Organizations At Risk After ALM’s Sale to Micro Focus
Long-time users of Hewlett Packard’s platforms, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Unified Functional Test (UFT), should be concerned about the recent acquisition by Micro Focus.
Organizations that have invested capital, time, and manpower could be at significant risk if Micro Focus follows the same path of declining releases they’ve used with other acquisitions.
HP’s ALM product evolved from Quality Center in the early 2000s. Additional tools and capabilities were added to include requirements management, and testing of functionality and performance. Test plan management also was added in, as were capabilities for developer and defect management.
INDUSTRY ADOPTION OF ALM
Many organizations in diverse industries adopted ALM as their go-to platform for quality management of software. Those same organizations have dedicated significant manhours customizing internal software delivery processes around ALM’s feature set, and integrating ALM into environments, toolchains, and delivery pipelines.
HP has averaged one major and several minor releases per year since version 11 was released in 2013, as indicated by HP data. 1 These major releases have included significant, new feature enhancements as well as bug fixes.
HP’s Unified Functional Test (formerly Quick Test Pro) has seen a similar cadence of releases. 2
STAYING CURRENT WITH INDUSTRY STANDARD TECHNOLOGY AND PROCESS
Ongoing support for key features and processes becomes critical to organizations aiming to keep pace with industry changes. It becomes an equally significant risk when vendors lose parity with evolutions in an organization’s technology and processes.
ALM and UFT have a history of attempting to remain current with changing processes and technologies. For example, HP had continued support for newer versions of AngularJS between ALM versions 12.01 and 12.53. 3
Moreover, HP has long-supported continuous integration environments for ALM and QC/UFT. Hudson, a precursor of Jenkins CI server, was supported well before 2010, and current versions of both tools integrate into every modern build system from Jenkins to Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server.
Enterprises have leveraged Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) heavily to deliver value across their portfolios. For organizations looking to align their processes and tools, it’s logical that they look to incorporate ALM for similar results. Although there are differences between the two products, HP provides documentation and support for the Agile Manager component of ALM. 4
History of Micro Focus
For acquisitions, the Micro Focus business model cuts functions like sales, marketing, support, and other operations and transfers them to centralized, highly efficient departments in-house. While this can result in improved cost savings for Micro Focus, it also results in a loss of domain knowledge and expertise. Furthermore, it delays production of new features and service updates.
Industry journalists have commented on this practice. IT Jungle’s article covering the Micro Focus acquisition of Attachmate features in depth coverage about debt restructuring and costsavings; however, there’s no mention of future vision for the product. 5
LACK OF FEATURE ROADMAP AND SERVICE UPDATES
Any organization that is heavily invested in a toolset should have exposure to future plans for that toolset. Micro Focus has a huge portfolio of products ranging from COBOL to load testing. Many of these products are deeply entrenched in large organizations who depend on product features and software updates staying current.
Unfortunately Micro Focus is completely opaque regarding future plans for any of their offerings, making it challenging for companies to determine if the toolset will continue to support their needs. Micro Focus’ product pages, documentation, and release notes make no mention of product vision or current industry technologies and practices. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to determine a given product’s evolution, since release notes are not available to show release updates.
Software Delivery's Changing Nature
Software delivery has undergone tremendous changes in the last five years. Globalization has driven down the cost of both software and software services.
THE IMPACT OF GLOBALIZATION ON SOFTWARE SYSTEMS
Customers of large software systems are much more educated than a decade ago; and those customers have vastly different expectations for quality, features, and pricing. Those same customers are also looking for far more capabilities from systems both on premises or in the cloud, as well as solid support for mobile devices. These demands put great pressure on software vendors and internal software delivery teams alike. As such, software must be more flexible, more powerful, and ship value dramatically faster in order to maintain a high adoption rate.
TEAMS MUST DELIVER BETTER QUALITY FASTER
Such drastic industry changes and high customer expectations has shifted the focus of many software organizations towards making improvements to their end-to-end delivery process. Customer demand for frequent releases, coupled with an intolerance for lowquality software, has given way to long-overdue changes. Processes are being revised or altogether replaced for Engineering and Development teams, along with changes to departmental culture and delivery technology.
To make value-based decisions, businesses need the ability to quickly extract data, parse it into meaningful information, and provide answers to key business questions. “Is the quality of our software good enough to ship?” “Are we meeting or exceeding customer expectations?” “Will we make the target date or do we need to adjust the scope?” In order to answer questions like these organizations need to adopt rapid development delivery frameworks such as Lean or Agile. These frameworks offer a more streamlined approach to software development and provide ways to drive process automation through DevOps and similar ideologies. Such frameworks also allow for organizations to have globally distributed teams to leverage a “followthe- sun” work day.
CHALLENGES POSED BY AN EVOLVING SOFTWARE DELIVERY LANDSCAPE
Aforementioned demanding market conditions and changing business practices have surfaced significant challenges to the evolving software delivery landscape. Organizations can’t depend on toolsets that are falling behind the industry’s advances, nor can they survive with tools which are forcing teams into more silos due to lack of flexibility.
Thus, they must keep pace with the incredible rate of change for the different types of software being delivered. Consider the explosion of embedded systems in everything from household appliances to automobile entertainment systems, and the meteoric rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) interconnecting smartphones to lightbulbs and garage door openers.
Add to that the mobile space, which is experiencing incredible expansion in functionality, as well as the sheer number of supported devices and platforms. In this current landscape where the growth and complexity of technologies multiplies at a rapid rate, reliable toolsets are a must. Organizations have to ensure they’re able to keep up with this, as the environment is only going to get more and more complex.
Risks to ALM Users
Given the needs of the industry due to its significant changes, HP customers should give heavy consideration to the risks that arise from the sale of HP ALM and UFT platforms to Micro Focus.
CHANGES IN SUPPORT
As noted above, Micro Focus consolidates and centralizes many functions across all of its acquired product lines. This can lead to a dilution of expertise across specific toolsets, as well as a loss of specific domain knowledge. For example, functional testing for Performance and the User Interface (UI) is extremely complex. Customers who require expert assistance in these areas may be disappointed during support reorganizations.
LACK OF INTEGRATION
Will UFT and ALM continue to integrate in to future releases of other industry standard tools like Jira, Jenkins, or Team Foundation Server? Integration and extensibility are key capabilities for many organizations. Integration often is a litmus test that eliminates entire vendors from consideration when organizations look to upgrades or new installations.
Micro Focus’ lack of transparency into their product roadmaps exacerbates the confusion and level of risk that surrounds their acquisition of HP ALM and UFT platforms.
Companies Can't Risk Falling Behind Industry Advances
To stay relevant, software delivery companies cannot afford to fall behind industry advances, whether delivering internally or shipping to external customers. Software is still relatively new to the Engineering field, and the industry is making rapid improvements in the processes and tools used to deliver working systems.
Management tools that can’t keep pace with processes are perhaps even more risky, as businesses need to make far-reaching, wide-impacting decisions based on data information pulled from those systems. Tools which don’t adapt to Enterprise-level processes like SAFe shouldn’t even be considered for adoption, nor should they be considered for upgrade if there’s no clear indication of what that tool’s vendor has for a long-term vision.
Companies that are planning to invest, or are currently invested, in HP ALM or UFT platforms should consider the track record that Micro Focus has established with previous acquisitions and give substantial thought to other alternatives. The potential risks that could be realized from reduced release updates, the lack of ongoing support for key features and processes, and minimal transparency into product roadmaps will have a critical impact to an organization’s competitive cadence.
Organizations’ short- and long-term success will hinge on the outcome of those decisions.