The global software industry revenue is expected to reach $507.2 billion by 2021.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that global annual IT spending is reaching $4 trillion.
Software development is not a niche anymore - it’s one of the world’s leading industries.
Its unprecedented growth has created a highly competitive industry, which requires significant investments.
But resources aren’t the only thing you need to stay competitive in the software industry.
Another prerequisite is having a solid understanding of the software development process, its methodologies, outsourcing strategies and best practices.
This is precisely what we will cover in this article.
Let’s dive right in to this comprehensive ultimate guide to software development.
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.
Following these rules and practices is important for a few reasons:
While the approach to software development varies between companies, the most universal steps of software development are as follows:
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:
Feasibility and software requirements analysis is the second step of the development process.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
There are four main software development methodologies that build upon the standard development process:
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the key factors that contribute to the cost of software development projects is labor.
You can cut those costs by outsourcing a portion of the development work to third-party developers in various locations.
Here are the three key software development outsourcing strategies:
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.
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.
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.
Regardless of the software development methodology or outsourcing strategy you choose, here a few key best practices to follow in the software industry:
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:
These steps can be adapted into the following software development methodologies:
To cut development costs, consider outsourcing some of your projects through these software development outsourcing strategies:
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.