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Experiences in software development

Agile ALM Book Review

Posted by Patroklos Papapetrou on December 26, 2013


Some time ago I was looking for some resources around the Internet in order to combine the agile principles we were already following with a more flexible application lifecycle management. I wanted to find ideas and methods to get the best out of developers’ practices with source code infrastructure and well-known and mature tools that cover all development phases. I was so lucky that I found the Agile ALM book by Michael Hüttermann. I really enjoyed reading it and applying its concepts to real projects and I wanted a long time ago to write a review about it. Now, during Christmas time, it was the best period to do it, so here it is.

The initial paragraph of the “Preface” section summarizes the author’s intent:

Welcome to Agile ALM. This book has three main goals. The first is to describe Agile
Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) in practical terms and to provide a plan for
rolling out Agile strategies and best-of-breed tools. The second purpose is to explain
how to create ALM toolboxes based on standard tools used in advanced, real-world
cases. The third goal is to give you some guidance on how to choose the best tools, use
them correctly, and integrate them while applying Agile strategies. These three goals
are the focus of this book.

The author of Agile ALM bookMichael Hüttermannand is a java.net Community Leader an Oracle Java Champion at java.net, the Chairman at Java User Group Cologne a freelancer and delivery engineer that helps companies with SCM/ALM, Agile, Continuous Delivery and DevOps.

The title of the topic and the table of contents were the key factors that made me (I assume this is true for other readers) read it from the very early during MEAP program offered by Manning. The topics are suitable for both junior and experienced software developers. Delivery engineers will find it very useful as well even if they have no previous experience with the concepts introduced in the book. The Agile ALM is divided into four multi-chapter parts.

Part 1 (“Introduction to Agile ALM”) introduces  the basic concepts and building blocks of an agile ALM with practical use cases and best strategies. Chapter 1(“Getting started with Agile ALM”) sets the roots by discussing the evolution of ALM and how the use of lightweight tools can boost the effectiveness of an ALM through a real-life example. Chapter 2(“Agile and ALM strategies”) starts by explaining how project management can fit in an agile environment and propose a series of strategies to implement ALM processes. The remainder of the second chapter is about finding a balance between over-controlling the ALM and not controlling it at all.

Part 2 (“Functional Agile ALM”) touches the concepts of release management and task-based development in a higher, non-technical level. Chapter 3(“Using SCRUM for release management”), as its title implies is all about SCRUM and how practitioners can apply release management using SCRUM principles. Readers, after finishing this chapter, whey will be able to implement, following a detailed step-by-step guide, a release management process. The Subversion supporting strategies that finish third chapter are the bonus included topic. Chapter 4(“Task-based development”) talks about a series of mature tools such as Jira, Trac, Bamboo and others that facilitate task-based development, bug tracking and project management.

Part 3 (“Integration and Release management”) is considered more technical as it describes techniques using a variety of tools to manage and release artifacts and apply continuous integration. Chapter 5 introduces the Maven  ecosystem and explains the process of releasing using some of the most well-known Maven features. After reading this chapter you will be able to do release management with Maven and get the foundation ideas for the rest of the chapters. Chapter 6(“Creating a productive development environment”) discusses Mockito and its important role in mocking, stubbing and isolating systems during test execution. This chapter, also, teaches us the art of creating and maintaining workspace environments for developing, integrating and testing software systems.  The rest of the chapter deals with various advanced continuous integration techniques. Although there are plenty of great books for each topic discussed in this chapter, what makes it special is that everything is placed in the context of agile ALM. Readers, especially those that have already a small experience with such processes will find it really useful to see all these well-established tools fitting in their development lifecycle.

The last Part 4 (“Outside-in and barrier-free development”) of the book moves agile ALM even further by introducing some approaches for requirements and test management. What is really cool, is that, again, in chapter 8(“requirements and test management”) these concepts are presented with practical advice and examples using testing frameworks such as Selenium, TestNG, FitNesse and others. The topic of collaborative tests was one of my favorites throughout the book. Not only it’s perfectly explained but it made me also realize how testing processes and should be considered and implemented. The last, but not least, chapter of the book (“Collaborative and barrier-free development with Groovy and Scala”) explains how it’s more productive to use different languages for development and testing activities (polyglot programming). Spock, easyb and spec2 are some of the tools presented in this chapter to describe using practical examples the concepts of Business Driven Development (BDD) and Domain Specific Languages (DSL)

Conclusion : The Agile ALM book is not just another “agile” book. The high expectations set when reading the abstract and the back page of the book were met. One might think that the large number of techniques and tools included in the book might annoy or confuse the readers but this is not happening because as already said, everything is discussed withing the context of ALM. You will learn a lot of new ideas and strategies and you will be able to adopt them immediately. Even if you’re not familiar with some of them, the book explains very nice the basics and moves directly to the approach that will solve a particular problem in the development lifecycle.

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