To build new software, you need a strategy and a well thought out plan. In essence, that’s what the software development life cycle is. It’s a development plan that your Orlando software company follows to produce software more efficiently.
Let’s go into more detail about how this development plan works, what it is, best practices and how it can benefit developers and your project.
What is the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?
The software development life cycle is a framework—a plan to help developers build software. Basically, they set up their plan with various steps for each phase so that they can build, deploy, and maintain the software over time. This means having a clearly defined process to develop the best software, and which usually includes a couple of general phases.
In a nutshell, the SDLC revolves around steps like: requirement analysis, planning, software design, software development like coding, testing, and deployment—don’t forget maintenance as well. These are all the tasks that developers need to go through for the best quality product.
There are different models of the software development life cycle as well, which affect what type of product you’ll end up with. Which plan your developer team uses is dependent on what you’re looking for in your overall product development and what you, as the client, requires.
How Does the Software Development Life Cycle Work?
A software development plan works by keeping the developer team focused on performing each step in the cycle before they move on to the next one. It’s not about dividing the team to do different tasks and then putting them all together, but rather about going step by step and improving the overall product at the end.
The whole point is to lower the cost of producing software while producing a higher-quality product in a shorter amount of time—all by following a plan that gets rid of the usual problems you would encounter with dividing up work.
Developers start by evaluating any existing deficiencies, defining requirements for the new system, and then creating software through analysis, planning, designing, development, testing, deployment, and then maintenance. The whole point is to keep an eye on possible mistakes and reevaluating the software if there are problems.
You already know that a software development plan is composed of multiple stages. Seven stages in total, which we’ll go into more detail about here.
Any development plan will begin with an information gathering stage: the requirement analysis stage. This is when you and the developer team will collect any information needed to develop the software.
The goal in this phase is to make sure that the team understands what you as the client wants and to get rid of any possible ambiguities.
Use this phrase to figure out some basic things, such as what you want in your software, who will be the end-user, and what the purpose of your software is. Having a core understanding of what is expected out of the software is key.
Beyond the software itself, the developer team also spend some time during this phase figuring out the pros and cons of their current work methods. It’s important that the developer team listens to customer feedback and report to any shareholders too. If you are not entirely sure what you want, this is the stage where you’ll have to decide and confirm the details with your developers.
This phase is when the developer team begins to come up with a plan. They now have an idea of what you want and how they want to achieve your goals, but they need to spend some time putting it together. Developers start thinking about what you need by creating a DDS—a Design Document Specification.
This type of document will describe what features they’re trying to create and go into detail about the budget and the time required for each task. The goal is to have everything that they need to start working on your actual software and to understand the risks associated with each step.
This is also a good document to show you and any investors, so that they can see what the current plan is and what potential roadblocks might come up.
The implementation stage of a software development plan involves coding. Your developers will take the design and transform it into a source code to actually begin putting your software together.
This is the part of the plan that will usually take up the longest amount of time. Your developers are spending time working on the actual product and figuring out the coding they’ll use. They’ll be communicating a lot with the team to consider how the software currently looks and what they need to do to make it even better, but it’s important that they stick to the blueprint and plans so that the entire team remains on the same page.
After the software is developed, your team has to test it. The goal here is to do a thorough test of your current software so that they can weed out any possible defects. They’ll test and retest continuously to make sure that the software meets your expectations.
Your developer team will find all the bugs and the errors, report all the issues, and fix the flaws—they’ll then go back to retesting the software until they’re satisfied with the software.
Now, your developer team will want to deploy the software in the first User Acceptance Testing phase. This is where the software is tested in a production environment so that you as the client can begin testing your software. Stakeholders will get a chance to test out the software too before your developers release the final product.
The point of this phase is to catch any persistent problems, but once your developers have the software right, this is when it’s ready to be launched.
After your software has launched, it’s still essential to make sure that it’s maintained in the long run. This isn’t necessarily a part of development anymore, but this phase is key when it comes to making sure that any issues are resolved quickly and that your software stays up to date.
Software has a tendency to change over time, after all, so it’s up to your team to keep your software strong over time.
This is also a good place in your plan to consider how you can improve your product. Get feedback from the people who are using the software and use that feedback to better understand what you might need to improve. Whether it’s more features, a simpler look, or an upgrade, this is the step that keeps your software relevant.
Software Development Life Cycle Models
There are various models that your team can use as a part of the software development life cycle. These software development life cycle plans will be different depending on your company is looking for, so it’s important to consider which one might work for you.
This waterfall model is the oldest model—and the most straightforward one too. The whole point of the waterfall model is to finish one phase before starting the next one, so every phase will have its own small plan that leads right into the next one.
The Waterfall model is linear, so the outcome of one phase will be what developers use to start the next phase. This is the biggest potential problem with this model: that if details are missed in one phase or pieces of a phase remain incomplete, developers might have trouble in the long run completing the entire model.
Ultimately though, there’s a reason why this waterfall model is still used today. It’s simple and easy to use, and is a plan that can be easily understood. Developers should know what they’re looking for in each phase, and as long as they get that done, they can move forward.
The biggest issue is that this is an intensive model, and isn’t something that can be applied on software development that you want to be finished quickly. Developers also cannot skip steps, and cannot use this model if they don’t have a specified requirement for each phase.
When you think of this model, think of Windows. They release new versions every few years because they’re continually using the maintenance phase of the SDLC to fix their software.
The V Model
Also known as the Verification and Validation Model, the V model is quite similar to the Waterfall model. It works by going from phase to phase, but in this software development life cycle model, the testing of your software will happen sooner.
Your developers will go through all of the information gathering and analysis in the V Model, and will begin designing your system as usual—this is the verification part of this model.
Then, they’ll get to the validation portion, where they’ll start doing some testing, and then integration and system testing.
Like the Waterfall model, this model is simple and easy to understand, but it’s better for smaller projects that will take up less time. It does generally lead to a high-quality product, even if it’s not the greatest model for continuous projects—and this is because that testing happens at every stage.
Before developers begin this model, it’s important that they understand the product you want to make, because they can’t go back to a previous stage once they begin.
If you’re thinking of using the V model, you’ll want to use it on a project that’s larger and that requires developers to complete each step before you move forward. This is the best plan for software development without a lot of hurdles to overcome.
This is the software development life cycle model that works by using repetition. The whole point of the Iterative model is to create a version of the software very quickly and for a low cost, and then to improve it through continual tests over time.
This model is unique because it doesn’t involve all the planning that the other models have—developers will instead spend time breaking down the software project into smaller pieces that they build as they go along.
Once they finish creating your software, they are able to deploy it right away. This means that you as the client can see them working on it over time and can stay engaged in the entire process.
Developers need to remember to keep their team focused though, if only because going through more iterations can be more confusing than other straightforward models.
On the other hand, it’s also possible to adjust the software more easily- something you can’t do in other models.
Be careful with this model though, if only because it can be difficult to manage every stage. Costs can also build up quickly if developers don’t keep an eye on them.
As the name suggests, the prototype model is where the prototype is developed before developers develop the actual software. The team will produce a product that is incomplete, but that will help them better understand what you the client is looking for.
The whole point is to get that customer feedback before they have a finished product so that they can continually improve the software until they get something that you approve of.
Once developers do have the approval of the client, they’ll use the Waterfall model to refine and develop the actual product. One of the best things about the Prototype model is that developers can save both money and time on the completion of the overall project.
If developers are missing something, it’s more possible to add in what they’re missing and to refine the overall model.
The Spiral Model
The whole point of the Spiral model is to combine elements of the Iterative and Waterfall models. Basically, developers will release software through continual iterations, testing each part of the software as they go along. They’ll plan out the project, design the software, build it, and then evaluate it to test it.
This is one spiral, so to speak. They’ll then collect feedback and essentially start over by figuring out what they can improve and how they can fix what they did wrong. The point is to go through a few spirals until they have that final product completely developed.
One of the best things about this software development life cycle model is that developers do a lot of risk analysis, so there shouldn’t be any surprises about what will happen. They’ll only be able to use it well for larger projects though, and since they’re consistently going through changes, the cost of this model can add up over time.
Why Use an Software Development Life Cycle?
Using a software development life cycle plan is a smart idea and one of the best practices. This is because no matter which model is chosen, developers will have a high ability to manage and control your project.
Your developers can plan out what they’ll do, what the goals are, and how everyone wants to arrive at that goal. Everyone should be on the same page when you’re using an SDLC.
The biggest problems with these plans depend on the model, since your chosen model might not work with the goals of your project.
In the end, there are many different models for a software development life cycle. Whichever software development life cycle model you or your developers choose to use depends on what you’re looking for with your project. Consider the pros and cons with each model as you think about what you need to do to get your project done right.