The software development process is also known as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
It is a comprehensive set of rules, practices and steps that enable you to turn an idea for a software product into an actual product.
Why Is The Software Development Process Important?
Following these rules and practices is important for a few reasons:
It enables clear communication: Software development is a complicated procedure that involves many parties and stakeholders: software engineers, project managers, clients and more. As such, it can quickly get chaotic without clear communication guidelines. A well-defined software development process will help you avoid confusion by outlining the communication channels between all the involved parties.
It optimizes the workflow: It’s not uncommon for one software project to employ multiple developers, with each one working on specific tasks. And the bigger the project, the easier it can be to lose track of each developer’s tasks. A software development process will prevent that by clearly defining the responsibilities of each stakeholder in the development process.
It saves you money: Idling, poor communication and mismanaging the resources for your software development project can make it more lengthy and more costly. By implementing a software development process you will be able to streamline the workflow on your project and save money as a result.
7 Key Steps Of The Software Development Process
While the approach to software development varies between companies, the most universal steps of software development are as follows:
Step #1: Planning And Research
Preparation is key in software development. Before diving into a new project, you should know precisely what that project will be, why you will be undertaking it and what you wish to achieve.
The first step of the development process is all about planning and research.
At this stage, you should determine the following aspects of your project:
During this step, you and your team will explore the technical specifics of the project in greater detail to get a better understanding of the project’s purpose and goals.
Exploring these details will allow you to perform the feasibility analysis of your project. The goal of the feasibility analysis is to determine whether you have the necessary resources and tools to successfully complete the project.
It will also help you identify potential risks and issues you may run into during the next stages.
Step #3: Design And Prototyping
Once you assess the project requirements, the next step is to create the design and the prototype of the software product.
The design and prototyping stage of software development is similar to drafting an outline of a blog article or creating a storyboard for a video.
It is during this stage that you develop the visual and technical architecture of the product. Mockups or prototypes can be used to materialize the proposed UX wireframe and functionality of the software.
Creating the preliminary software design is helpful when communicating with your client, as a visual, tangible representation of the project is easier to give feedback to. It will also be useful in the later stages of the development process as a reference point for the developers.
Step #4: Development
Once all of the above preparations are done, it is time to move to the development stage. This is when the developers actually perform the necessary programming and bring the software idea to life.
This stage of the development process is usually the most time-consuming one, as it results in an almost finished, functional product.
During this stage, the software will go through several steps:
Pre-alpha is the version of the software before and during the development stage. Pre-alphas usually exist as prototypes or design sketches but are far from a finished product.
Alpha version is a rough draft of the software. It has most of the functionalities and features that were outlined in the design stage, but may still miss many important elements or contain serious errors.
Beta version is a more complete, fine-tuned iteration of the software, but it’s still not ready for release. Beta versions go through rigorous testing to identify and resolve hidden issues or bugs.
Release candidate is a finished beta version that has the potential to be released to the client. At this point, all of the software’s features have been designed and implemented and the testing is conducted from a user’s perspective.
Step #5: Quality Assurance
Once the release candidate version of the software is completed and approved, it enters the integration and quality assurance stage.
During this stage, the quality assurance (QA) team will perform a range of tests that simulate the real-life use of the software.
These tests will show not only whether the finished product is issue-free, but also whether it reflects the client’s original idea and meets their business goals.
Step #6: Software Deployment
This is the stage where the release candidate turns into a stable release, ready to be shipped to the client or the general public.
Depending on the nature and the complexity of the software, it can either be deployed all at once or in several stages.
In most cases, the deployment stage will be fully automated to avoid human error, cut costs and make it less time-consuming.
Step #7: Software Maintenance
Software is never really finished. This is why software maintenance is the final but also a continuous stage of software development.
During the maintenance stage, it is important to collect and analyze user feedback to identify bugs and issues that the quality assurance team might have missed.
In this stage, the software is perfected to outperform its competition and provide long-term value to the client.
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Waterfall is the oldest, most common software development methodology.
Essentially, it follows the software development process in the same way as outlined above. Under the Waterfall methodology, you will need to follow the process step-by-step, completing one before moving onto the next.
The Waterfall method does not give you a lot of flexibility, but it’s still the methodology of choice for larger companies that have strict corporate structures and processes.
Methodology #2: Agile
Agile is essentially the opposite of Waterfall. As the name suggests, its main priorities are flexibility and a fast-paced workflow.
The Agile method is based around short bursts of the development process called Sprints.
Instead of spending a long time building a software product from start to finish, the development team will work to create a so-called Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and deliver it to the client stage by stage.
Common variations of the Agile methodology are Scrum, Extreme Programming and Feature-Driven Development.
The Agile method is very fitting for projects that require continuous updates but can be very costly and difficult to manage.
Methodology #3: DevOps
DevOps is an extension of the Agile methodology that prioritizes continuous improvement and collaboration.
More of an organizational culture than a strict development methodology, DevOps relies on cross-organizational collaboration between different teams in the development pipeline.
In the more traditional methodologies, developers tend to use a single tool to complete a task before passing it onto the next person in the pipeline.
DevOps developers use the toolchains - sets of tools that enable them to continuously collaborate with other project stakeholders.
DevOps is a great methodology for projects that require continuous updates and need to be completed in the shortest time possible, but it can be problematic for more process-driven companies and projects.
Methodology #4: Rapid Application Development
The goal of Rapid Application Development is to maximize the quality of the end product while minimizing its cost.
Rapid Application Development tends to be client-centric and relies on user input in the development process.
It drops the strict process guidelines and procedures in favor of developing a functional prototype of the product as fast as possible and perfecting it until it’s ready for immediate deployment.
Rapid Application Development works best for smaller, time-sensitive projects and experienced teams, but will typically not be useful in other cases.
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Onshore outsourcing is the process of outsourcing your project within your country.
A common onshoring practice is for software development companies from large metropolitan areas to outsource their projects to teams in smaller cities.
However, the financial benefit of such transfer is not always significant, despite varying costs of living.
Instead, you should use onshoring to gain access to top talent and ensure the high quality of the end product.
Strategy #2: Nearshore
Nearshoring is the process of outsourcing projects to nearby countries abroad.
Nearshoring can be a good compromise between cutting down on development costs and staying in closer, more personal contact with the development team.
With nearshore outsourcing, you won’t have to worry as much about time differences, travel costs or language barriers.
Strategy #3: Offshore
To most people, offshoring is synonymous with outsourcing.
It is the most budget-friendly outsourcing approach that involves hiring a development team in a distant country with much lower labor costs.
Offshoring your software development work can be a great way of accessing great talent for much lower rates, but comes with complications such as cultural barriers and time differences.
Software Development Best Practices
Regardless of the software development methodology or outsourcing strategy you choose, here a few key best practices to follow in the software industry:
Don’t overcomplicate the development process: Keeping it simple is one of the fundamental rules of software development. It’s already a complicated, lengthy, costly process. Try to avoid making it more so by overcomplicating your development process with side projects and unnecessary practices. The general rule of thumb is: if it doesn’t bring value to the end product, you don’t need it.
Test everything: One tiny mistake in the development process can do serious damage not only to your project, but to your entire business. This is why it is important to test your work every step of the way. Spending some time and resources on testing the latest version of the software you’re developing can help you resolve potential issues before they arise.
Be realistic about your resources: Your resources most likely aren’t infinite, so make sure to use them appropriately but without overstretching your potential. Developing a realistic estimate of the resources you have available for a project will remove the unnecessary pressure from your team and will allow you to deliver the best work possible.
Set consistent standards for your team: Last but not least, make sure that every stakeholder in the project shares the same understanding of the standards you’re aiming for with your development process. This will allow for better collaboration across your team and will help you stay competitive in the volatile software industry.
Software Development Process Takeaways
Software development is a highly competitive industry that commands a strict commitment to processes.
Developing a comprehensive software development process will allow you to deliver projects of consistently high quality.
The key steps of software development are:
Planning and Research
Design and Prototyping
These steps can be adapted into the following software development methodologies:
By following the key steps and best practices of software development, you will be able to successfully deliver high-quality products to your clients on time, cut your costs and succeed in the competitive software industry.
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