investment – which is only possible if there is an adequate amount of requirement. Looks like there might be “PTC has seen limited adoption of ALM, but said their customers are starting to ask for a software product to help manage the embedded the software.

For more discussions one can see Oleg's blog entry: "PLM and ALM: How To Blend Disparate Systems?"

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