What is the Software Development Cycle?

Web and software developers all over the world use the software development life cycle (SDLC) to implement tech projects successfully. The software industry follows the SDLC to design, develop, and test projects before deployment. When carried out effectively, the SDLC produces high-quality software that meets customer expectations and reaches completion within time and cost estimates. Because it defines which tasks must be performed at each step in the software development process, the SDLC is a method of quality control and a way to ensure that tech development teams stay on the same page.

The SDLC originated in the 1960s as a way to develop large-scale, functional business systems. At the time, information systems activities “revolved around heavy data processing and number crunching routines,” according to the book Global Business Information Technology. In general, the steps involved in the process haven’t changed much since then. It still consists of a detailed plan describing the development, maintenance, and enhancements involved with specific software. Within software organizations or development teams at non-tech companies, the life cycle “defines a methodology for improving the quality of software and the overall development process,” according to Techopedia. Systems engineers and developers use the SDLC to plan for, design, build, test and deliver information systems. They must carry it out in a structured and methodical way to be successful, because each stage relies on the successful results of the previous one.

Six Stages, One Process

The Software Development Cycle


The typical SDLC consists of the following stages:

1. Planning

This stage, which also involves requirement analysis, is the most fundamental part of the SDLC process. It is performed primarily by the development team, along with input from customers, stakeholders, market research, sales, and others. This stage is the foundation of the requirement analysis. Sometimes, teams study their competitors to determine ways to stand out. Once everyone is clear on the specifications, the team can use the information gained from outside sources to plan the basic project approach and identify potential risks. Another aspect of the planning stage is putting together a cost-benefit analysis. This involves determining how the project helps further the organization’s business objectives.

2. Analysis

The analysis stage of the SDLC process involves defining project goals as functions. Next, the development team determines what operations the intended application should have. In general, analysis requires gathering and interpreting facts, as well as diagnosing issues with the current system and recommending improvements. This can be achieved in part by studying end-user information needs and removing inconsistencies. Think of this stage as the problem-solution step. The development team determines where obstacles lie and identifies ways to fix them with the new project. The aim is to remove barriers that would hinder the new product’s successful implementation. This step is when a software requirement specification (SRS) document is created that identifies the scope of the project. Once management approval is obtained, the project can begin.

3. Design

In this stage, the team uses the SRS to design the product’s optimal architecture. The requirements in the SRS dictate the design approaches that are included in a design document specification (DDS). Stakeholders review this document, and a design approach is selected based on their feedback. Risk assessment, market research, design modularity, budget, and time constraints must all be taken into consideration. This will define the architectural modules along with communication and data flow representation, including external and third party modules. The internal design of the architecture should be defined in a complete, detailed manner. Components that should be included are screen layouts, business rules, process diagrams and other documentation. Developers and software engineers must be able to develop and deliver the system based on this information with minimal additions.

4. Implementation

This stage is the start of actual development. During implementation, the team builds the product and creates programming code to match the DDS. During this stage, it is important for developers to follow the coding guidelines defined by their organization. Developers use various programming tools like interpreters, debuggers, and compilers to generate the code, along with high-level programming languages like C, C++, Java and more. Developers determine the language to use based on the type of software along with customer requirements. At the end of this stage, the software is put into production.

5. Testing and Integration

This stage of the SDLC involves bringing the separate parts of the project together into a dedicated testing environment to check for errors, bugs and other issues. During the testing phase, the product is checked to ensure that defects are reported, tracked, fixed, and tested again until the product meets quality standards. Some companies don’t view testing as an official stage of the process. They view it as a subset of maintenance. In these cases, it may be referred to as post-implementation review. Testing involves asking important questions such as:

  • Does the new system meet business requirements and objectives?
  • Is it reliable?
  • Are there any remaining bugs?
  • Does it function according to approved functional requirements?

During this stage, it is also a good idea to evaluate the development process itself to determine if there are aspects that did not go according to plan. The development team should also examine any aspects of the completed product that did not meet their clients’ expectations. This enables the team to correct errors and inconsistencies for the next project.

6. Maintenance

When testing is complete and the product is ready for deployment, it is time for its release into the marketplace. Sometimes this happens in stages or all at once, depending on the organization’s business strategy. For example, the product may only be released to current clients. Based on feedback, changes may be made before complete deployment occurs. After the product’s release, maintenance is carried out for the customer. The team makes software improvements or change requests as needed. The ultimate goal of the maintenance phase is to ensure that the product remains relevant and high quality. It involves ongoing evaluations of the system’s performance.

The benefits of the SDLC justify its widespread use in organizations of all types. For those interested in software development careers, an understanding of this fundamental framework is important. The various stages of the SDLC ensure that stakeholders and tech teams have a clear idea of performance expectations, as well as a plan that ensures the achievement of desired outcomes. “As long as the laid-out plans of SDLC are followed, the usability and success of the software is ensured,” GeekInterview.com says.

Software Development at Husson

Education requirements for software developers continue to increase. Earning a bachelor’s degree can help individuals achieve career success in this rapidly growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of software developers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024 – much faster than the average for all occupations. The main reason for the rapid growth is a large increase in the demand for computer software.

Husson University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Software Development that is designed to provide students with the skills required to develop, create, and modify enterprise software or specialized utility programs. The University’s hands-on curriculum teaches students to analyze customer needs and develop software solutions through processes like the SDLC. You can learn more about this degree program here.