A Look Ahead to the Third Generation of CM Tools


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.

Quo Vadis?
So where are we headed? Is this an accurate picture I've painted? To be sure, it is incomplete. Some may say that these targets for a third generation system are too advanced. It is true that many of today's tools will never make it to a third generation architecture, but other tools are well on their way. Neuma, for example, is already focused on delivering a fourth generation product.

Many will say that ALM is too wide a scope for smaller companies. However, the focus in defining third and fourth generation systems is precisely to make these systems applicable to smaller and larger shops. Less administration, smaller footprint, ease-of-use, lower risk, CM automation. The next question has to be whether or not the prices will also make these systems affordable.

How soon will we get there? Not many third generation systems are currently available. When's the best time to move forward? Should we wait until there is a wider selection? This is no different than any other product decision (e.g., OS, telecom, etc.), except that CM and ALM are backbone applications. Look at the vendor's upgrade policy. Sometimes upgrades are included as part of the annual maintenance. But also look at their track record in moving the product forward. Big IT solutions typically move forward more slowly, though this is not always the case. As well, smaller firms often have the ability to move the product ahead quickly (look at Accurev, for example), though quality has to be explored carefully - so use references.

Third generation systems will likely include significant architectural capabilities not present in second generation systems. This will allow them to move forward more quickly. But more than that, architecture will help determine whether or not the solution will be supported in 20 years time. I don't hold out much hope for some of today's market leaders, though, through acquisitions, some of these solutions may be morphed into newer architectures.

Cost is a key concern. From my perspective, low administration, high reliability and increased automation all reduce support requirements. If a CM vendor is a product-based company, this is good. Prices will come down because the existing vendor support structure will be able to support more and more customers. If a CM vendor is a services-based company, this can be bad. Services will be required less frequently. However, if the vendor is smart, this can be turned around into: "we can do a lot more for you with your existing services budget".

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