As a consultant I have been selling Application Lifecycle Management services using Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server. I’ve been contacted various times by friends working in organization telling me that ALM processes in their company were benchmarked when dinosaurs walked the earth. Most of these individuals already know the great features Microsoft ALM tools offer and are keen to start a conversation with the CIO but don’t exactly know where to start.
It is very important how you engage in your first conversation, if you start the conversation with ‘There is this great tooling from Microsoft which offers amazing features to boost developer productivity, … ‘ from experience I can tell you the reply from your CIO would be ‘I already know! Our existing landscape has a combination of bleeding edge open source and cutting edge licensed tools which already cover these features quite well, more over Microsoft products have a high licensing cost associated to them.’ You will always find it harder to sell by feature, the trick is to highlight the gap in the existing processes & tools and then highlight the impact of these gaps to the overall development processes, by now you would have captured enough attention to show off how the ALM tooling offered by Microsoft not only fills those gaps but offers great value adds to take their development practices to the next level.
Rangers ALM Assessment Guide
Image 1 – Welcome! First look at the Rangers ALM assessment guide
Most organization already have some processes in place to cover aspects of ALM. How do you go about proving that there isn’t enough cover in place? This is where Visual Studio ALM Rangers ALM Assessment guide can help. The ALM assessment guide is really a tool that helps you gather information about Development practices and processes within a customer's environment. Several questionnaires are used to identify the current state of individual development lifecycle areas and decide on a desired state for those processes. It also presents guidance and roll-up summaries to help with recommendations moving forward. The ALM Rangers assessment guide can be downloaded from here.
Image 2 – ALM Assessment guide divided into different functions of SDLC
The assessment guide is divided into different functions of Software Development Lifecycle (listed below), this gives you the ability to access how mature the company is in different areas of SDLC.
- Architecture & Design
- Requirement Engineering & UX
- Software Configuration Management
- Deployment & Operations
- Testing & Quality Assurance
- Project Planning & Management
Each section has a set of questions, fill in the assessment by selecting “Never/Sometimes/Always” from the Answer column in the question sheets. Each answer has weightage to the overall score. Each question has a link next to it, clicking the link takes you to the Reference sheet which gives you more details about the question along with a reason for “why you need to ask this question?”, “other ways to phrase the question” and “what to expect as an answer from the customer”. The trick is to engage the customer in a discussion. You need to probe a lot, listen to the customer and have a discussion with several team members, preferably without management to ensure that you receive candid feedback. This reminds me of a funny incident when during an ALM review a customer told me that they have a sophisticated semi-automated application deployment process, further discussions revealed that deployment actually involved 72 manual configuration steps per production node. Such observations can be recorded in the Issue Brainstorming worksheet for further consideration later.
It is also worth mentioning the different levels of ALM maturity to the customer. By default the desired state of ALM maturity is set to Standard, it is possible to set a desired state by area, you should strive for Advanced or Dynamic, it always helps by explaining the classification and advantages.
Image 3 – ALM levels by description
The ALM assessment guide helps you arrive at a quantitative measure of the company’s ALM maturity. The resultant graph plotted on a spider’s web shows you the company’s current state of ALM maturity and the desired state of ALM maturity. Further since the results are classified by area you can immediately spot the areas where the customer needs immediate help.
Image 4 – The spiders web!
The red cross icons are areas shouting out for immediate attention, the yellow exclamation icons are areas that need improvement. These icons are calculated on the difference between the Current State of ALM maturity VS the Desired state of ALM maturity.
Image 5 – Results by area
To conclude the Rangers ALM assessment guide gives you the ability to,
- Measure the customer’s current ALM maturity level
- Understand the ALM maturity level the customer desires to achieve
- Capture a healthy list of issues the customer wants to brainstorm further
Now What’s next…? Download and get started with the Rangers ALM Assessment Guide.
If you have successfully captured the above listed three pieces of information you are in a great state to make recommendations on the identified areas highlighting the benefits that Visual Studio ALM tools would offer. In the next post I will be covering how to take the ALM assessment results as the base to actually convert your recommendation into a sell.
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*** A special thanks goes out to fellow ranges Willy, Ethem and Philip for reviewing the blog post and providing valuable feedback. ***