When collaborating with a dedicated development team, most companies make a surprising discovery – there are quite a number of specialists working on the project. And while the focal area of developers is nuff said, such job titles as PMs,…
Software Development Lifecycle: Stages, Methodologies & Tools
Outstanding projects start with an outstanding breadth of view. Like any other multifaceted system, software development calls for dive-deep planning, groundwork, and management, especially, if you have to juggle several processes.
For the project to go off without a hitch, you’ll need a stringent system that renders the entire engineer undertaking effective and allows the software team to deliver excellent results in a timely manner. The software development cycle is what helps to achieve these objectives.
The SDLC can marker-pen development inaccuracies in their infancy, which alleviates time and money headaches. This approach can also chart out a plan for faring well from the first take.
Therefore, any good developer worth his salt should be well-versed in the SDLC models and choose the one according to the project context and the business requirements.
Devox Software has been in software development since 2017, and we know how important SDLC is. Our experienced team, which now consists of more than 50 engineers, has worked on many projects and understands all the ins and outs of different SDLC models.
So if you’ve been wondering “What are the phases of the software development life cycle”, in this article, we will share some of our expertise and provide an extensive guide on the 6 SDLC stages and 7 key SDLC methodologies. By the end of this article, you’ll find out why this approach is important and what SDLC tools are worth considering.
Now that we’ve set our agenda, let’s get started!
What is SDLC?
As we’ve stated above, SDLC (software development lifecycle) is the process that a software project follows and which consists of a detailed plan describing how to develop, maintain, replace, change or improve specific software. The lifecycle defines a methodology for improving software quality and the overall development process.
But what is SDLC in software practice? Basically, it is the implementation of go-to business practices for crafting tech solutions. As a result, teams produce high-quality software that meets or exceeds customer expectations. The SDLC also allows companies to perform a fine-grain analysis of each step, thus boosting efficiency and minimizing costs throughout the whole engineering process.
The SDLC is usually broken down into six steps: Analysis, Planning, Architecture Design, Development, Testing, and Maintenance.
Some PMs may combine, divide, or skip some stages, leaning on the project’s requirements. However, these are the must-have constituents suggested for all software engineering projects.
With that being said, let us have a closer look at each of the software development phases.
Where is System Development Life Cycle Used?
Software development life cycle is a concept usually used in IT projects. Project managers will use SDLCs to define various development stages and ensure they are completed on time and in the right order. Also, this methodology helps them to deliver software systems swiftly and with as few bugs as possible.
Moreover, SDLCs can also be utilized by system analysts as they design and implement a new information system. We will dwell on the SDLC life cycle concept’s benefits in more detail further in this article.
6 Stages of Software Development Process
As it has been mentioned, the number of SDLC phases may vary according to the applied methodology and the preferences of the development team or company.
Thus, the Agile development process welcomes constant change through iterative workflow and each iteration accounts for the next piece of the engineering puzzle. One iteration usually takes one to four weeks depending on the team and completion time. Therefore, the scope of each iteration is only as broad as the allocated time allows, resulting in a different set of stages for each software product.
At the same time, the Waterfall methodology is a linear and documentation-laden project management process with terminal phases. It means that each stage must be finalized before the next phase can start and there is no overlapping in the phases. The Waterfall methodology is usually broken into seven steps, which require painstaking planning using a Gantt chart. The only way to revisit a stage is to start over at phase one.
We’ll dive deeper into each methodology further in the article. Now let’s go over the six stages that are inevitably present in each of software development lifecycle methodologies.
During this software development lifecycle phase, the specialists meticulously collect precise requirements from the customer to present a solution fine-tuned to their needs. Any unclarities must be elucidated in this stage only.
The analysis phase also gathers business requirements and identifies any potential risks. This step in SDLC also includes a feasibility study, which defines all fortes and weak points of the project to assess the overall project viability.
The goals you achieve at this stage are identified as the system of functions your business needs or wants to develop and implement. For that, software developers complete three primary activities:
- listing business needs or requirements
- developing process diagrams or a development pipeline
- performing the analysis
The analysis stage includes:
- clarifying specific details required for software development
- determining initial prototype ideas:
- what functions could be the most suitable for the new product
- what USPs (Unique Selling Points) your future software should have to compete well on the market.
This way, you can define the main requirements, what tools and approaches to use, and how to reach your business goals most efficiently.
Thus, the analysis phase helps you understand your core business needs and what you should do to fulfill them.
The purpose of the second stage is to outline the scope of the problem and identify solutions. Resources, costs, time, and other aspects should be considered here. The planning phase of the SDLC is also when the project plan is developed that identifies, prioritizes, and assigns the tasks and resources required to build the structure for a project.
With that said, this step culminates in a detailed project plan.
3. Architecture & Design
The third phase entails two further steps – High-Level Design (HLD) and Low-Level Design (LLD). The result of the former is the future architecture of a software product, whereas the LLD step describes how each and every feature in the product should work. It’s also in this phase when the database specification is developed to decide on data management and storage for future processing, retrieval, or evaluation.
Among other things, the development team will mull over the core components, structure, processing, and procedures for the system to reach the stated goal.
This design phase lays a foundation for the next step of the life cycle, which is development.
Software development turns your project’s requirements and prototypes into a tangible solution. Thus, engineers start creating the entire system by crafting code using the required technology.
During this software development lifecycle phase, clients will be able to have a first look at your future product. And by the end of the building process, clients will have an operating feature to share with the customers.
In the fifth stage, all the pieces of code are tested to verify and validate a software product. Testers then perform Software Testing Life Cycle activities to monitor the system for bugs, and defects. This is done to check the correspondence between the real and expected behavior of a program.
The testing stage and the initial SDLC phases can be performed with both internal software development and outsourcing, as they require end-user interaction.
Once the system is deployed, any necessary upgrades, enhancements, and changes can be made, implementing new features into the operating software. It is crucial to maintain and modernize the system regularly so it can adapt to future needs.
Why Do You Need SDLC?
We’ve already mentioned the positive effect of implementing a software management life cycle methodology on the development process and its results. Each particular approach has its own merits, but let’s dive deeper into the benefits of this practice in general.
Focus on the goals
SDLC helps to keep your main project goals in mind. It is especially important when you take on a large project. The presence of the development methodology helps you to stay focused and implement the plan with precision. Therefore, in the end, you get a solution that satisfies the business needs.
Clear project design
With an SDLC, all team members understand the sequence of the software development stages. They cannot proceed from one phase to another until the prior is completed and the project manager signs it off. A formal review marks the end of each stage. Therefore, the project manager has maximum control.
Well-documented project plan
Your project should not stall if a key project member leaves. The SDLC provides a well-organized description of the software development process. Without the necessary paperwork, the new project member may have to rethink the entire project. An SDLC fosters meticulous record-keeping, so the new specialists can easily pick up where their colleagues left off.
Compliance with the budget and timeline
The project manager can easily stick to a budget with a well-structured SDLC plan at hand. It provides information about the timetables and costs. All team members can keep track of their tasks and deadlines. Anything past due can be easily spotted. Therefore, the project manager can redirect efforts from micromanaging to improving efficiency.
Now it’s time to move onto the key software development lifecycle models or methodologies if you like.
7 Key SDLC Methodologies
There are quite a few SDLC methodologies that have been put in place over the years to make the development process time-efficient and productive. Here is a brief overview of SDLC models and the advantages they offer.
Agile emerged in the 90s as an alternative to the process-intensive, document-heavy and plan-driven approaches like Waterfall. Essentially, the Agile model is all about delivering value to customers faster, while minimizing bureaucracy. One can also immediately associate Agile with collaborative work, continuous delivery, faster feedback, and quick adoption.
As a result, organizations can adapt and master continuous change and are able to thrive in any challenging environment. This brings us to its core strengths.
Advantages of Agile:
- Highly flexible, change-friendly, fast-responding
- Good fit for small and mid-sized teams
- Working software is delivered quickly to the client, which increases customer’s satisfaction
- Close, regular cooperation between stakeholders and developers
- Time-consuming due to the on-going Agile events
- Poor fit for teams of 15+ members
- Agile project management can be tricky, as the Project Manager must consider proper role identification and facilitate team cooperation
This SDLC model refers to the traditional and seasoned project management approach that places initial planning at the heart of all processes. The model is based on a sequential design process when a team finishes one stage before starting off the next one. It allows the execution of big and complex projects that are very challenging, labor-intensive, or hard to change after the project has already begun.
- In-depth, thorough planning (including financial and timing risks)
- Uses clear structure and rigidity
- Upfront requirement gathering
- Phases do not overlap
- Change-averse – even one tiny change violates the process integrity
- Irreversibility of the process – teams have to run the projects from the very beginning in case of an unexpected roadblock during the mid-stage
- No operating software is presented until the late stages, which is especially inconvenient for lengthy, complex projects
In short, Lean methodology is one of SDLC methodologies used for reducing operational costs, improving quality, increasing productivity, and improving customer satisfaction. This methodology relies heavily on two foundational credos, including continuous improvement and respect for people.
Lean is also sometimes referred to as a collection of tools used to analyze the current state with the purpose of identifying strong points and inefficiencies and increasing overall performance. Additionally, this model is known for the pull structure, which means that the work is pulled only if there is a need for it to achieve maximum resource optimization.
- Concurrent work – a team can focus on multiple tasks within two different stages
- Improved visibility thanks to the quick delivery of interim results
- Minimized wastage – team skips or amends any stages, features or processes, which do not add value
- Increased team productivity
- Lean sprints are not clear-cut, which accounts for vague result expectations
- Requires coordinated teamwork, which is not always the case, especially with newly-minted team members
- The attention to detail is unrelenting to the point of exhaustion
Within this approach, the whole project is broken down into several iterations or time periods that usually take from two to six weeks. During each iteration, the team fulfills tasks to meet the goal of a particular iteration. Although iterations are implemented to embrace changes in scope, the project team still strives to plan as much work upfront as possible.
- Progress is easily measured – each iteration delivers an immediate result or operational product
- Flexibility to modification – changes are hassle-free and easier on the budget
- Adaptable to the evolving needs
- Mitigates risks – issues are identified and addressed during each iteration
- Not very suitable for changing requirements, since modifications can have a toll on the architecture
- Each iteration is rigid with no overlaps
- Roadworthy for big projects only
This SDLC model is a kind of iterative-incremental combination with an emphasis on risk analysis. Based on the unique risk patterns of a given project, the model encourages the team to adopt elements of one or more process models, such as an incremental, waterfall, or evolutionary prototyping. The spiral model has proven itself in terms of increased attention to risk in projects with unstable requirements that may change during the project.
- Superior risk handling during the Analysis phase
- Flexibility – additional changes and functionality can be added at a later date
- Well-documented focus
- Increased client involvement in the project even in the early stages
- A costly SDLC model to use since risk analysis requires specific expertise
- Suitable only for complex, mission-critical projects
- The project’s success hinges on the risk analysis phase
This is an advanced version of the classic Waterfall SDLC model. It provides in-depth control of the current process before moving to the next stage. With the V-model, testing starts as early as the requirements writing stage. Testing implies early quality control through a series of reviews and checks, which is called static testing. This method allows you to identify flaws at the earliest stages of project development and minimize errors in the future.
- Clear phase division
- Ideal for time management
- Testing starts early, which ensures a clear vision of the business idea and its implementation
- Proactive defect tracking thanks to ongoing testing
- Hardly allows reacting flexibly
- No early prototypes, which means no tangible result for clients until the implementation phase
- High risks and ambiguities
The one thing that unites all these SDLC methodologies is the possibility to streamline complex processes by making use of various tools during each phase.
Which SDLC Methodology is the Best?
Most IT development teams prefer the Agile methodology. Some other popular choices include Spiral or Interactive approaches. All three attract developers as they allow for substantial iteration and testing before release onto the market or integrating a product part with a larger source code.
However, we warn you against looking for a perfect one-size-fits-all approach to create your SDLC project plan. The right question to ask is which methodology suits your case most. The answer will largely depend on your team’s goals and available resources. Have a good look at the lists of advantages and disadvantages for each approach from the previous section, and take your pick!
A Brief Overview of Software Development Lifecycle Tools
SDLC tools are indispensable for managing the software development process. From charting software to spreadsheets, specified solutions make the developers’ lives much easier and help not to get sidetracked amid the project chaos.
This software is designed to simplify workflow management for a wide variety of teams. Jira was originally designed as a simple system for tracking tasks and errors. But today, it has evolved into a powerful workflow management tool suitable for a wide variety of cases, from requirements management and test scenarios to agile software development.
This web service is geared towards teamwork without traditional ways of information exchange and with no mobile applications. Most of you have probably heard of or even worked on Trello and Basecamp. Asana is less well known, but it has reacher functionality than the popular Basecamp, while maintaining a clear interface, unlike Trello. It shares a plethora of functions from setting goals and timelines to real-time sync and over 100 integrations.
It is one of the most popular online project management systems, which is a staple among small companies and startups. It allows teams to efficiently organize their work according to the Japanese kanban board methodology. Trello is the easiest tool to implement into your workflow without long staff adaptation.
This tool is an open-source distributed version control system. A version control system or VCS can greatly facilitate the work of developers trying to analyze changes and contributions to the overall code. This SDLC tool is a key element in managing software customizations that meet the needs of the project. Git allows developers to have multiple local branches that can be entirely independent of each other.
This solution simplifies administration and management tasks. Stash keeps growing Git repositories safe within firewall coverage and allows team members to add users and user groups as well as set detailed rules directly from the UI. This software development lifecycle tool also enables developers to create and manage repositories within the tool. In simple words, Atlassian’s Stash is your local version of GitHub.
It is a free cross-platform visual client of the Git and Mercurial version control system that runs on Windows and Mac OS X. SourceTree simplifies interaction with Git and Mercurial repositories so software engineers can focus on coding. Here, they can visualize and manage repositories through a simple interface.
This is one of software development lifecycle tools that represents a teamwork space suitable for distributed teams. Its dynamic pages provide a platform for creativity, information gathering, and collaboration within any project. Team players can structure and organize their work and share the organization’s knowledge base. Confluence is equally effective for teams of all sizes and types, whether they are dealing with large, mission-critical projects or just looking for space to build a team culture.
Why Is Software Development Life Cycle Important?
Software is the epitome of complexity. And SDLC is a vital element in the tech universe because it dismantles the complex and tedious software development process. Thus, this methodology obviates the need of building a system from scratch.
Also, an effective software development life cycle is what helps translate a vague business idea into a functional and completely operational structure. Besides providing for system development technicalities, SDLC caters to the process development, change management, user experience, and other crucial things.
Finally, another aspect that adds to the importance of this approach is that it allows for upfront planning, evaluating costs, and making clever staffing decisions, as well as defining clear goals, inputs, and outputs.