The process of developing any software solution – whether we are talking about a customer relationship management (CRM) system (like Salesforce or Hubspot), a website, a mobile app, or something completely different is a difficult and often long and expensive operation.
This is why, in development, a clearly defined and streamlined process for getting from point A to point B and further is a must-have. That process is called software development life cycle or software development process.
What Is The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?
So what is the software development life cycle exactly?
SDLC is not a new thing. According to Husson University, 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 software development life cycle models were introduced (we’ll talk about them a bit later) and today, we can’t imagine a project without a software development life cycle.
There are several ways we can define software development life cycle, but perhaps the best one that it is a process used by the software industry to design, develop and test software.
There are dozens of ways to approach a software development life cycle. In general, however, when you hear these words, you should think of 6 software development life cycle 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, software development life cycle stages we outlined a few key software development life cycle stages that every SDLC should take. Follow these, and you’ll be sure to create an organized environment that results in a functional software solution for your particular business.
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 software development life cycle and for a good reason.
You see, when the software development life cycle is done right, it sets a clear path to everyone involved in the development process to arrive at their goal (create an 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.
Software Development Life Cycle Models
There are several software development life cycle 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.
There are several SDLC models, or methodologies. We’ll just outline the most common used six models:
The Waterfall Model is the most commonly used SDLC model. 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.
The idea behind the Agile Model is to deliver the working product quickly by breaking it into cycles. This is usually done is several releases. This model 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.
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.
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 a 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.
This model is considered the most flexible of all software development life cycle 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
Big Bang Model is perfect is 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.
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:
1. Software Development Life Cycle Stage 1: Requirement Gathering and Analysis
This stage of the software development life cycle 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.
2. Software Development Life Cycle 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.
3. Software Development Life Cycle 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 software development 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.
4. Software Development Life Cycle 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.
5. Software Development Life Cycle 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.
6. Software Development Life Cycle Stage 6: Maintaining and Managing The Software
Once the software goes live, there is still a lot of work in the software 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. Just last year, the number of cyber-attacks increased by 59% when compared to 2017, according to SiteLock Website Security Report 2019.
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 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 7 stages (so one or two more, depending on which school you follow).
The seven stages of a system development life cycle or process are:
- 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.
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.
Are you looking for some help your business with software development? We got you covered! Talk to one of these enterprise software development companies and ensure that your software project is a success.