In this technologically aware world, there’s practically an application for everything and supporting programmes that keep these applications working like a well-tuned machine. But what goes into the process of creating these applications?
That’s simple; it’s called the Software Development Life Cycle, which comes in phases.
While some may consider this a tedious and complex process, it cannot be denied that Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a crucial aspect of process programmes or software development and deployment. Without following the phases of each development cycle, you risk riddling your programme, application, or software with bugs or, worse, creating a redundant product.
What exactly is the Software Development Life Cycle?
Software Development Life Cycle is a structured process used to create high-quality software in the shortest production time possible. It is typically adopted when you want to create low-cost software without compromising quality and usability. SDLC is a project management model that helps move an idea from the ideation phase to an actual working product that meets and surpasses customer expectations.
Using an SDLC, you get a detailed outline laying out a plan with stages or phases and their respective objectives and deliverables. This analyses every alternative method of production, selecting the financially safest route while enhancing development speed.
This product engineering tool makes for easier project tracking by increasing visibility on all aspects of the programme or product life cycle for all stakeholders involved in the development process. Also, clearly defined inputs and the respective roles responsible for their execution are itemised. It is extremely efficient, deducting time that would have otherwise been effectively used.
The stages of the SDLC can be divided into as many stages as required for each specific product. However, these phases usually revolve around five to seven stages.
For this article, we will focus on seven stages to be as extensive as possible.
- Planning Phase
Also referred to as Product Conceptualisation, it is the first and most fundamental stage of the SDLC process. Here, the team of programmers come together to plan how best to approach the project. The current system is analysed, and the project’s scope is ironed out, future problems are identified, and funding or resources required to achieve the project is drafted.
Most importantly, especially if the product is meant for commercial use where a set launch date is usually predetermined, relevant stakeholders are carried along, and a timeline for the project completion is set out.
A proper team plays an integral part in the planning phase of SDLC in that an inexperienced person would miss important aspects of this phase. As long as the planning phase is perfectly executed, the project’s progress is made quantifiably easier to execute.
- Feasibility or Requirements Phase
This phase goes by numerous names, which means the gathering of requirements. Here, the business/project requirements are compiled and analysed by analysts. This is done to identify where the product/programme would best be integrated for optimal effect.
Here, developers work hand in hand with business analysts to determine the project’s specifics. This can be considered a partner phase of the first phase because every plan made earlier is now itemised and organised into actionable plans. The requirements include current problems, requests, and product/software application-specific customer expectations.
Several activities are concurrently occurring here, such as creating software specifications, building project blueprints, problem tracking, and resource allocations. In addition, heavy end-user research is also conducted, determining their needs along with alternatives to current prototypes.
- Design Phase
The product design would see the first iteration of the final product’s architecture. Here, a prototype is fabricated within an integrated development environment and translated onto a Design Document Specification (DDS) or a Software Requirement Specification (SRS). This document would contain the interactions to be expected and how they would be defined, the relevant database tables added, and security processes alongside the hardware and systems required to run the project.
Specifics are outlined, such as the User Interface/User experience’s look (UI/UX), the system interfaces, network requirements, and optimal database type.
- Development Phase
This phase is where the application programme code is written in line with the build specifications earlier identified in the initial phases. Then, the database administrator creates and imports relevant data into the programme database.
This phase also has numerous tools that come into play, such as Static Application Security Testing, compilers, debuggers, and so on.
Following the guidelines from the Design Document Specification (DDS) or a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document, programming languages such as C++, PHP, and so on, are defined, and developers create the interface as per project specifications and coding requirements, and extensive unit testing is done.
- Testing Phase
Up next is an unbiased and extensive evaluation of the built product. The requirements are closely compared with the current prototype to ensure that the end-users experience is not negatively affected and the software fulfils the intended purpose.
During this phase, the developers review every line of code, scouring every code block for bugs or defects. The tests include Unit Testing, Functional Testing, Non-Functional Testing, Integration testing, Acceptance Testing and System Testing, all within an isolated testing environment called a sandbox.
The objective is to detect, track and eventually fix every bug, leaving the project error-free and as close as an iteration to the planned project in the SRS document as possible. And this phase can be short or long depending on the software’s complexity, experience, and skill of the developers.
- Deployment Phase
This stage can also be referred to as the implementation and integration stage. The overall design comes together at this stage, with different modules or designs integrated into the base code. This is done in a controlled training environment such as a sandbox where any further defects are identified, tracked and immediately fixed.
Some testing is still ongoing during this phase. So, it can also be a part of the Testing Phase but one done after or during the Deployment Phase. It is to test the product in a real business environment and is referred to as User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
The final form of the product takes its last iteration with the aid of the developers as they integrate and install it into the production environment. At this point, the product has officially reached the market with its form as close to the blueprint in the Design Document Specification (DDS) or a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document. After that, the product may be released but in a limited segment of the customer target market.
- Maintenance Phase
This is a monitor phase that runs concurrently during user operation. It can be considered the post-production phase of the Software Development Life Cycle. Here, the product, be it the software or application, is already deployed and has users already interacting with the final product.
During this period, regular Quality Assurance Testing is conducted to detect any further bugs and defects that may have slipped through the initial phases. Developers work in tandem with a System Analyst to implement changes such as handling previously unresolved bugs or resolving new issues detected by the product users that the product may need. Larger systems would require extended periods of maintenance stages than most.
The SDLC’s system analyst takes an overview role in ensuring that this software reaches the market on time but also remains maintained while in operation. Because they are totally aware of every moving part of the system or software, they are best suited to guide the maintenance phase of the Software Development Life Cycle.
You should know that the SDLC comes or can be used in various models depending on the specific needs of the team and the application being built. Some popular and widely recognised Software Development Life Cycle models include:
- Iterative Model
- Spiral Model
- Waterfall Model
While there are other methodologies and their respective models, such as the Agile Model, Rapid Application Development Model and Prototyping Model, these models seem less detailed. Nevertheless, for developing or creating, the Software Development Cycle remains one of the more popular tools for software developers.
Understand that as a software developer or someone looking to develop their software or application, SDLCs are necessities that you cannot do without. Whichever position you hold, ensure that every stage is completed and done on time, if not earlier. SDLCs are also tools that System Analysts can use in developing and implementing new information systems.
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