All You Need To Know About Software Development Process
In software product development, you never act on a hunch unless you’re planning to fail. You always follow a step-by-step plan to move from one stage to another, making sure you don’t slip as you proceed from an idea to an actual working product rollout. This plan underpins the complete Software Development Process. While it may vary from vendor to vendor, it’s universally essential to put things in order when kicking off a new project.
Follow us as we’ll go over the basics of your Software Development Process, how everything goes during Software Development Life Cycle, and the 05 different management methodologies available out there.
07 Stages in Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
You’re probably already familiar with the different steps in the SDLC if you’re a project manager. You must consider everything from requirements to stakeholder communication, development, and ongoing maintenance as the shepherd of a digital project.
These steps are essentially the same regardless of which software development method you use. However, as we’ll see later, the order and sequence in which they occur can vary depending on your needs, goals, and the size of your project and team (for example, some steps might be combined, duplicated, or run in parallel).
1. Analysis and Planning
Once a customer or stakeholder has requested a project, the first step of the SDLC is planning. This usually means looking into:
- Alignment: How does this project connect to your company’s larger mission and goals?
- Resource availability and allocation: Do you have the people and tools you need to take this on? Or do you need to outsource development?
- Project scheduling: How does this project fit your company’s goals and other tasks?
- Cost estimation: How much is it going to cost?
The planning phase ensures you’re starting off on the right foot. So try to make sure you include all of the departments that will be impacted by this project, including project managers, developers, operations, security, and key stakeholders.
You should have enough information at the end of the planning phase to put together a detailed scope of work (SOW). This plan details what’s being built, why, and how you see it coming together.
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The next step is to understand the technical requirements of this project. Every piece of software, tech-stack, whether it’s an app, website redesign, or new feature needed to solve a customer problem.
As you move on from the planning phase and continue to fill out the SOW, ask yourself and your IT Partner if you are going for outsourcing route these questions about the specifics around this project, such as:
- What problem does this solve?
- Who’s going to use it and why?
- What sort of data input/output is needed?
- Will you need to integrate with other tools or APIs?
- How will you handle security/privacy?
Once the development team gets the answers, they can scope out technical requirements and testing terms and decide on a technology stack. This phase is also where you might start sprint planning (if you’re using an Agile software development process) or break down large tasks into more actionable steps.
3. Design and Prototyping
With all the requirements in place, it’s time to start designing what this software will look like and how it will function.
Depending on the software development process you’re following, this phase of the SDLC might mean you create simple wireframes to show how interactions will be included or make more full-fledged prototypes to test with users. Alternatively, you might decide you need more user feedback and create a design sprint to quickly get a feature or idea in front of your users.
This stage helps your team and client validate ideas and get valuable feedback before committing your thoughts to code.
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4. Software Development
With everyone on board with the software’s proposed functionality and design, it’s finally time to build it according to the requirements and SOW. This phase is obviously the hardest and potentially riskiest stage of the SDLC (and each software development process we’ll discuss below handles it differently.) However, whether you’re working in Agile sprints, building an MVP, or using the more traditional waterfall method, the goal is to stick to the SOW, avoid deviating from the SOW, and create clean, efficient software.
You’ll most likely be testing, tracking, and correcting issues as your team develops the program. However, once the features are finalized, and the product is declared ready to go, you’ll need to conduct more testing. This could entail giving the effect to a small group of beta testers or tracking how consumers engage with it using UX tools.
While testing may be a lengthy stage of the SDLC, it is critical to avoid selling flawed software to real users. Bugs may ruin your reputation, cost you money, and, worst of all, take up hours of development time that could have been spent on new features, as we explained in our guide on bug tracking tools and workflows.
Now that you’ve completed the heavy work and coding, it’s time to make your software available to all of your users. Pushing your code into production is what we’re talking about here. It’s up to your sales and marketing staff to come up with and implement a go-to-market strategy.
7. Maintenance and Updates
The SDLC isn’t over after your software is released into the open. Remember the term “lifecycle”? The end of one phase heralds the start of the next, and the same is true for post-launch.
Customer wants, and requirements change all the time. People will definitely uncover issues, seek new features, and enjoy additional or different functionality when they begin to use your software. (Not to mention basic application and software upkeep and maintenance to assure uptime and customer happiness.)
All of these requests should be routed back to your product backlog of tasks, where they may be prioritized and included in your product roadmap.
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05 Best Software Development Processes (Methodologies)
Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a step-by-step process bringing a product’s concept from the ideation stage to implementation and eventually to the market. Typically, the Software Development Life Cycle covers the following stages:
- Requirement analysis
- Software design, such as architectural design
- Software development
- Maintenance and Updates
The Waterfall framework introduced the basic software development algorithm in the last century. The software development life cycle has evolved significantly over time. The most significant shift occurred in the 1990s when the Software Development Life Cycle shifted from Waterfall to Agile approach.
The primary purpose of the Software Development Life Cycle is to provide high-quality software development within the time and price constraints. Therefore, software development procedures vary depending on management methodologies such as Waterfall or Agile. And we are going to learn more about the top 05 Methodologies down below.
The Waterfall software development process (also known as the “linear sequential model” or “Classic lifecycle model”) is one of the oldest and most traditional models that is used in building software. In its most basic form, you can think of the Waterfall method as following each step of the SDLC sequence and that you have to finish each one sequentially before moving on to the next. However, in most nowadays applications, the phases overlap slightly, with feedback and information being passed between each steps.
To many, this methodology is often known as the “plan-driven” process as to complete a project, you first need to know everything that needs to be done and in what order. Hence the name “Waterfall” as each section flows into the next one.
a/ Waterfall SDLC:
- System and software design
b/ Waterfall is best suited for:
Teams with strict organization and documentation requirements
The Waterfall software development approach works well when your goals, needs, and technology stack are unlikely to undergo significant changes during the development process due to its inflexible structure and significant upfront planning time (such as during shorter one-off projects).
In practice, the Waterfall approach is best suited for larger organizations (such as government agencies) that demand sign-offs and documentation on all requirements and scope prior to the commencement of a project.
c/ Waterfall isn’t best suited for:
If you’re testing a new product, need user feedback in the middle of development, or want to be more dynamic in your development process, the Waterfall development process is probably not for you.
While simple, the main disadvantage of this procedure is its lack of adaptability. You won’t be generating and testing MVPs or prototypes while changing your mind. As a result, unless your scope is well stated, you may find up committing to the wrong path without realizing it until launch day.
2. Agile and Scrum
The Agile software development process (and its most prominent methodology, Scrum) favors an iterative and dynamic development approach.
In contrast to the waterfall approach’s tight, sequential flow, cross-functional Agile teams work in “Sprints” of 2 weeks to 2 months to build and distribute useable software to customers for feedback.
Agile is all about moving quickly, releasing frequently, and responding to the genuine demands of your users, even if it contradicts your initial strategy. This means you don’t need complete requirements and a detailed SOW before beginning work. Instead, you’re effectively traveling in one direction with the expectation of changing direction along the way.
Assume you’re developing a new feature for one of your products that may have X, Y, and Z features. Rather than spending months producing everything, you would create the bare minimum that is both functional and usable (in what is known as a “Agile Sprint”) and then release it to your consumers.
This enables tighter feedback loops throughout the software development process, allowing you to adjust and respond to real consumer needs.
- Product Backlog
- Sprint backlog
- Sprint (Design & Develop)
- Release working software
- Feedback and validation (add to backlog)
- Plan next sprint
b/ Agile is best suited for:
Product changes are made on a regular basis by dynamic teams
Agile is the software development process preferred by most startups and technology organizations for testing new products or making continual upgrades to existing ones due to its dynamic and user-focused character.
Agile allows firms to move faster and test theories without jeopardizing their livelihood on a massive release that their users despise, as it becomes easier to perform minor releases and gain user input. Furthermore, because testing occurs after each tiny iteration, it is easier to monitor defects or roll back to a previous product version if something more severe breaks.
c/ Agile isn’t best suited for:
Teams working with highly constrained budgets and schedules
On the other hand, because Agile is dynamic, projects can quickly go beyond their initial timescale or budget, cause issues with existing architecture, or be derailed by mismanagement. This implies it’s not the most superb option for risk-averse or limited-resource organizations.
Furthermore, utilizing Agile and Scrum requires commitment and a thorough understanding of the underlying methodology. That is why it is critical to have at least one committed Scrum master on your team to ensure that sprints and milestones are met, and the project does not stop.
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3. Incremental and Iterative
The incremental and iterative software development processes lay somewhere between the structure and upfront planning of the Waterfall process and the flexibility of the Agile methodology.
While both are based on the principle of generating little bits of software and exposing them to people for feedback, they differ in what is created during each release.
Each “incremental” product growth in the incremental software development method adds a rudimentary form of a new function or feature. Consider creating an overarching strategy, creating an MVP with simply the essential functionality, and then adding features based on feedback.
However, under the Iterative software development process, each version released includes a rendition of all anticipated features. Consider creating a v0.1 with the most basic version of each feature and then upgrading it all at once in v0.2, v0.3, and so on.
a/ Incremental and Iterative SDLC
b/ Incremental and Iterative is best suited for:
Teams with specific requirements demand more flexibility than the Waterfall technique offers
Both give flexibility to your software development process without throwing out the primary strategy, making them excellent for large projects with defined objectives (or teams with less risk tolerance).
You obtain early feedback on your core feature with the incremental method, which can help you prove your business case immediately. The iterative approach, on the other hand, gives users an early view of what the final product could be, allowing you to collect better and more targeted input.
In both cases, you’re talking to users early on about what they want, which may save you time, money, and headaches compared to waiting until later in the development cycle.
c/ Incremental and Iterative isn’t best suited for:
Team that operates without a long-term technology strategy
Unfortunately, attempting to add structure to a flexible method has its own problems. Perhaps your company’s goals, strategies, or technologies evolve with time, rendering previous editions obsolete or inoperable. Perhaps your codebase has become cluttered and bloated due to adding functionality without considering efficiencies.
Furthermore, both approaches (particularly the iterative approach) necessitate extensive planning and architecture development early on. As a result, they are not suitable for smaller projects or teams who are still evaluating use-cases and attempting to identify product-market fit.
The V-shaped software development process is a twist on the traditional Waterfall method that compensates for its main flaw: a lack of testing. Rather than working sequentially through the development process and leaving all testing until the end, each stage of the V-shaped process has a strict “validation and verification” step where requirements are tested before moving on.
a/ V-Shaped SDLC
- High-level design
- Low-level design
- Unit testing
- Integration testing
- System testing
- Acceptance testing
b/ V-Shaped is best suited for:
Smaller teams working on projects with a limited scope
Suppose you have a small project with relatively precise (and static) requirements and scope. In that case, the V-shaped software development process is ideal. Instead of risking following a plan only to discover flaws at the end, it gives you plenty of opportunities to test along the way.
c/ V-Shaped isn’t best suited for:
Teams that require more flexibility and early user input
Even the best-laid plans go astray from time to time. And the process’ drawbacks are essentially the polar opposite of its benefits.
For starters, you don’t have much control because you’re following a strict structure and testing schedule. You still run the risk of building the wrong software for your business if you don’t get early input and feedback from your users. Finally, if you’re working on anything other than a small, simple project, it’s nearly impossible to create a detailed development plan ahead of time.
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The V-shaped process’ focus on testing and risk assessment is combined with the incremental nature of Iterative, Incremental, and Agile in the Spiral software development process. Once a plan for a specific iteration or milestone has been established, the next step is to conduct a thorough risk analysis to identify any errors or areas of high risk.
Let’s say you develop a feature that hasn’t been validated with customers as part of your strategy. You could create a prototype to test with users before moving into the full development phase, rather than just adding it to your current milestone. After each milestone is completed, the scope expands out (like a spiral), and you begin planning and another risk assessment.
a/ Spiral SDLC
- Risk Assessment
- Development and validation
- Evaluate results and plan next “loop”
b/ Spiral is best suited for:
Working on large projects with risk-averse teams
Clearly, the main goal of such a procedure is to lower risk. Following a path like this might make sense if you’re working on a large or critical project requiring much documentation and validation. It’s also helpful if a customer isn’t sure exactly what they want and expects a lot of changes as the product develops.
c/ Spiral isn’t best suited for:
The majority of people
The spiral software development process, while unique in principle, is rarely used in practice due to the time and costs associated with taking such a measured approach. Instead, it’s usually utilized as an example of how to critically consider an iterative development strategy.
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There are a few key differences between them, despite their similarity. The incremental approach creates a fully functional feature with each increment. You build small portions of all features during iterative development. Agile, on the other hand, is a hybrid approach that incorporates elements from both approaches. You build a small portion of each feature one at a time during each Agile sprint, and then gradually add functionality and new features over time.
At its most basic level, the software design process involves five stages: research, ideation, design, development, and iteration. These five aspects correspond to the most basic "who, what, when, where, and how" inquiries that must be answered in order to fully answer any collection of questions.