Graphic representation of a software development life cycle

Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle

The Software Development Life Cycle, or the SDLC, is an amalgamation of steps used to finalize software applications. This development cycle helps with the division and planning of tasks so that they can be assigned to the right team members, completed in time and measured for progress.

What Is the Software Development Life Cycle?

The software development life cycle can best be understood as an efficient application of key business practices required to build software applications. The process is typically divided across a number of systematic steps, including planning, requirements, build, design, documentation, deployment, testing and maintenance. Project managers customize their approach based on the complexity of different projects and include the steps that are necessary.

SDLC improves the software development process and allows businesses to perform a fine-grain analysis of each necessary step, rather than following a cookie cutter approach. This due diligence can eventually help companies optimize performance and efficiency at every step of the software development process.

Companies can use SDLC to reduce costs, deliver results faster and meet customer needs in a more comprehensive manner.

Phases of the SDLC

1. Planning

The planning phase officially marks the start of the development process and is used to calculate labor and materials, create leadership structure and set a timeline for realistic goals and objectives. Companies usually take feedback and recommendations from all stakeholders who stand to benefit from the application being developed.

A decent planning process should concisely define the purpose and scope of software applications. The course and timeline outlined during this process will eventually help the programmers stay on track and measure progress. A good project plan can also keep the development work on an application within its intended purpose, without meandering elsewhere.

2. Defining Requirements

Most project and development managers include this step within the planning process. However, managers that want to put special emphasis on requirements and strategies consider it a separate step

In this phase, managers usually study the requirements of the app and define what it is supposed to do. A Fintech app for instance should help customers make payments easily. This phase should also be utilized for considering the resources required for completing a project. All machinery and finances required as part of the project should be finalized here.

3. Designing and Prototyping

The designing phase primarily deals with creating models and prototypes of how the application will work. Aspects of a typical software design include:

  • Architecture: The architecture of an application defines industry practices, overall design, programming languages to be used and boilerplates.
  • User Interface: The UI sets and defines the way customers will interact with the software and how the application will respond.
  • Platforms: All platforms where the application will run, including operating systems and consoles.
  • Programming: Besides the programming language, organizations also discuss task management and problem resolution here.
  • Security: Defines the measures in place to provide customer security. Steps like password protection, secure user credentials and SSL encryption can work here.
  • Communications: Defines and discusses the modes of communication within the application.

The prototype finalized during the design process is a draft version of the application and is meant to demonstrate the final idea on paper.

4. Software Development

This is perhaps the most important step of the SDLC. This is where pen actually meets paper and the project is developed into an application. Small projects can be written and developed by an individual developer, while bigger projects require several teams working together and breaking down tasks. A Source Code Management or Access Control application can come in handy in this phase.

The coding process for major software applications requires exemplary coordination and communication between team members. The slightest lack of communication can lead to debilitating results in the app.

5. Testing

Testing is a critical step for businesses to run before making an application available to users. Security testing can be automated to save time, while other forms of testing can be done in a controlled environment through simulations and complex deployments. Testing should thoroughly check the performance of each function and ensure that the application is fully functional and ready to use over time.

6. Deployment

The deployment stage initiates the official launch of the application. This usually signals the first interaction customers have with the application. Deployment can either be as simple as downloading a link through the company website, or as complex as upgrading a company-wide cloud database. Integrating complex updates and deploying applications in extended environments can be tough and hard to manage. There is also greater room for error in complex deployment processes.

7. Operations and Maintenance

While the development cycle is officially finished by this point, the operation and maintenance phase still holds due importance and value. It is in this phase that users report and experience problems that weren’t initially found during tests performed in your facility. These errors need constant updating, which can spawn mini-development cycles over and over again.

Certain software developers also plan for additional features and upgrades in future releases and versions of an application. Each of these updates requires a new SDLC to be initiated and performed.

SDLC as a Way to Measure Software Development

Like most business processes in efficient businesses, SDLC aims to improve and analyze the processes and steps of software creation. The cycle creates a manageable and sustainable view of the project from target fulfillment to day-to-day coding.

A typical SDLC shows higher executives what’s happening and gives them a hint of areas where the development process can be further improved. With proper monitoring and enhanced supervision, glitches encountered at the end of the process can be limited to a bare minimum.