Integrating ALM and PLM in Complex Product Development

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Integrating ALM and PLM in Complex Product Development

Modern products are becoming more complex and hence require the integration of software and hardware development processes. This makes the convergence of ALM-PLM to be one of the hottest topics in the industry.

Application and Product Lifecycle Management software solutions are designed to support hardware and software end products. However, both of them have evolved differently to meet the unique needs of these two disparate industries.

Given the emergence of memory modules, cheap sensors, etc., the Internet of Things and even embedded software, products contain software components increasingly. Thus, more and more products largely depend on the software to enhance or replace the functionality of particular hardware parts. Software and hardware development process integration is not a necessity. The coordination of processes that are involved in the development of products enhances synergies and efficiency.

The Difference Between ALM and PLM 

We can begin by looking at the basic differences between ALM and PLM. It will help you to understand why the integration of these two systems is a topic that is highly discussed nowadays.

Hardware engineering teams have been using Product lifecycle management (PLM) tools (information management systems) to support the manufacturing and physical design of products. PLM originates from the automotive industry and it covers the disposal processes of physical products, service, manufacturing, design, and engineering. Such processes help in integrating data, processes, and aligning teams throughout the product life cycle.

We can think of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) as the PLM for software. Like is the case with Product Lifecycle Management, ALM entails the whole lifecycle, from management requirements through the developing, testing, maintenance up to the maintenance and release of software products. Integrated data management, project management, and collaboration form an important part of all ALM solutions.

While PLM and ALM are generally used for similar purposes which is product development, both have evolved in disciplines and industry sectors that were fundamentally different and entirely separate. However, the information that is siloed in various data management systems can’t support the development of complex devices that combine hardware and software anymore together with the services that you enable through the connectivity of the network.  When you keep the processes separate, it can result in a higher risk level, insufficient quality control, and inconsistencies.

With the convergence of software and hardware development, there has been an emergence of a multidisciplinary lifecycle. Therefore, the integration of ALM and PLM has become more necessary than ever.

Connecting Development Lifecycles

The integration of lifecycles is a recent requirement and there isn’t yet a silver-bullet solution to it. The vendors of lifecycle management software solutions have begun to realize the importance of this integration. They are now working towards fusing these previously isolated data management systems. Thus, most of the development corporations are taking the best breed approach using standalone solutions that are tried and tested. They are manually creating integrations that guarantee data consistency.  However, these manual processes tend to increase the possibilities of errors.

According to research by Accenture, ensuring consistent change management and integrating research are the major challenges in unifying PLM and ALM. To avoid manual errors and achieve these objectives, it is necessary to have a common platform that has automatic integration.

The design of codeBeamer is such that it can manage complexity. It allows users to handle huge data volumes from various sources. It also ensures data consistency and complete change control throughout the project life cycle. By nature, codeBeamer is an ALM solution but you can easily integrate PLM-related data to allow you to use one platform to manage the whole process.  The workflow can be automated and interconnected allowing users to create work items automatically and to remain in full control if complicated lifecycle processes.

Due to the increase in the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the number of smart devices, there has been a new focus on the efforts of breaking the silos between PLM and ALM. ALM is used in managing software solutions throughout its lifecycle. PLM does the same thing but for physical products. However, these two platforms have so many differences because of the distinct nature of hardware and software respectively.

The reasoning of integrating ALM and PLM makes a lot of sense. When you maintain the two different, it opens your product development to several risks and additional costs. The issue is more serious today where clients expect and demand hiccup-free and seamless interaction between the hardware and software in their products. Apart from this, software issues are becoming a huge source of product recalls. Currently, software accounts for approximately 15% of automobile recall and is among the major causes for recalling of medical devices. Integrating ALM and PLM provides the required traceability throughout the process of the development process and makes sure that the development teams are working with the right information to ultimately minimize the risks of errors. Here are some of the major challenges when intergrading ALM and PLM platforms;

Software vs. Hardware

Even though both ALM and PLM have so many common attributes, they also differ to a great extent. ALM handles the complexities that are inherent in software design, deployment and testing. On the other hand, PLM focuses on business structures and processes like the Bill of materials and portfolio management. To add to this, both hardware and software development utilize different tools in managing designs and requirements together with validation and testing.

The differences make efficiently integrated ALM and PLM into a single platform that is easy to achieve. It makes most manufacturers who use the best-of-breed approach and attempting to share data between these two systems through sub-optimal processes or manually, in turn, does not produce the benefit that most entities would be searching for in the technology partners.

PLM and ALM is a complex process but there are certain attributes that the future PLM and ALM integrated platforms need to have for them to be successful. One is establishing a single repository for the product data, for both software and hardware that PLM and ALM users can easily search. It will help you to eliminate some of the big issues that smart device manufacturers face today. The main one is lacking traceability and visibility between the hardware and software teams.  You need to go through the previous comments from users before you undertake the project. For instance, if the project calls for the use of website builders, you may have to read site 123 review or any other tool before you make a decision.

Conclusion 

There is an increasing demand for integrating ALM and PLM, especially in the IoT category despite their complexity. It is the best way to improve the products that manufacturers deliver in the market. This article will help you to understand the components and importance of this process.


Partha Mondal is a tech entrepreneur by profession and passionate blogger by heart. He is on a mission to help small businesses grow online. He shares his journey, insights, and experiences at Blogstellar.com. If you are an entrepreneur, digital marketing professional, or simply an info-holic, then this blog is for you. Follow him on Instagram & Pinterest.

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