Did you know that 85% of software projects run over schedule?
The process of developing software solutions is difficult and often long and expensive operation.
This is why a clearly defined and streamlined process for getting from point A to point B and further is a must-have.
In this article, we define the software development life cycle and elaborate on its benefits, methodologies and stages that will make the process of developing a product easier and smoother.
Table of Contents
- What Is Software Development Life Cycle?
- The 6 Stages Of A Software Development Life Cycle, Explained
- 5 Tips To Consider To Save Time During The Software Development Life Cycle Process
- The Benefits Of A Software Development Process
- Does SDLC Mean System Or Software Development Life Cycle?
- SDLC Models
- Key Takeaways
What Is Software Development Life Cycle?
SDLC is not a new concept. It originated all the way back in the 1960s to help develop large-scale, functional business systems.
From there, of course, it got picked by smaller companies, new life cycle models were introduced (we’ll talk about them a bit later) and today, we can’t imagine a project without a life cycle.
There are several ways we can define a software development life cycle, but perhaps the best one is that it is a process used by the software industry to design, develop and test software.
Moreover, there are dozens of ways to approach this term as well In general, however, when you hear these words, you should think of six stages:
- Requirement Gathering and Analysis
- Implementation and Coding
Of course, this is the only way to define SDLC stages, just the one we are going to use for the sake of this article. Different software development firms will have five or seven stages, but in the end, it all comes down to the same.
In this article, we outlined a few key software development life cycle stages that every SDLC should take. Follow these, and make sure to create an organized environment that results in a functional software solution for your particular business.
The 6 Stages Of A Software Development Life Cycle, Explained
With that “little” explanation out of the way, let’s finally move on to the software development life cycle stages. These are:
Stage 1: Requirement Gathering and Analysis
This stage enables businesses and their software development teams to better understand exactly what features consumers are looking for.
Organizations should conduct extensive customer research and analysis, then deliver that information into a list of exact software features that would propel their brand forward.
These should then be added to the software project plan.
Stage 2: Designing the Software
After collecting and analyzing important information in the previous stage, the enterprise software development company moves on to the second stage -- design.
In this stage of the software development process, starts the design of software solutions. Depending on the type of software being created, this can include interface designs, user experience (UX) outlines, prototypes, and more.
Also, software development firms must specify the system and hardware requirements.
Stage 3: Implementation and Coding The Software
Following design, software developers can move to the third stage of SDLC -- implementation and coding.
In this phase, the software design is translated into the source code.
This step is often the longest in the entire life cycle and that is because developers must ensure that the code is correct before they make it live. This is also why it no surprise for developers to return multiple times to this phase if the tests find any issues.
Stage 4: Testing the Software
Software can’t function properly if its code is broken. To ensure that is the case, the software development company must test the code several times if needed.
Only when developers are sure the code is error-free, can they show it to the user.
Throughout this stage, the source code will go through a number of tests, including functional and non-functional ones, such as system, integration, unit, acceptance, etc.
If a test reveals an error, bug, or any other issue, that needs to be fixed then and there before moving to the next stage.
Stage 5: Deploying The Software
So, the product is tested and it is bug-free. That means the software development company can finally show it to the user.
This still doesn’t mean the software is ready for release. Instead, it first has to go through UAT (User Acceptance Testing) to see if it matches the user expectations.
If it does and the customer gives the green light, the software leaves the beta testing phase and can go live.
Stage 6: Maintaining and Managing The Software
Once the software goes live, there is still a lot of work in the development life cycle. Namely, some problems might only rear their ugly head only when the software is put through the rigors of actual use.
That’s why, in this stage, the software development company must maintain constant communication with the user through customer support channels, either via phone, email or chatbot, for example.
In addition, because the software has now left the safe testing and development zone and has gone live, it will automatically become a potential target for different malicious cyber-attackers.
To prevent hackers from exploiting any vulnerabilities, you also need to take a close look at cyber-security.
Cyber-security should be always in your focus as attacks of this kind increase every year. The number of cyber-attacks increased by 59% when compared to 2017, according to the SiteLock Website Security Report 2019.
5 Tips To Consider To Save Time During The Software Development Life Cycle Process
Here are the top five methods that can help you finish this process successfully:
1. Determine The Software Requirements Before Beginning The Software Development Life Cycle
Every project should start with establishing your requirements. Do this before you start designing, coding or otherwise building anything regarding your software.
Here are some important questions that you need to ask:
- What are your goals and objectives for this software or project in general?
- When do you need the software to be live by? Be as specific as possible. Saying, “soon”, “next month” or “next year” is not specific. “In 5 months” or “by the end of October” is.
- What functionalities and features does the software need to have? Start with the necessary ones and then include new ones as you learn that the users actually need them.
- How will you know that the software project was successful?
Now, with answers to those crucial questions in your pocket, you can create a clear roadmap to your project's success and communicate the goals with each team member.
That means, now that everyone involved in the project knows what the requirements, goals and objectives are, it will be easier for everyone to work together toward them.
2. Use Software Automation Tools in Software Development Projects
It is 2020, so what is your software development company’s excuse to not use automation tools? Let’s be honest, if you are stuck with a dinosaur-like that, you quickly need to change software development companies!
Software development projects can consist of just one or two developers, but most big ones consist of a large number of individuals, each with a different task. Once they are done, the project moves on to the next team member and so on until it is finished.
The problem is that, as the project changes hands like this, often several times back and forth, software development companies tend to lose time.
This is where automation tools come in. With their help, this transition between team members becomes much smoother and faster.
In addition, such tools also automatically complete certain repetitive tasks that don’t require as much creativity or expertise, which further speeds up the project.
3. In a Software Development Life Cycle, Say ‘No’ To Unnecessary Features
Every time a brand requests a new feature to be added to their custom software, they inevitably prolong the development process.
Unfortunately, brands often do this without asking a simple question:
Do our users actually want or need this feature?
Or is this simply the case of seeing the feature somewhere else and thinking it would be cool to add it to your software?
If it is not necessary and users are not showing any sign of wanting or needing that feature, it is usually a good idea to omit it.
Every project should also begin with requirement gathering and analysis. In this phase, comprehensive target audience research takes a very important place.
Without it, you won’t be able to tell which exact features your users want or need and which you can safely ignore (at least for the time being).
Of course, when thinking about this, be careful to learn what the customers really want, not what they say they want, or worse, what you think they need. A lot of times, customers don’t really know what they want or need until they get it.
In other words, be sure to make priorities as to what your software developers will build to ensure revenue and conversions.
Stick with functional software first and if you need to add any new features, you can always add them later.
One way to keep your features in check is to build a Minimum Viable Product or MVP. This is an agile development technique in which we develop a new product or software with just enough features to satisfy our early adopters.
Then, based on early user feedback, software developers can add new features to make a finished software.
The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to an unnecessary feature. It’s much better not to have it than to go over budget or schedule because of it.
4. Continually Test Software Functionality Throughout The Software Development Life Cycle
Problems with the software can occur at any stage of the software development process. However, the more into the project you are, the harder it becomes to fix them.
This is why the worst-case scenario is to find out that your software is not working properly just as you are about to make it live.
Continually testing the software, as it is being built, will reduce any time spent on fixing bugs and other software issues and ensure that the software development life cycle goes on smoothly.
You simply don’t want to have to deal with a problem late in the project that might delay the whole thing. Not if you can solve the issue early on.
5. Remember That Communication Is Often Key In Software Development Projects
We already briefly talked about the importance of good team communication within software development projects and how automation tools can help with that.
However, team communication shouldn’t begin and end on just finishing your task and sending it off to another team member.
For a successful software development project brands and software development companies should nurture continual collaboration and communication throughout.
Active, two-way communication is the key to staying on schedule and having a successful project.
This also means not burying your head if a problem occurs, but communicating it clearly with other team members in order to best find a solution to fix it.
Team meetings are often considered a waste of time, but only if they are done wrong. The truth is that, if done right, they can help make a software development process much more straightforward and keep it on track.
Brands that are outsourcing their software development projects, know the importance of communicating and working side-by-side with software development companies as this will allow them to hit milestones sooner.
This client-developer communication is important not only when your brand is working with software development companies and working on large, time-consuming projects, but also when it is working on smaller, one-time projects with just one or two freelance software developers.
The Benefits Of A Software Development Process
Before we get into explaining the different SDLC stages, you might be asking - why bother with it in the first place? Perhaps your company has a process that works okay in your opinion.
But trust us, the best software development companies all use one or another iteration of the life cycle and for a good reason.
You see, when the life cycle is done right, it sets a clear path to everyone involved in the development process to arrive at their goal (create outstanding software for their customers).
Furthermore, not only does the SDLC process clearly define the goal and the path toward it, but it also doesn’t rely on any single person.
Since SDLC provides a well-documented trail of the project, things won’t instantly crash and burn if a key person leaves before the project is done. Instead, their replacement can jump straight in without any difficulties.
Does SDLC Mean System Or Software Development Life Cycle?
One thing that might be a little confusing if you are searching on the Internet for the term “SDLC” is that you can actually usually find the acronym attached to something other than the software development life cycle.
System development life cycle is a similar concept, but it is used primarily in systems engineering, software engineering and information systems. It is used to describe a process for planning, developing, testing and deploying a system.
Unlike software development, system development life cycle has seven stages (so one or two more, depending on which school you follow).
They are the following:
- Planning Stage
- System Analysis & Requirements Stage
- System Design Stage
- System Development Stage
- Integration And Testing Stage
- Implementation Stage
- Operations And Maintenance Stage
As you can see, at its core, the system DLC is very similar to the software DLC, but with a couple of differences here and there.
We will certainly cover it in more detail in a later article, but for now, this short explanation should suffice to understand the difference between the two -- however small that difference is.
Each phase or stage is important in its own way and neither can work completely without the others.
For instance, developers can’t start coding until they design the system’s architecture and they can’t do that until they gather and analyze all the requirements.
In the same manner, software deployment can’t start until you test the code and make sure it is correct.
There are several models that software development companies can use. It all comes down to the specifics of the project. That’s why choosing the right SDLC at the start of the project is often crucial to making it successful.
Here are the most common used six models, their advantages and disadvantages:
- Can save plenty of time
- Easy to understand
- Good for rigid projects
- Easy to test
- Good only for short-term, but not long-term projects
- Difficult to see the outcome
- Can’t be used with maintenance projects well
- Usable only if you have specific needs
The Waterfall Model is one of the most commonly used SDLC models. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and straightforwardness.
You simply start one phase and, when you are done, that phase “waterfalls” into the next and that one into the next and so on until the project is finished.
For this model to work, each stage must be clearly defined, with specific deliverables and schedules.
However, since you can’t move on to the next phase until the previous is finished, one small problem can halt the entire operation.
- Transparent due to good communication
- Able to find and fix problems early
- More focused on software and lacking in documentation
- The outcome is often not as clear as it should be
The idea behind the Agile Model is to deliver the working product quickly by breaking it into cycles. This is usually done in several releases.
This methodology relies on constant communication with the customer. That can be a two-edged sword.
On one hand, the customer’s input should make things clearer and devs won’t have to rely on guesswork. However, on the other hand, if the user is not able to fully express their needs, the project will suffer.
- Simple and easy to use
- Testing occurs in the early stages
- Each stage has strict results which makes it easy to control
- Not flexible
- Early prototypes cannot be produced
- Not suitable for complex projects
The V-shaped model is born out of the Waterfall Model, but with one crucial difference. Unlike the Waterfall Model, which moves down linearly, the steps in the V-shaped Model start downwards, but only until implementation.
Once the implementation phase is reached, the steps go upwards, to create a “V” shape.
When compared to the Waterfall Model, this model has a higher success rate largely because test plans are developed early in the software development life cycle.
However, just like its older brother, the V-shaped model also suffers from being too rigid and doesn’t allow early prototype development as the software is developed in the implementation phase.
- Provides a clear idea on the functional process of a software
- Very helpful in the initial stage of requirement gathering and analysis
- Decreases the risk of software functionality failure
- Higher management costs
- The workflow may suffer due to often changes
- Clients can get too involved and cause the project to slow down unknowingly
In this model, we create prototypes or early models of the software. These incomplete sample versions of the software being developed help us test a process and better visualize components.
There are four types of prototyping model:
- Evolutionary Prototyping: Here, prototypes “evolve” into the final system using the user’s feedback on the prototype.
- Incremental Prototyping: The final product is initially built as separate prototypes, which are then merged into the final design.
- Throwaway Prototyping: Prototypes are discarded before they reach the final software design.
- Extreme Prototyping: This type is used mostly with web applications and it breaks the development into three phases. In the first phase, developers will use HTML pages to create a static prototype. Next, developers use a simulated service layer to create fully functional prototypes. Finally, in the last phase, services are implemented and put into action.
- Good especially for large and complex software development projects
- Well suited for high-risk projects
- Reduces many risk factors
- Can cost a lot, especially for software development
- Not the best choice for low-risk projects
This model is considered the most flexible of all SDLC models. The spiral model is a combination of waterfall and prototype models and is especially useful for big, costly and otherwise complicated projects.
Although the model takes time and money to reach the final product, it allows developers to sink their teeth early in the software development life cycle.
Also, because it allows problems to be discovered early, the spiral model allows budgets and schedules to be more realistic.
Big Bang Model
- Simple and easy to implement
- Requires very little to almost no planning
- Great flexibility
- Not the best choice for high-risk projects
- Poor model food ongoing or long projects
The Big Bang Model is perfect if you are using outsource software development companies.
The reason for this is that there’s very little time planning involved and no specific process, so most resources will be used toward development.
While the Big Bang model is definitely not something you should do if you have a big project, for something that can be done with just one or two developers, it can be just what you need.
What is important here is not to get stuck with a model that might work for someone else but not your brand.
You need to carefully examine your needs and then choose the right software development life cycle methodology that will be suited specifically for your brand.
Choosing the wrong SDLC models can be detrimental to the entire project and do the opposite of what you want (for instance, save money, time, improve communication and so on).
A software development life cycle can take a while. Each stage of its phases requires some time to successfully complete before we can move on to the next phase.
Here’s just a brief overview of the time frames that each development stage might take:
- Requirement gathering and analysis - between two and four weeks per project
- Design - around two weeks
- Implementation and coding - from three to up to eight months
- Testing - around two to four weeks
- Deployment- another three to six weeks
- Maintenance - continual
Keep in mind that this is just a rough overview of how long each stage of the software development life cycle might take. You might end up spending more or less time on each individual stage.
Naturally, you want these specific processes as short as possible, but without rushing anything and sacrificing on quality. What is important is to keep these phases as short or as long as they actually need to be.
The most common SDLC models that software development companies use are:
- Big Bang
Before choosing the best model, carefully examine your business needs to ensure the success of your project.
To save time during the software development life cycle process:
- Determine the software requirements before beginning the software development life cycle
- Use software automation tools in software development projects
- Say ‘no’ to unnecessary features
- Test software functionality throughout the software development life cycle continually
- Remember that communication is often key in software development projects
Developing software, even if we are talking about the most rudimentary web application, is not an easy thing. It will cost your company time and money.
However, what you can do to make this process faster and more streamlined is to hire a software development company that will use the perfect software development life cycle and model for your needs.