Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle
The Software Development Life Cycle (commonly known as SDLC) is the process used to explain how software is delivered to customers in a series of steps or phases. It’s the backbone of modern software development and is vital to a software developer’s success.
A software development company uses this process not only to make sure that a product is developed properly but also that it’s completed as cost-effectively as possible while improving quality and reducing the required time.
The History and Benefits of the Software Development Life Cycle
Dating back to the days of vacuum tubes and computers that took up entire rooms, the software development profession has existed since the very first computers. As technology has progressed, the practices and methods for development have as well to adapt to today’s computer hardware, development tools, and modern organizational processes.
The SDLC has many different versions depending on a variety of factors and varies widely in approach, but all have the same common goal of developing software as efficiently, effectively, and as conscious of cost as possible.
No matter which version a software development team uses, an SDLC is incredibly beneficial during the process. It can be very challenging to try and complete a complex team effort such as development without some kind of blueprint in place. A lack of structure and planning can lead to chaos and failure.
There is quite a debate between developers about which specific methodology is the best overall, which is the best choice for each particular kind of software, and how to measure the success of the SDLC. However, it is universally agreed that any type of structured SDLC is better than nothing at all.
A formally defined SDLC offers a number of benefits for both the software development company in charge of developing the product and the client, including:
- Defined communication channels between developers and client
- Step-by-step plan for completing the project
- Clarified roles and responsibilities for the development team, designers, project managers, and anyone else involved
- Clearly defined steps and definitions of “completion” for each step
The Phases of an SDLC
Although there are many different versions of the software development life cycle, each version tends to follow the same 7 steps, whether individually or combined into parallel steps:
- Identification of the Requirements – Before anything begins, the requirements for the software development project at hand need identification. Companies can bring these to the table when meeting with a software development company or work together with them to create the requirements. The customers, salespeople, stakeholders, other involved parties, as well as the developers themselves should voice their opinions during this phase.
- Planning – After the identification of requirements, the planning of further phases begins. This step is when time management, budget and quality are decided upon. Planning helps to ensure the completion of all of the subsequent phases within the fixed time and that there are no anticipated problems that could extend the timeline. Plans are also put in place to handle any risks or anticipated issues further down the line.
- Design – A design is not only the look of the software product but a blueprint of how it will run. The design is then reviewed by all stakeholders involved to help further refine the project. Identification of errors during this phase helps prevent overspending the budget in future steps.
- Development – After the client and team finalize and approve the design, development finally begins. Depending on the decided SDLC methodology, this is done in the “Agile” method of working within time-based sprints to complete the project in sections or in one single block of working time known as the “Waterfall” method. No matter the methodology, it is important to loop in the stakeholders regularly to ensure that their expectations are being met throughout the process.
- Testing – Arguably the most important step of the software development life cycle, the testing phase identifies and allows developers to eliminate any problems in their developed software. Lag issues, bugs, errors, and any issues that could create a negative experience for the end-user require identification in this phase so that the product goes to market as flawlessly as possible.
- Deployment – This phase is typically highly automated or nearly invisible as software deployment begins as soon as it is ready. Less mature enterprises may require some manual approvals, but medium and large enterprises typically use an Application Release Automation tool to automate the deployment of the software to a production environment.
- Maintenance – After deployment, the life cycle still doesn’t stop. The software requires constant monitoring to ensure that it is operating properly to guarantee a quick resolution of any issues. Developers must continue conducting regular security, operational, and all other necessary updates as well.
The Software Development Life Cycle is an incredibly useful tool for both software developers and clients alike. It helps in reining in costs while reducing time and keeping all parties informed on the project status. While there are many different variations of the process used today, there is no totally perfect method. However, it is always a good idea to use a method to avoid pricey issues, communication problems, and total chaos throughout the development of new software.
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