Organizations are gearing towards software-driven innovation more than ever for improving business value and performance. Whether it is for improving internal business operations or presenting software as a business model, organizations of every size are readily investing in software. But, to create a great product, understanding the software development process becomes imperative.
Launching a new solution in the market can take months and even years if an organized software development process goes amiss.
It’s harder than you might think to squander millions of dollars, but a flawed software development process is a tool well suited to the job. — Alan Cooper
The generalized perspective of software development process steps — creating workable software products while ensuring faster time to market.
However, in current times, it is more of a holistic process that focuses on — collaboration, inclusiveness, cross-functional setups, imbibing an agile mindset, innovation, relying on product mindset over a project mindset while ensuring faster time to market.
Let’s understand the software development process in detail to help you benefit the most in this changing dynamics of the software development industry.
Differentiating Between Waterfall and Agile Software Development Approach
The evolution of the software development process from the waterfall model to the agile model is the most remarkable transformation over the years.
The waterfall software development model was rigid and didn’t allow iterating back to a previous stage. If newer requirements emerged, it had no provision to address them.
On the other hand, the focus of the Agile development journey is on iterative and incremental development. Iterative development offers the flexibility to incorporate changes at any stage of the development process. And, incremental development focuses on delivering a user story or feature over every sprint cycle.
Most of the business leaders rely on agile development nowadays, which follows the process — Plan. Design. Develop. Test. Deploy. Review. Iterate.
Though the steps followed by the waterfall and agile resemble, the approach of both the processes differs entirely. Here’s what the software development process in Agile includes.
What are the Steps in Software Development — From the Agile Perspective
When you follow the right software development process, business performance, and value improve. However, to create a winning software development process, there is a need to look beyond the plan, analyze, design, develop, test, deploy, and maintenance phase.
Let’s understand the primary ingredients of the Agile-led software development life cycle that contribute to creating a winning product.
This is the initial phase of software development, where the objectives of the project are identified and discussed. The planning phase focuses on inclusiveness. The development teams come together to discuss the requirements of the software project. The product owner, the UX architects, and software engineers and the testers prioritize requirements that need to be worked upon.
The idea is to leave no one behind and break the silos that exist among the different teams.
The planning phase of software development includes:
a. User story Identification
In the agile software development process, each feature is delivered in the form of a user story. The planning phase identifies such user stories and prioritizes them so that sprint planning can take place.
b. Sprint planning
A sprint is a time-boxed interval that is allocated to completing a predetermined task. The development teams identify and assign sprint-to-sprint tasks in advance to estimate the timeline for the project.
c. Creating Test Cases
The testing team should be considered as a part of the software development team. Often the testing team is excluded from the planning phase, which causes mismanagement and delays in the later stages. Test design should be finalized during the planning phase itself so that testing can be conducted at the end of every sprint itself.
2. Design Phase
This part of the agile software development process focuses on how to build the software. The software architecture is finalized at this stage, i.e., creating a blueprint of the overall system. This process helps have a shared understanding of the software requirements and design before the coding work kick starts.
The UX architects, the UX designers, and the development teams work collaboratively to design and conceptualize the software.
Here’s a detailed insight into what the design phase includes:
a. Introducing Microservices Architecture
The user stories in agile should be broken down into the microservices architecture, i.e., every feature should be independent and loosely coupled to the overall product. This helps to overcome the challenges of the monolith structure while ensuring quality delivery.
b. Finalize UX and UI Flow
The UX architect builds a basic understanding of the user needs. Then the UX designer finalizes the flow of elements of the software based on requirement analysis. These system requirements help build a better picture of what the final product will look like and feel like.
This phase is executed by the coders who work on bringing the concept into reality. Their tasks are prioritized over the course of sprints. As soon as a user story is delivered at the end of a sprint, the agile testing team steps in to execute the test cases. The process follows over the sprint cycle, thus helping build quality products in a faster manner.
The goal of the development team is to achieve developer velocity while ensuring quality delivery. Cloud computing plays a vital role in achieving developer velocity as it offers a platform for the developers to experiment, execute, and learn.
Here are the tasks that the development team executes as a part of the software development process:
The development team uses language-oriented tools to convert the requirements of the software into reality. A user story is delivered at the end of every sprint.
b. Unit Testing
The developers are also a part of the initial testing phase of the software. Developers help run unit tests to self check the functionality and performance of the delivered user stories.
4. Full-Scale Testing
This phase helps in testing the user story thoroughly as when it gets completed. Traditionally, the testing phase took place after the development phase was over. However, in the case of testing as part of the agile development process, test cases are run at the end of every sprint cycle.
Testing can be automated or manual based on the complexity of the delivered user story. The primary tasks of the agile testers include:
a. Exploratory Testing
As a part of agile testing, exploratory testing is given precedence. This is a type of testing where tester’s creativity and experience are relied upon more than those pre-defined test cases.
b. Regression Testing
This type of testing is conducted whenever a new change is iterated through a user story. Regression testing helps verify that the newly added user stories do not affect the software’s overall functionality.
Comprehensive test reports are built at the end of every sprint and communicated back to the developers. Testers can then discuss the bugs over daily stand-ups so that the tester’s perspective can be understood. The developers then create a backlog and rework on the user stories to address the issues that exist.
There are other software testing techniques too that come under the tester’s umbrella. Here are the four quadrants of agile testing, as introduced by Brian Marick.
Once all the user stories are developed and tested, the product is launched in the market. But, this does not imply the end of the software development process. In agile methodology, creating software is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifetime of the software.
Whether it is the user feedback or the newer and innovative features, the product should continue to evolve. The need is to adopt a product mindset over a project mindset, i.e., product management continues throughout the lifetime of the software.
Deployment generally includes:
a. Launching MVPs
Building a minimum viable product (MVP) means launching a basic version of the software that includes limited features and addresses the customers’ pain points. The MVP is launched in the market so that the users can use the software and provide feedback. This feedback, in turn, becomes the basis for further iterations.
b. Launching Full-Scale Software
Once the user stories are accommodated, testing is completed, and the changes are iterated through – software is ready for launch. And, the following activities of sales & marketing should be planned for.
Maintenance, on the other hand, implies that the software should be updated from time to time. Such updates should fix bugs and integrate new technologies to stay relevant and valuable.
The developers’ responsibility should be to maintain a minimal amount of cruft, i.e., the unwanted parts of the code that add to its complexity. The lesser is the cruft – the easier it is to maintain the software through its lifetime.
The various types of maintenance include:
a. Corrective Maintenance
Corrective maintenance means that the existing bugs are removed from the software to improve its performance. These errors come to light, generally, through user reviews. This type of maintenance requires the development team to run the coding and testing activities over time-boxed sprints.
b. Perfective Maintenance
New user stories keep evolving from time to time. And, to stay relevant and valuable, the software needs to be updated to accommodate these changes. This is perfective maintenance, which again requires the development team to iterate through the time-boxed spring cycles to ensure quality delivery.
A predetermined software development process is imperative to create software that would end up being a product-market fit. Building software is a journey with various milestones over an A to B journey.
Winning organizations tackle the challenges of the software development process and embrace change at a holistic level. The process starts with requirement analysis, design, coding, testing, deployment, and maintenance. But, it is collaboration and cross-functional setup that ensures software success down the line.
The overall idea is to meet customer expectations by addressing the deficiencies in the software development process.