Software development is at its tipping point considering the high frequency of technological disruptions. Almost every industry is taking advantage of software to solve user problems. The software trend is growing at a pace that businesses need to aggressively catch up and get going with the software development life cycle (SDLC) to ensure fast and quality delivery.
The sequential order of stages across the life cycle ensures foolproof software delivery while the development stays on-track. In case of a missing organized process, software delivery is likely to get delayed by months or years.
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, Father of Visual Basic
There is much more to SDLC that a business needs to understand before taking on software development projects.
In this write-up, we will go about understanding the software development life cycle in detail.
What is Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?
Software development life cycle (SDLC) is a defined process towards software development, which, when followed, helps develop software in a fast and efficient way.
We can equate it to the recipe that you follow to bake your favorite cake. If the first step is to combine flour with cocoa powder, you’ll have to follow the process to ensure a finely baked cake. But, if you’ll only mix the mentioned ingredients in one go, the cake will not be worth relishing.
The same goes for the software development life cycle phases — there is a defined step-by-step process for creating quality software. If you miss any of the steps or follow them haphazardly – the software development efforts will go to waste.
The software development life cycle comprises six stages: requirement gathering, design, development, test, deployment, and maintenance. Each of the software development stages is handled by a dedicated team of professionals with expertise in the niche.
The stages of SDLC mostly stay constant no matter what software development methodology is followed. However, the approach towards implementing these stages changes with changing development methodology.
Prevalent software development models include — waterfall model, spiral model, feature-driven development, Agile, Lean development, Rapid Application Development, and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
Related Article: Top 7 Software Development Methodologies: Pros & Cons
For instance, in the traditional methodology such as Waterfall — all the mentioned stages are followed sequentially while restricting backward movement. On the other hand, the Agile software development process model follows an iterative approach where the teams can go back to a previous stage to fix a bug or accommodate a new requirement.
What are the Six Phases of Software Development Life Cycle?
Let’s walk through the SDLC steps to get an overview of the process:
1. Planning and Requirements Gathering
The client defines a problem that needs to be solved, which further forms the basis for finalizing the requirements. All the information from the client and users (if required) is gathered to create requirements documents so that the development team understands what they are building.
Then follows planning, which includes — distribution of work across teams, setting milestones, creating timelines for delivery, getting cost estimates, conducting a risk analysis, and devising a plan to mitigate the risks.
Creating a proof of concept is also part of this stage, where the technical feasibility is checked and validated before moving ahead with the development work.
Software Architecture: Refers to creating an organized flow of elements in a software code for quality assurance, clarity, and accessibility. You can refer to software architecture as the blueprint for the development team.
Prototype: The UI/UX team builds a prototype version of the software to validate its look and flow of design elements. It lets the development team and the stakeholders visualize the overall look and feel of the software.
This phase is executed by the coders who work on bringing the concept into reality. The developers create KLOCs (thousands of lines of code) using programming languages they feel comfortable with.
The goal of the development team is to achieve developer velocity while ensuring quality delivery.
The development team might release the software in one go, as is the case with waterfall development, or can choose to deliver software in fragments (segmented into features, i.e., Agile development).
Once the code is ready, the development team shares it with the testing team for review.
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4. Testing and Quality Assurance
This phase of the application development life cycle focuses on testing the written code for bugs and other inconsistencies. Here, the testing and quality assurance team works together to test and report the bugs to the development team.
The testing team can either rely on manual testing or automated testing (as per their expertise and defined process).
We can say that the testers and the development team work in tandem to ensure foolproof delivery of the software.
The entire software or a part of it goes into the production environment phase after it is developed, tested, fixed, retested, and validated. If you follow the Agile SDLC process, deployment could be the launching of MVP and other features. However, in the case of Waterfall, deployment refers to launching a fully-fledged product in the market.
If the end-users experience any issue with the software, it moves back to the software development team for reconsideration and fixing.
New requirements are likely to drop in with the introduction of new technologies and changing user requirements. To accommodate these requirements, the software development team needs to iterate through the entire software development life cycle to work on the new change.
Thus, maintenance simply implies that software requires updates from time to time, which needs to be taken care of to uphold the software’s value proposition.
The common 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.
b. Perfective Maintenance
New requirements keep evolving from time to time. And, to stay relevant and valuable, the software needs to be updated to accommodate these changes. That is the idea behind perfective maintenance.
Software Development Life Cycle Example — Soaq Case Study
Soaq is enterprise-level video software that prioritizes employee engagement. Net Solutions helped build the platform by sticking to the following stages of the software development life cycle:
1. Discovery (Requirements Gathering)
A business analyst, the project manager, the user experience analyst, and a technical architect were assigned to meet the Soaq team and understand their requirements and the scope of the product.
The results of the discovery phase included:
- Documentation of Requirements: We created an excel sheet that clearly and comprehensively listed all the Soaq team’s requirements.
- Proof of Concept (PoC): A proof of concept was created to validate the idea’s technical feasibility.
2. Design (Design Framework, Application Architecture, and Prototype)
At this stage, a design framework, software architecture, and a prototype were created. Each of the phases included:
a. Design Framework
Teams Included: Business analysts and UX team
The design framework included a collection of screen mockups for every stage of the user experience journey. This included a flowchart that helped visualize where each of the user-driven clicks leads.
b. Software Architecture
Teams Included: Technical Architect, business analysts, and the UX team
A software architecture, i.e., the blueprint of the software was created at this stage. At this stage, the 3rd party integration, server requirements, database, and browser-related requirements also got finalized.
We followed the Agile software development life cycle to develop the enterprise software according to the approved UX design and technical specifications. Our focus on this part was to:
- Conduct daily standups for ensuring transparency of the process and track the team’s progress
- Work in time-boxed sprints to work on prioritized features
- Build and launch an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) that focuses on should-have features of the product
- Wait for feedback and re-iterate through the software development life cycle to accommodate the changes while we work on new features side by side
Then followed Agile testing (manual and automated tests), deployment (launching MVP), and continuous improvement (adding new features and fixing reported bugs).
Soaq’s collaboration with Net Solutions resulted in the world’s first intelligent, widely-adopted enterprise video solution, which made Gartner’s 2018 List of Cool Vendors in Content Services.
For an in-depth analysis, here’s the complete case study:
Why is Software Development Life Cycle Important?
Why should you be following the standard software development life cycle? Here’s how the SDLC process adds value to your software development ventures:
- Faster time to market — the development and the turnaround time gets relatively shortened
- High-Quality software — the process follows synchronous steps to development, leaving low scope for bugs and inconsistencies
- Facilitates management control — whether it is a small or a large project, the SDLC model offers project management control to help them visualize and track development progress
- Brings the development team on the same page — when every team member understand the stages of the software development life cycle, they know what they can expect and how to go about planning for what’s next
- Breaks existing silos among the teams — the SDLC phases introduce full-swing communication among the development teams by tying them up together with a process that requires collaboration
- A clearer perspective of roles and responsibilities — Each of the SDLC phases has a clearly defined intent to it. Thus, the teams know their respective role in the software development life cycle
Software development life cycle 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 product development process and embrace change at a holistic level. The process starts with requirement analysis, design, coding, testing, deployment, and maintenance. However, how a team approaches the mentioned stages depends on the respective software development methodology.
The overall idea of SDLC is to introduce a standard path for the software development team to follow. Without a laid path and a sense of direction, the development efforts are likely to fall apart.