Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.
Behind all the conveniences that we use in everyday life, there is complex software. Take, for example, self-driving cars, smart homes, or augmented reality capabilities built into eyewear. All of these things are managed by complex software working behind the scenes.
However, no matter how complex the software is, it must be flexible, easy to maintain, and extensible. How do software developers achieve this? The answer lies in carefully planning each step of the software product development life cycle.
The outline of the software development process is an excellent starting point in software product building. In this article, we will discuss the concept of the software product development life cycle, its phases, and the general methodologies used in it.
The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a series of steps that a software development team must follow to develop and maintain software.
The software product development life cycle begins with the decision to create software and ends with the retirement of that software. The software development process includes 6 key steps. Each of them contains several stages. In essence, SDLC is a roadmap for developing software products.
SDLC began as a "systems development life cycle" in the 1960s. As Jeffrey Elliott explains in his book Global Information Technology for Business. Business strategists from large corporations developed this model to help manage complex business systems that require a lot of data processing and analysis.
Over time, variations of the framework have been adopted to develop hardware and software technology products and other complex projects.
From missed deadlines to hasty decisions and futile attempts to get a project under control, poorly planned software projects tend to spiral out of control. On the contrary, by having an intended software delivery lifecycle, businesses can enjoy predictable software product development. For software developers, this means understanding what they are doing now and what will happen next.
Here are some key benefits of the product development life cycle in software:
As such, all projects must have an intended software product development life cycle because that is the only way to ensure that the resulting software will meet the requirements of both business owners and end-users.
SDLC reduces the cost of software development while improving quality and reducing production time. The SDLC achieves these apparently divergent goals by following a plan that eliminates the typical pitfalls of software development projects. This plan begins with an assessment of existing systems for deficiencies.
It then determines the requirements of the new system. Then builds the software through the analysis, planning, design, development, testing, and deployment phases. By anticipating costly mistakes, such as lack of feedback from the end-user or customer, SLDC can eliminate unnecessary rework and after-the-fact fixes.
It is also important to know that a lot of attention is paid to the testing phase. Since SDLC is an iterative methodology, you must ensure the quality of the code in every cycle. Many organizations tend to spend little effort on testing, while a stronger focus on testing can save them a lot of rework, time, and money. Be smart and write the right types of tests.
Founders of the product should be sure that their C-level is aware of these features. If not, make sure to find and hire the best CTO for your startup.
Several versions of the software development lifecycle have emerged. Guru99, for example, uses a seven-stage SDLC structure that separates requirements gathering and a feasibility study into two distinct stages. Other organizations, such as the Software Testing Help, combine these two steps into one phase: "requirements gathering and analysis".
We have considered many variants of software development life cycle models. The following six-step structure seems to provide the smoothest and most efficient way.
Purpose: Gather and document business requirements
At this stage, all the necessary information is collected from the client in order to develop the product in accordance with their expectations. Any ambiguities should only be resolved at this stage.
Business analysts and project manager schedule a meeting with the founder to gather all the information, such as what the client wants to build, who the end-user will be, what the purpose of the product is. Before creating a product, it is very important to get a basic understanding or knowledge of the product.
For example, the founder wants to have an application that includes money transactions. In this case, the requirements should be clear, such as what transactions will be done, how they will be done, what currency they will be done in, etc.
After the requirements are collected, an analysis is carried out to verify the feasibility of developing the product. In case of any ambiguities, a call is set for further discussion.
Other possible issues to be discussed are as follows:
Once the requirements are clearly understood, an SRS (Software Requirements Specification) document is created. This document must be fully understood by the developers and must also be reviewed by the founder/C-level for further reference.
Please check out our Digital Product Development: Step-By-Step Guide for more insights.
Purpose: UX-UI designers translate the requirements of software development into the design
The design phase is a necessary precursor to the main development phase.
Developers first outline the details of the entire application, as well as specific aspects such as:
They usually turn the SRS document they create into a more logical structure that can then be implemented in a programming language. Operations, training, and maintenance plans will be put in place to ensure developers know what they need to do at each stage of the cycle going forward.
Once completed, development managers prepare a design document that will be referenced in the next phases of the SDLC.
With a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP), you can put your preliminary research into practice and see if your ideas work in real life. Both options are intended for testing so that you can customize your project flexibly and use resources sparingly.
Purpose: To create the actual software
Software development is the most time-consuming phase of the software product development life cycle, but it is more predictable than the design phase.
Using design documentation, software developers write code for components. Tasks are distributed among team members according to their area of specialization. The developers of the client software are responsible for creating the interface and its interaction with the server. DBAs add the required data to the database.
In theory, all the pre-planning and sketching should make the actual development phase relatively easy.
Developers follow any coding guidelines defined by the organization and use various tools such as compilers, debuggers, and interpreters.
Depending on the chosen programming language your Ruby on Rails/
The result of this stage is a working software product and a source code document.
Purpose: To ensure that the software meets the requirements
After the development team completes the programming of the software, it's time for the quality assurance (QA) team to step in. The QA team tests the software to measure its quality. At this stage, the software goes through various types of tests:
The software developers fix any bugs that occur during this phase and then the QA team tests the software or its components again. Quality assurance is an ongoing process that continues until the software is completely bug-free and meets requirements.
Purpose: To deliver finished software to users
When pre-testing proves that the software is ready for further work, it is transferred to production. This step involves coordinating the release of the software product to deliver your solution to end-users in a well-coordinated manner.
Take a look at what orchestration of a release includes:
The first thing you need to do to get your software working is to prepare a place to host it. Whether you choose local servers or a cloud platform, you leave it up to your development team.
Whatever you develop, you want to connect your software to the Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) pipeline. Once implemented, it speeds up the process of releasing all the builds you have and makes it easier to accept changes after launch. In addition, CI/CD pipeline best practices enhance the maintainability of your product by encapsulating it in a single package.
No software is immune from all risks. Third-party integrations - and even your cloud service provider - can sometimes run into trouble, exposing your system to failures. This is why your development team should set up server backup during the implementation phase.
Release orchestration also revolves around the deployment plan. It is placed at the end of the development process to determine how your software should be run, who is responsible for releasing it, and how it should be maintained thereafter.
So, your product is released. This marks the start of operations and routine maintenance.
Even though it happens last, maintenance is one of the most important phases of software development. You must maintain—or hire someone to maintain—your product in order to improve, update, and keep it running without downtime.
This is when you usually sign a software maintenance agreement with your development team or a third party. Under this agreement, you specify which parts of your product should be supported, maintenance activities, obligations, and more.
According to the IEEE/ISO/IEC 14764-2006 standard, there are four types of maintenance work:
A software product life cycle model is a descriptive representation of the software development cycle.
Attention! SDLC models may take a different approach, but the basic steps and activities remain the same for all models.
The waterfall model is the oldest of all SDLC methodologies. It is linear and simple and requires development teams to fully complete one phase of the project before moving on to the next.
Each stage has a separate project plan and takes information from the previous stage to avoid similar problems (if they arise). However, it is vulnerable to early delays and can lead to big problems for development teams in the future.
The V-model (short for Verification and Validation) is very similar to the waterfall model. A testing phase is included in every stage of development to identify potential bugs and defects.
It is incredibly disciplined and requires strict time limits. But in theory, it highlights the shortcomings of the basic waterfall model, preventing larger bugs from getting out of control.
The prototype model is a model in which a prototype is developed before the actual software.
Prototype models have limited functionality and inefficient performance compared to real software. Dummy functions are used to create prototypes. It is a valuable mechanism for understanding customer needs.
Software prototypes are created before the actual software in order to get valuable feedback from the client. Feedback is implemented and the customer checks the prototype again for changes. This process continues until the model is accepted by the customer.
After collecting the requirements, a quick design is created and a prototype is created, which is presented to the customer for evaluation.
Customer feedback and revised requirements are used to modify the prototype and are again presented to the customer for evaluation. Once the client approves the prototype, it is used as a requirement to build the actual software. The actual software is built using the Waterfall model approach.
The spiral model includes an iterative and prototyping approach.
In iterations, the phases of the spiral model are observed. The cycles in the model represent a step in the SDLC process, i.e. the innermost cycle is requirements gathering and analysis, followed by planning, risk analysis, development, and evaluation. The next cycle is design followed by implementation and then testing.
The spiral model consists of four phases:
The iterative model divides the product into small chunks.
For example, a feature that needs to be developed in an iteration is solved and implemented. Each iteration goes through phases, namely requirements analysis, design, coding, and testing. Detailed planning in iterations is not required.
After the iteration is completed, the product is tested and delivered to the customer for evaluation and feedback. Customer feedback is implemented in the next iteration along with the newly added feature.
Hence, the product increases in terms of features, and after the iterations are completed, the final build retains all the features of the product.
Phases of the iterative development model:
The Big Bang model does not have a defined process. Money and effort come together when the input and output are designed products that may or may not be the same as what the client needs.
The Big Bang model does not require much planning. The developer performs the requirements analysis and coding and develops the product according to their understanding. This model is only used for small projects. There is no testing team and there is no formal testing, and this can cause the project to fail.
The Agile model is the one that focuses more on product development flexibility than requirements.
In Agile, a product is broken down into small, step-by-step builds. It is not developed as a finished product in one go. Each build increases in terms of features. The next build is built on the previous functionality.
Here, iterations are called sprints. Each sprint lasts 2-4 weeks. At the end of each sprint, the product owner reviews the product, and once approved, it is delivered to the customer.
Customer feedback is taken for improvement. Suggestions and improvements are processed in the next sprint. Testing is done in every sprint to minimize the risk of any failures.
The software product development life cycle is a vast, multi-step process that begins when your idea is born and continues as it matures into a complete solution. To complete all these steps, you need to make a lot of effort. But this is easier to do if they are carved in stone, as in this guide.
The six stages of software development take your product from preliminary research to deployment and maintenance. Stick to them so you don't lose your way, whether you're building a web app or a mobile app.
We at Ideamotive provide a streamlined product development process that simplifies both deployment and migration.
Take advantage of the top-notch nearshore software development.
Robert is a co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.View all author posts
Robert Krajewski 11 min read
Dawid Karczewski 12 min read
Adam Bałazy 7 min read
Dawid Karczewski 6 min read
Miłosz Kaczorowski 7 min read
Belarus • Poland • Romania • UkraineRead now
Our broad network of battle-tested software developers, designers, managers and business consultants is here for you.