If you ever cooperated with a software development company or you were just curious about how software is made, you probably came across the term Software Development Life Cycle. What is it? And why is it important? Let’s take a look.
Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) refers to a series of phases in the systematic development process of software. All phases are interlinked to create a detailed plan of the development of the software, including planning, building, and maintenance after completion. The cycle has seven phases:
In planning phase, the development team and stakeholders define the scope of the entire project by planning for quality assurance requirements and assess the risks and expected issues and challenges during development. Also, the team gathers detailed requirements and develops a timeline for each milestone and the entire software custom process.
During analysis, requirements are analyzed and structured into milestones, components and features. It also includes economic, technical, schedule, operation, and legal feasibility tests to assess various issues expected during development. This phase is crucial to make informed design decisions, adjust the planning, effort estimates and budget and to make sure that customer receives software solution that meets his needs and requirements.
The architecture of the system and software is created in this part of SDLC based on requirements gained from the two previous phases. Design documents typically include detailed descriptions of interfaces, object model, component dependencies, database structure. Usually this is done with help of Unified Modeling Language also known as UML, which is a visual tool created specifically for the purpose of software development and design.
The actual development of the software commences in implementation phase with code writing in chosen programming language. Coding tasks are divided into modules and assigned to developers who write the code according predefined coding guidelines and methodologies. This is almost always the most time consuming phase, therefore it is imperative that the tasks and overall progress is carefully tracked and planned utilizing either traditional or more modern agile methods of software project management.
The functionality of the completed software is then tested to ensure that the entire system works according to the requirement of the customer. Testing includes subsequent bug and defect tests and fixes by the development team until the software is stable, bug-free, and functional as required by the customer. At the end of this stage customer performs testing on his own and only after he is satisfied he signs off the solution as completed. This is called User Acceptance Testing.
Tested and user accepted software is installed and deployed in customer’s system and is ready to use.
After installation and deployment, the development team conducts maintenance activities such as bug fixing, upgrades, and enhancements.
Software Development Life Cycle is essential management tool in software development because it allows for precise control and overview of the development process. Developing medium and large software solutions is very complex and demanding task and it’s easy to get lost if the team is not coordinated well. Software development life cycle provides developers with a framework to set the activities and the standards of deliverables in each milestone. The framework also enables developers to track and control the project from the first phase to the last and enhances understanding of the challenges and issues of the project in each phase. This enables the development team to anticipate and address threats and risks leading to a decrease in development costs and overheads.
From customers’ perspective software development life cycle is a quality assurance tool. You know that when your software vendor has a refined software development process you have a good chance of receiving a high quality piece of software. Because SDLC allows your vendor to have consistent level of quality. It’s also a sign that they know what they are doing. On the other hand if they have no idea or don’t care what the development process is, you should reconsider partnering with them.
Another benefit is enhanced transparency of the whole process by ensuring that the life cycle is visible and understood by all stakeholders involved in the development process. This improves overall communication as well as timely completion and delivery of the final software solution.