The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is aimed at producing high-quality software in the shortest time possible. It comprises a detailed plan describing how to plan, develop, maintain, change, or improve a software product.

Having a team of seasoned developers and project managers from the very start is crucial for the success of the future software product since they can help you clearly structure the development process and choose the right methodology. When it comes to choosing a development company you may want to look for those that provide custom software development services since they tend to be more flexible and can tailor all the processes to your business needs.

So, a regular software development life cycle consists of 6 stages.

1. Planning and Requirement Analysis

This stage is fundamental for SDLC as it involves requirement gathering and analysis. At this stage, the project management team has to figure out what the client wants from the project. During the requirements gathering sessions, project managers arrange meetings with the client to outline each requirement in detail. The collected data is then used to develop a basic approach and to assess the economical, operational, and technical feasibility of the future product to identify the possible approaches that can be followed to implement the project successfully with minimum risks. This stage also includes planning for quality assurance requirements and the risks associated with the project.

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Once the requirement analysis is completed, the next step is to document the product requirements and have them approved by the client. As a result, the development team gets a software requirements specification (SRS), a document that describes what the software will do and how it will be expected to perform.

2. Design and Prototyping

Once the requirements are specified, the UI/UX designers can start preparing design mockups and sketches of the future software. . While the chief architect of the development team makes up the architecture of the software to be created. Architects may use architecture frameworks like TOGAF to compose software from existing components, promoting reuse and standardization.

This phase may also include some rapid prototyping, where the very basic requirements are showcased and user interfaces are provided. The code produced at this stage is used as a starting point for development and the features may work a bit differently than in the finished version of the software.

3. Product Development

This is the longest phase of the software development life cycle. At this stage, the work is divided into modules and actual coding is started. It is important that every developer sticks to the agreed blueprint and has proper guidelines on the code style and practices.

Database admins create the necessary data in the database, front-end developers create the necessary interfaces to interact with the back-end all based on guidelines and procedures defined by the company.

Developers also write unit tests to test the new code they have written for every component, create builds, and deploy software to an environment. The development process continues until the requirements are met.

4. Testing

Testing is usually a subset of the development stage. However, this phase refers to testing only where software bugs are analyzed and fixed. The software is retested until it reaches the quality standards specified in the SRS.

The quality assurance (QA) team either tests the software manually or uses automated testing tools to ensure that every component of the software functions properly. Once the QA confirms that the software is bug-free, it goes to the next stage, which is deployment.

5. Deployment

In the deployment phase, the software product is made available to end-users. The main goal of this phase is to make sure that the software runs smoothly in a live environment. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a type of testing performed by the client or end users to verify the software before moving to the production environment. It doesn’t focus on cosmetic errors, spelling mistakes, or system testing.

The deployment phase is, ideally, a highly automated phase. In high-maturity software development companies, this stage is almost invisible while for companies with lower maturity the process involves some manual approvals.

Once the software is tested and ready to be deployed it is released in the appropriate marketplace. It may first be released in a limited segment. Then based on the feedback, the software may be released in the targeting market segment.

6. Maintenance

The maintenance phase involves making changes to the software and documentation to support its operational effectiveness. During the maintenance stage, developers may need to make some changes to improve software performance, fix bugs, enhance security, or address user requirements. it is crucial to establish certain change management standards and procedures to ensure modifications don’t impair performance or security.

Popular SDLC Methodologies

There are a variety of SDLC methodologies and each of them follows a series of steps unique to its type to ensure the success of software development. These are the most popular ones:

  • Waterfall. It is the oldest and most straightforward methodology. It stipulates that you can’t move to the next stage if the previous one is not completed. For each stage, the development team has to create a mini-plan. The biggest drawback of this model is that unfinished tasks can slow down the entire process.
  • Agile. Agile divides the software development process into cycles with a succession of features releases. The feedback collected during testing is incorporated into the next version. The drawback of this methodology is that because of the see-as-you-go nature of Agile, teams can easily get sidetracked.
  • Lean. The Lean methodology is inspired by lean manufacturing principles. It is about working only on what must be worked on at the time, so there’s no room for multitasking. The key drawback of the methodology is that the development team has so much responsibility spread over a number of smaller sub teams that it can be relatively easy to lose focus.
  • Iterative Model. The methodology puts emphasis on repetition. Developers create a version very quickly at a relatively low cost, then test and improve it through rapid and successive iterations. Its key disadvantage is that it can consume too many resources if left uncontrolled.
  • Spiral Model. It is similar to the iterative model in its emphasis on repetition. The methodology goes through the planning, design, build, and test phases over and over, with gradual enhancements at each iteration. The key concern over the methodology is the risk of not meeting the schedule or budget.
  • DevOps. Developers and Operations teams work together as one team to accelerate innovation and the deployment of a higher-quality software product. Updates to products are small but frequent. The disadvantage of DevOps is that it usually prioritizes speed over security so the use of cloud services may cause some security risks.

Software development is a huge undertaking and requires serious planning. These are the steps that get you from the idea phase to release and maintenance. Development projects begin with requirements collection and flows through development, testing, and deployment. After that, the development lifecycle continues with post-launch maintenance until the software is removed from the service. Adherence to the lifecycle is crucial for the successful completion of the software development project and as a client, you should be involved in every phase. Building custom software is a process that requires mutual partnership.

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