Almost all products, including software and applications, have finite life spans and will go through various stages during their lifetimes. During each stage, IT executives must implement different strategies to overcome associated challenges as well as maximize sales and profits. Effectively managing these different stages and the various people and departments involved requires a comprehensive product lifecycle management (PLM) plan that connects all the relevant data, tools, processes, and people. But how do IT decision-makers manage all of this, and how do DevOps, containers, and microservices fit in to PLM?
The software product life cycle
Each software product’s life cycle involves four primary stages, and understanding the dynamics of each stage as the product advances through its cycle is imperative to optimal PLM. Although the length of time for each stage as well as the product’s total life span will vary according to the nature of the software or application, each stage has certain characteristics and challenges common across different products.
- Development and introduction — Software goes from concept to final product deployment through design, building, and testing. After, developers release the software and marketers introduce it to the public with promotional marketing.
- Growth — In this stage, demand increases, distribution expands, and competition grows. Developers may add new features according to customers’ needs. They must also make decisions whether to focus on further development to keep software relevant and keep up with competitors’ offerings.
- Maturity — The software or application is widely available, but competition is high. Increasing advertising spend no longer increases demand. Marketers during this phase should design and revise campaigns to protect market shares. The selling price begins to adjust downward.
- Decline — The software has peaked and begins to lose market share as demand tapers off. The software may become obsolete, with developers retiring it when it’s no longer profitable.
To successfully manage a software product from conception to retirement, IT executives need a clear, concise system to manage all the data, processes, and stakeholders throughout its lifecycle. Savvy developers have PLM solutions in place to apply different strategies for each phase to minimize time to market, improve quality, and maximize profits.
PLM and DevOps
When PLM follows a traditional linear model, little communication and collaboration exists among developers, operations staff, marketing personnel, and other stakeholders until the end of each stage. This reduces their abilities to detect problems early on and adjust quickly. When developers implement PLM using a more circular DevOps model, development and operations teams work closely with each other throughout the software lifecycle and, therefore, can quickly correct bugs, add new features, and adjust strategies according to each stage. This circular approach — combined with the benefits of continuous integration, continuous delivery (CD/CD) — is more efficient and flexible, reducing time to market, improving product quality, and reducing costs.
Adding containers and microservices
Two of the newest technologies that can help in agile PLM implementations are microservices and containers. Essentially, a microservice is one component of a larger application or application suite. These single-use services perform just one action each as part of a larger application. Containers, on the other hand, hold all the tools and methods microservices need to run, including code, runtime, tools, libraries, and settings. Each container keeps its microservice separated from any other software so different teams can work on separate microservices at the same time — without interrupting any other part of a software development project. Together, containers and microservices help provide an agile platform that allows IT executives to roll out new software products faster and more cost-effectively.
Putting it all together
As technologies become more complicated, competition becomes fiercer, and customer demands intensify, software development and marketing are becoming more complex and difficult to manage. This requires an organized approach best handed with a PLM solution. But to get the best results, developers should run their PLM solutions in agile environments using a DevOps model combined with CI/CD, microservices, and container technologies. These can help streamline processes and bring products to market faster, which today’s global market requires, as the circular nature of DevOps speeds up the development process and produces higher quality applications with fewer bugs and at lower cost.
To further speed up the development process, IT decision-makers can deploy an automated testing solution such as TEAL — a comprehensive and extensible test automation solution. Its modular design makes it easy to use and integrate into an existing CI/CD development environment. It’s the perfect addition to round out an agile PLM solution.