Discuss the Software Development Life Cycle and Its Steps
It wasn’t that long ago that there was no concept of the term software development. There are many people alive today who had no concept of personal computing and software for the first couple of decades of their lives. And with what little computing machinery available, there was no standard software development process.
It was around the 1960s that the first known software was developed. At that time, its developers would have had no idea that the process of developing software tools and products would gain massive traction just a few years later. Today, the software industry is one of the most lucrative ones in the market, with developers now catering not just one hardware platform, but a variety of them.
Over the years, as software development became more popular, there was a need to standardize the process. That was required so that software developers could collaborate on projects, or work together in large teams for major projects, based on a single pattern or process.
So, let’s take a look at the software development life cycle, and learn why professional custom software development services use it for their projects.
What is the Software Development Process?
The software development process, also known as the software development life cycle, is a process born of a necessity. Ever since custom software development started rising in popularity, the stakeholders needed a structured flow to assess where the project stands at a certain time, and its requirements. Now if there is no structure or process to follow, then it is impossible to track the project’s progress.
So, developers got together and came up with a software life cycle. There was nothing new about it. They just broke a software development project down into its constituent activities, with each activity representing a single step of the process.
Today, we can describe SDLC as the process that takes a project from the ideation stage, through design and development, to deployment and release to the market. Generally, that process consists of the following steps or stages:
- Project analysis and Requirement gathering
- Project planning
- Project Design
- Project Development
- Project Testing
- Final Deployment
Geoffrey Elliott first coined the term software development lifecycle or system development life cycle. However, since then, the concept of SDLC has evolved numerous time to cater to the changing business needs of different industries.
What you need to understand is that the software development process isn’t a comprehensive or detailed process, but rather a high-level framework that describes a project’s evolution. In fact, that is exactly why developers use specific software development methodologies to add detail and elaboration to the project.
Types of Software Development Process
When we refer to the different types of software development processes, it generally mean the specific development methodology. Now, there are various kinds of software methodologies, with teams using different ones based on the circumstances and requirements of the project.
Now, as we mentioned, there are a number of methodologies. However, there are two main types of software methodologies, and they are:
- Agile methodology
- Waterfall methodology
In the earlier days, waterfall was the preferred method of developing software. This approach had been carried over from the industrial manufacturing methodology at that time, which said to finish each task before sending it on to the next stage.
In software development, that meant that once the project moved on from one stage to the next, it was impossible to go back and revisit the previous step. While effective in the earlier, and still today for some applications, the changing market dynamics meant that the development process needed to be more flexible and receptive to feedback.
That is where agile software development comes in. Unlike waterfall, it is an iterative process, with each iteration called a sprint. This iterative mode of working allows teams to go back and revisit a previous stage in order to incorporate any changes based off the feedback they have. Agile methodology is also called customer-centric, as it inherently allows businesses to incorporate change and adapt to the situation.
Demystifying the Software Development Process Steps
Now that we have seen the inception of the software development process, and understood how development process progresses, it is now time to dive in and take a look at each step of the process in detail.
One thing to note, is that whether you are following the agile methodology, waterfall, or more, these steps would remain the same. What would change is how you interact with the steps within your project, conforming to the classic cascading approach of waterfall, or the iterative one of agile.
Project Analysis and Requirement Gathering
The first step on any project plan is the analysis and requirements gathering phase. This is where you identify and demand all the requirements for your project, whether they are functional or non-functional.
In this step, different stakeholders are involved, which allows them to put forward their requirements to the project manager. When gathering requirements, the project manager should be skilled enough to get the required information from all stakeholders, whether it us an experienced businessperson, or someone with little business acumen.
Now that you have got all the information you need to, the next step is to use that information and plan out your project. This step involves looking at the various aspects of your project, and planning out all the modules and features you would need to develop.
Software development planning is also where you break down those modules into smaller activities and tasks, which would allow the project manager to check the project progress, while at the same time make debugging easier. Overall, at this stage, the project is visualized and broken down into its constituents for the design and development teams to start their work.
While the project design and development are often distinct steps of the project, there are many activities in both of these steps that are often run concurrently. For example, while the project designs are being created, the development team might be setting up the development environment.
Moreover, as soon as some design activities are finished, they might be sent to the development stage while other design activities are still pending. However, this concurrent running of various phases is only found in agile methodology. In the waterfall style, the project is usually fully completed before the project moves towards the development stage.
Now, it is important that you focus on the UI/UX design of your product at this stage. While UX would be worked on almost the entire development cycle, it starts with the design. This is where the team shows its priority in ensuring that the consumers have a good experience when using their product. And in order to do that, your designers should be familiar with UX design basics.
Next, based on your development model, the project development phase will start developing the codebases based on the receivables received from the design team. This is where your team will implement core functionalities, logics, and integrations required to turn your idea into a working product.
The development would continue according the priorities set by the project manager or functional requirements of the project. They will ensure that the development process is smooth and continuous, without needing to wait for inputs from other processes still pending.
Generally, this is the longest phase of the software development process, as it requires a large amount of work and meticulous care in order to deliver a quality codebase. The development team has to cater to a lot of demands, such as the software requirements, industry standards, company standards, client standards, and much more.
If you do all that, it means that you have met the sponsor’s expectations. Now, it may happen that the project is developed in multiple phases. For example, if you are following agile, then it may be that you are going to release an MVP before the final product. The purpose of this MVP development would be to get much-needed feedback from consumers in order to modify the product accordingly.
Once you are done with development, the next step is to test the code and the components for issues and quality. Now, the way that testing and QA occur is also defined by the development methodology you prescribe to.
For example, in the waterfall methodology, the testing stage occurs once the development stage has finished. That means if a problem pertaining to the design is identified in the testing stage, you will have to go back to the design phase, before moving to the development stage, and then reaching the testing and QA stage. That can be a big problem in terms of both time and resources, driving up the overall software development cost.
On the other hand, agile prefers to have QA and testing as a part of each phase. That means that before the project reaches the QA stage, its components will be tested at each respective stage too. That means that the design phase will test its design before sending it development, and so on. This not only saves time and cost, but also results in better products as teams learn to avoid that which causes issues.
Finally, once you are done with testing the product, and it meets all the standards and software development KPIs for the projects defined earlier, then you are ready to deploy it and release it to the consumers. This deployment is different from the one you do internally for testing purpose. Unlike internal or test deployment, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into the context when deploying the project live.
You have to ensure that your deployment server is capable of handling the traffic and its demands sufficiently. A broken link or lag in services provided may end up frustrating and losing a customer for good. Therefore, it is also important to ensure that your final software product is robust, secure, and most important – it is efficient and quick.
To sum it up, the software development process is extremely important when developing your software product. It allows you to control the quality of the finished product, as well as helping you ensure that the project is finished on time and under budget.
In many cases, the software development life cycle ends at deployment. However, in some cases, deployment is often led by maintenance and support. In any case, it is generally considered that a software development project has ended once deployed live.
At the end of the day, if you are able to deliver quality to the consumers, while staying true to the purpose, time, and budget of the project, you can rest assured that it will be considered a success.
1- Is software development process and the software development life cycle the same thing?
Yes, both software development process and the software development life cycle refer to the same thing, defining a step-by-step process through which a quality software can be developed.
2- Is support and maintenance a part of the software development process?
It depends on the nature of the project, as well as the domain and control of the development team. In most cases where the development of the software it outsourced, maintenance is not a part of the SDLC. However, for internal projects, or projects where support is also outsourced from the developers, maintenance is part of the development process.
3- Is SDLC agile or waterfall in nature?
Naturally, SDLC is neither agile nor waterfall. That is because it is designed for all styles of project development. It doesn’t matter if your preferred methodology is agile, or your organization prefers waterfall. At the end of the day, both of them will be following the same systematic steps of the software development process, albeit with minor differences.