In his CM: the Next Generation series, Joe Farah gives us a glimpse into the trends that CM experts will need to tackle and master based upon industry trends and future technology challenges.
So this year, I'd like to anticipate a few specific trends that will start to shape the market over the next year or two, as third generation solutions begin to emerge: Pricing, Ease-of-Use and Customization.
Before we do, let's review briefly the key capabilities that constitute a 3rd generation architecture.
3rd Generation CM/ALM
What features distinguish 3rd generation solutions from their 2nd generation counterparts? This is one person's opinion on what additional features are required in a 3rd generation CM/ALM solution, so expect there to be a certain level of subjectivity. As you go through the feature list, try to envision the architectural requirements of a 3rd generation solution. If there are particular areas you wish to zero in on, look at the CM Journal January 2005 and January 2006 articles by this same author.
Administration and Operations
- Low Administration (single administrator)
- Fully Interoperable between Windows/Unix, Big/Little
Endian architecture, 32/64-bit architecture
- Low Risk, Rapid Roll-out and Upgrade Capabilities
- Scalability to Hundreds of Users per Server
- Platform-independent scripting integrated along with
repository data access
- Basic Multi-site Capability Across Entire Tool Suite
maintaining Low Administration
- High Reliability and Availability
- Data Transaction Journaling and Data Recovery
- Advanced Backup and/or Redundancy Capabilities
- Change Package-based CM Model and Processes with
Change-based Promotion Model
- Workspace Synchronization/re-basing
- Formal Support of Stream Based Development
- Minimizing Branch/Merge Requirements (e.g. thru use of
1st Order Objects)
- Stream-based Automated Branching/Knowledge of Branching
Strategy and Product Road Map
- Easy Build/Release Compares: source, changes, defects,
- Automatic Build/Make/ANT File Generation
- Easy Bulk-load Capability for End Users, including
multiple Source Baselines and Problem/Feature/Change Data
Applications and Process
- Integrated, Configurable Process State/Transition
- Role-based data access and functionality
- Broad set of Integrated Applications from Requirements
Management through to Test Case Management
- Seamless Integration of CM/ALM Applications on a single
repository, common user interface
- Extensive High-Level Customization: Process, GUI, Schema
- End-to-end Traceability
- Real-time Metrics to Support Decision Making
Ease of Use
- Unix, Windows, Web Access Interfaces
- Role-based Operation
- Rapid Performance
- Flexible Reporting and Interactive Query
- Context-sensitive on-line help
- Advanced Merge Operations with Selectable Diff/Merge
- IP-based and File System-based Connectivity Capability
So with this as a background, let's look at three key trends that will help shape the CM/ALM solution market over the next couple of years: Pricing, Ease-of-Use and
The cost of ownership for CM technology, including consulting, operations, licenses, maintenance, training and customization, has been historically high. In fact, such costs have, in some cases, been the difference between a profitable and unprofitable year. When these costs are compared against the bottom line, it becomes clear that such costs cannot be sustained year after year, especially while other technology costs continue to drop. So pricing changes will be coming.
Open source tools have encroached on the low end CM solution space. More to the point, they've taken it over except for a couple of significant commercial players on which enormous price pressure has been placed. As long as they can continue to differentiate themselves from the open source solutions, they will have their market share. But
there may also be some pricing pressure to contend with from higher end solutions. In any event, low end CM solutions will be dominated more and more by open source solutions.
Moving up to the middle of the solution space, there are a number of older solutions and some new ones, including open source solutions, which are competing. These are typically big IT solutions which knit together a number of tools into a somewhat coherent
ALM solution. The verdict is still out on the open source ALM solutions, but the market will not support the big ticket prices of the big IT solutions much longer. Cost is too much of a risk, especially with other alternatives emerging. It's easy enough to do some homework and find equivalent or even better solutions at a lower price. The real question is whether or not the big ticket prices are needed for some vendors to maintain adequate margin. And open source is not necessarily a solution to high costs in the middle tier, because
of the demand that the tools do more. As a result, consulting, customization, training and operations costs are usually much more significant than licensing costs.
The high end solution space is still emerging. This is the third generation CM/ALM solution space. It will continue to emerge slowly with only a couple of exceptions. One
question here is how will new technology capture market share when dealing with a backbone technology. And one component of the answer is new pricing strategies.
The high end solution space is 3rd generation (3G) technology. This means that the cost of ownership of such solutions will be significantly lower than that of the older counterparts. This in turn will lead to pricing flexibility.
Think about it for a minute. 3G is easier to use, so less support is required - both for sales and technical support - so higher support margins for the vendors/consultants. 3G is integrated technology, so an ALM suite produced by a single vendor on a single middleware engine increases vendor margins while still reducing customer costs for the suite. 3G solutions require little administration, so customers will realize greater return on their investment. 3G technology is more easily customized and covers a wider solution space, so it will be used over a longer period without churn.
Some new pricing options we'll begin to see might include:
- Paying a percentage of customer savings (as compared to
the current solution)
- Using it for a year or more before significant financial
commitment has to be made
- Combining the licensing and maintenance costs into
- Lower product pricing, especially until the benefits are
proven in the market place
If a vendor believes it has a solution with a compelling "long-term" advantage, it can give the customer a wider variety of payment options. These are attractive to the customer, but also can be attractive to the vendor. For example, if payment is based on savings and the vendor can really deliver, the margins can be dramatic. Or if up-front licensing is replaced with monthly leasing, total revenues over the years can be substantially higher. The key is clearly demonstrating the gains of 3G technology and ensuring that the capabilities offered will continue to be competitive over the life of the contract. As well, consulting and
training revenues will decrease, while consultant margins (for fixed price solutions) increase. This increase will be a result of being able to deliver higher value with less effort, as compared to 2G solutions.
And the cycle will be repeated when 4G technology emerges down the road.
Ease-of-Use means Broader Use
Two key factors have kept CM/ALM solutions in the hands of the CM managers and developers and their managers. The first is the target functionality of the solutions - aimed at these roles. The second is the ease of use, or more specifically, the lack thereof.
This is going to change rapidly over the next couple of years, and, in fact, the change has already begun. CM/ALM tools will be targeted more to the entire management team, as well as to other players in the product camp. This includes technical support staff (some
CRM functions), project management, the documentation team, and to all levels of management. Perhaps not all roles will be supported all at once, but there will be a definite progression of roles addressed by advanced tools.
Management requires greater transparency to product data and this will require effective data navigation capabilities. What will emerge are very-easy-to-use role-based interfaces which allow metrics to be easily defined and tapped, and which allow management at all levels to keep a pulse on each product while allowing effortless drill-down and summary capabilities. Dashboards technology will advance significantly, and will be defined
and refined by the customer to meet specific requirements of the management team and management meetings. In particular, there will be a dashboard defined specifically to run a CRB for a specific product development stream.
Ease-of-use will be dramatically improved by the introduction of to-do lists/in-boxes which drive each member of the team. As 3G solutions mature, role-specific tabs which present a series of dashboards, summaries and other information that otherwise would have to be requested, will further simplify the user interface. A simple click on a tab will
put the required information front and center.
Where integrated solutions sit on a single database, there will be the ability to easily define metrics, both with a measurement component, and a drill-down capability.
This will be further enhanced with the ability to navigate integration links in a natural fashion so that required information is never more than a few clicks away. For those who have a tendency to avoid using tools, a "live" export capability will permit current views of a report by simply opening up the report from the file system explorer, or perhaps from an intranet web portal.
The developer will not be left out of the ease-of-use advances. Bulk file loading will be done with a simple drag and drop operation, with similar capabilities for populating and synchronizing workspaces. The CM industry will finally start to see command-based "incantations" and menu/dialog intensive operations as archaic and will replace them with a more succinct and natural set of operations that require little, if any, training.
Customization - User Interface, Applications and Process
CM is not headed in a one-size-fits-all direction in the near term. There are too many ways of doing things today. The ALM suite is expanding much faster than standardization could be applied. And today's vendor architectures are vastly different.
Customers are tired of trying to shoehorn their requirements into vendor solutions that are not flexible. The result is apparent in some more recent ALM offerings: customization
is a clear requirement and where the architecture allows, vendors are starting to deliver (see MKS and Neuma for example, both Canadian offerings).
From a user interface perspective, customization will be much easier. The ability to easily
define or refine menu definitions and forms will emerge from a much more complex capability. And additional features will allow dynamic customization, based on role, object state, and context. The same goes for forms and interactive displays. The ability to
customize the to-do lists and role-specific tabs to the customer and user specific requirements will eventually be both available and straightforward. No more months of
consulting and charges (and business cases) to get the user interface to behave the way you need. The vendors who are able to deliver extensive and easy user interface customization will emerge as the winners. Large customers will find the cost savings
and the capabilities compelling. CM consultants will see an opportunity to turn CM solutions into high-level tool kits that they can use to generate wider profit margins (i.e. use less effort) while delivering more value with more accurate adherence to customer
Process customization will continue to dominate the direction of newer tools, with some new twists. A stronger focus on existing process frameworks will emerge in the form
of specific configurations or plug-ins for CM/ALM tools. Expect to see this for CMM/CMMI frameworks to start, with some more specific ones to follow, including CMII frameworks for both hardware and software development. These in turn will widen the ALM function to
ensure that peer reviews are properly tracked, as are CRB and CIB meetings. The customization capabilities will eventually have to permit definition of such related applications within the same ALM framework. And it will have to be in such a manner that
operating and support costs remain lean.
Process definition will start from the user interface and will work towards the resulting workflow and data requirements: What "tabs" (information views) and dashboards are required? What to-do lists are required for each role? What are the roles? What state/transition diagrams are needed for each type of object? What object-oriented actions are permitted on each item in its current state? What rules and triggers govern
state transitions and permit full workflow automation? How should data schema be modified to support the requirements?
Ultimately, customization of process will be enhanced with configuration management of those processes so that it is always possible to know which processes were used at which points in time during each product development.
The real challenge will be to ensure that upgrades can be properly managed across the configuration-specific deployments. If customization results in a long and tedious upgrade process, customers will not move forward and the solutions will eventually grow old. But where architectures permit customization to persist alongside upgrades, an enviable vendor/customer relationship will emerge.
So these are the three key trends that will start to shape the CM/ALM marketplace: pricing alternatives, ease-of-use, and effective and easy customization of the solution. Some
of todays tools will be able to support such an architecture, others will not.
Continued Pressure on Older Technology
As newer technology emerges, there will be significant levels of pressure on older technology. Some technologies will be able to adapt and carve out market niches. Others will simply disappear from the face of the earth because they've been overtaken or overshadowed by the newer technologies.
It will become much more clear as to which solutions truly possess a good architecture for moving forward, and which are simply tools built around one or two key concepts that helped them to grab an initial market niche. CM tools that focus primarily on developer and CM manager tasks may still have their markets, but these will shrink into niche markets. Tools with architectures that have the ALM picture in mind, and which are positioned to handle the upcoming changes in pricing, ease-of-use and customization, while growing into and surpassing 3G functionality, will gradually take hold as the
longer term solutions while 3G becomes mainstream.
This is why the industry should resist the urge to associate 3G technology with a particular new feature or capability. 3G technology encompasses a wide range of
capabilities which really define a new architectural capability which can continue to evolve. And solution architecture will dictate the survivors.