What Is SDLC? Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle

Published October 12, 2022, updated November 22, 2022
by Jeffery Thompson
13 min read
Software Development
Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle

It pays to know the software development life cycle. This is especially true if you have an idea for a software product or want to work with a software company.

In this guide, you’ll not only read about the definition and history of the SDLC. You will also know its benefits, phases, methodologies, models, and best practices.

What Is the Software Development Life Cycle?

What Is the Software Development Life Cycle

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a standardized software development process. Development teams follow these steps to avoid delays and ensure the software’s quality.

SDLC has several phases. But it varies. It depends on the team’s development methodology or development framework.

How Was the SDLC Created?

How was the SDLC created

The 1940s gave birth to the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). Likewise, it also paved the way for the rise of software developers.

To develop software efficiently and cost-effectively, teams began to adopt software development methodologies.

By the 1960s, the SDLC’s basic structure as we know it today started becoming popular. In the decades since, it has continued to evolve due to advances in software technologies.

How the Software Development Life Cycle Works

The SDLC consists of a series of phases that are repeated in the same order.

These phases involve planning, design, development (or coding), and improvements.

The SDLC ends when the proposed software product is deployed.

But many teams don’t consider the deployment stage as the end. Instead, it is another step that initiates the maintenance stage.

This will eventually transition into the planning stage for a new cycle. The renewed SDLC will either:

  • Create an improved version of the launched product.
  • Build a new product altogether.

Why Is the SDLC important?

Why is the SDLC important

The SDLC matters because of the following reasons:

  • It Helps Development Teams Become More Efficient

With a tried and tested SDLC structure, software development teams work more efficiently. It assures them that they’re building a software application in a strategic manner. Money, time, and technologies are not wasted.

  • It Ensures Quality, Security and Compliance

SDLC ensures the software meets the requirements of HIPAA, PCI DSS, ISO, FISMA, GDPR, and more.

  • It Reduces Development Time and Costs

The SDLC provides a roadmap for teams to follow. It gives them focus and direction. Software developers can set timeframes to avoid costly overruns.

Benefits of the Software Development Life Cycle

Benefits of the Software Development Life Cycle

Do you want to know why the software development life cycle is essential?

Let’s list the specific benefits of undergoing standard SDLC stages.

Standardized Process That Provides Structure

The SDLC demands a pre-determined set of coding guidelines and procedures to follow. The development process can be messy at times. It can easily stray away without focus. SDLC brings order to the software development process.

Sets Scope, Rules, and Standards for Team Members to Follow

It defines the project scope. Development team members become aware of their roles, responsibilities, and deliverables. SDLC helps set expectations before the actual coding begins.

Facilitates Smoother Communication and Collaboration

The SDLC also optimizes collaboration and interoperability while establishing channels for communication.

Encourages Innovation in the Design Stage

Instead of placing the burden on coding, it’s best to include a dedicated design phase in the SDLC. This will give designers enough room to create innovative design solutions.

Documentation Reduces Friction in Case of Changes in Personnel

SDLC ensures proper documentation. New team members can adjust when they’re brought in the middle of the project life cycle.

Now that we’ve tackled the importance of the SDLC, it’s time we dove into its different stages.

The Seven Phases of the SDLC

The Seven Phases of the SDLC

As we mentioned earlier, SDLC has different phases. There’s an advantage if you have multiple software development life cycle phases. They help software development teams allocate their resources or focus better. If needed, any stage can be extended or even repeated to meet quality standards.

This diagram summarizes the individual phases of the software development life cycle:

PLANNING🠊REQUIREMENTS ANALYSIS🠊DESIGN
🠉🠋
Software Development Life Cycle PhasesCODING
🠋
MAINTENANCE🠈DEPLOYMENT🠈TESTING

Planning

The planning phase of the software development life cycle is crucial. This is where business owners or team leads determine the project’s capacity. The project’s timeframe is set, and resource allocation is done. These factors help finalize the budget for the project.

Requirements Analysis

The requirements analysis stage identifies and analyzes the requirements of your software product. This phase should not only cover the technical specifications. It must also consider the business requirements or processes that the product covers.

Design

The design phase aims to determine the software product’s look and functionality.

But from a technical perspective, its purpose is to generate documentation. The latter contains all the design or software requirement specifications of the proposed finished project.

Coding

The coding phase is also known simply as the development phase. It is the part of the SDLC where the software developers write and implement the code for the software product, usually based on the agreed programming language or technologies (frameworks, libraries, etc.).

Testing

You should never skip the testing phase. This is where you report or document errors and bugs. This is also the stage where you outline the changes and fixes you made. Thus, proper documentation is crucial. This will prevent problems and issues from repeating.

Deployment

The deployment phase involves rolling the software product out to customers. It is common for software development teams worldwide to automate the deployment process. Still, teams generally keep a close eye on the entire deployment stage.

Maintenance

The SDLC doesn’t end at deployment. The maintenance phase allows the team to monitor the product’s performance after deployment. If there are bugs, you must fix them quickly. If there are significant anomalies, you might need to start another development cycle.

Software Development Life Cycle Models

Software Development Life Cycle Models

This section will discuss various models for the software development life cycle.

Sure, software development teams typically adhere to the seven SDLC phases.

But they can adopt a specific software development life cycle model. They can take advantage of slight variations in the process. It’s permitted if that would fit their project requirements more.

Indeed, the best software development life cycle model is the one that fits your needs.

Here are the most popular SDLC models today:

Waterfall Model

The waterfall is a classic SDLC model that dates back to the 1970s. It’s famous for following a linear structure.

In this SDLC model, you define the development phases ahead of time. You can’t proceed to the next stage until you finish the previous stage.

Agile Model

The agile model focuses on collaboration. You complete software development over multiple sprints. What are sprints? These are short-duration cycles that can last for two to four weeks.

Iterative Model

In the iterative model, the team starts with a small set of requirements. Then they will build on each completed iteration. In the succeeding cycles, teams can introduce additional features or improvements.

V-Shaped Model

The V model in SDLC is time-consuming because each step includes a testing component. It’s also known as the verification and validation model.

Image Source: Geek Source Codes

Vshaped spiral model

Image Source: Geek Source Codes

Big Bang Model

Unlike other models, the Big Bang model may require no detailed planning. The Big Bang Theory (how the universe began) was the inspiration behind this model. This SDLC model encourages developers to do the coding right away. The development will take place even if the requirements are not yet identified.

Spiral Model

The Spiral model combines the waterfall model and the iterative model. It consists of four phases:

  • Planning phase (setting objectives or alternatives)
  • Risk Analysis phase (identifying and resolving risks)
  • Engineering phase (design, development, and coding)
  • Evaluation phase (QA and testing)

Development progress is represented by a spiral that goes through all the phases. A new iteration begins through the same stages with every completed cycle.

Spiral model

Image Source: Geeks for Geeks

SDLC Methodologies

SDLC Methodologies

Why are there different software development life cycle methods? Should one software development life cycle methodology work for any project?

The answer to those questions is simple. Every software product follows a different developing method.

So which SDLC methodologies are currently being used by teams everywhere? Here they are:

Agile Methodology

The agile methodology calls for flexibility throughout the SDLC. It allows changes and continuous improvements while the product is being developed.

Because it involves sprints, it’s ideal for rapid application development projects. Indeed, it requires speed. But it provides plenty of flexibility. 

Lean Methodology

Lean methodology is also known as the minimum viable product (MVP) app development strategy. Here, you only accomplish the minimum version of the project.

Lean’s guiding principle is you only need to complete what needs to be completed.

Both lean and agile methodologies value speed and flexibility. However, agile focuses on making improvements. On the other hand, lean’s goal is to eliminate waste in the development process.

DevOps Methodology

DevOps methodology is a newer approach compared to agile and lean. It calls for close coordination between the developers and operations.

You can think of the DevOps methodology as an Agile-like methodology. But it focuses on cross-functionality and collaboration between all teams involved.

Prototyping Methodology

Teams build an early prototype model of the software product in this methodology. A limited number of customers then test it.

Teams use the customers’ feedback to refine the prototype model. The changes will continue until a final version is ready for full deployment or wide release.

Best Practices of Software Development

Best Practices Of Software Development

Why is it essential to have a smooth SDLC? For one, it promotes an efficient production environment. It prevents teams from getting overworked.

A sound SDLC also reduces error recurrence. It prevents frustration. Developers don’t have to deal with the same problem all over again.

Above all, SDLC ensures a high-quality software product and happy customers.

To do that, follow the software development life cycle best practices below.

Source Control

Source control is also called version control. It’s the process of managing, tracking, and controlling the changes in SDLC.

Source control ensures the full documentation of any new coding done. Records are collected in a secure place. If there are crashes in the server, developers can still recover the latest version.

Continuous Integration

In continuous integration (CI), codes are merged and integrated into a single central repository. It is followed by testing automation and build automation.

Developers used to write countless lines of code and then try to integrate them. This process was not only slow and tiresome but also error-prone.

But CI automates the integration processes every time the code changes. It helps ensure that the software is as error-free as possible.

SDLC Management Systems

It pays to have an SDLC management system. It enables you to monitor, control, and manage every development stage.

SDLC management systems also make the development process transparent and easier to evaluate. They also typically include analytics, bug monitoring, and task management methods. 

The Future of the SDLC

The Future of the SDLC

SDLC will likely shift because of the following factors:

  • Evolving customer expectations
  • Business needs
  • Technological innovations

So what does the future hold for the SDLC? Listed below are the top SDLC trends:

  • More Emphasis on Security

It’s now possible for software development teams to embed security in every stage of SDLC. This is through the DevSecOps (development + security + operations) approach. Unlike before, when teams only include security features during the latter stage.

  • Increased Automation

According to GitHub, automation can result in a 31% quicker merge and faster TTM (Time to Market). This is why teams are now also embracing the CI/CD method.

  • Leveraging Cloud Computing

Cloud computing enables software developers to build software products in serverless environments. Experts predict this will speed up development life cycles in the future.

Conclusion: The Process for Software Development

Virtually all software released today goes through the SDLC.

SDLC is effective because each phase enables teams to create a high-quality product.

Regardless of the SDLC model, teams must follow the best practices of software development. This will help in optimizing the production environment.

If you want to know more about the software development life cycle, get in touch with BIT Studios today. We are to help.

You can count on BIT Studios for custom software development or UX & rapid prototyping.

Software Development Life Cycle FAQs

Where Is SDLC Used?

SDLC is used in developing various software products. Software developers are expected to be familiar with the different SDLC stages.

It’s also ideal for project managers, testers, data scientists, etc., to know how SDLC works.

What Is the Best SDLC Model?

When picking the best type of software development model, there are several factors to consider. One is software project complexity.

Waterfall is ideal for software projects with simple and unchanging software specifications. Meanwhile, the Spiral or Iterative SLDC models are suitable for highly complex projects.

Another is scope. The Big Bang model is recommended for small projects that involve only one or two developers. You also need to consider the quality and experience of your team.

The V-Shaped model can work best for seasoned and proficient developers.

Lastly, the nature of software deployment is also crucial. Agile is best for businesses planning to launch parts of software easily and quickly.

What Does SDLC Develop?

SDLC is used to develop new software products or improve existing ones.

Software development life cycle is different from the systems development life cycle.

The systems development life cycle also uses the SDLC acronym. But it’s a broader concept. Systems developers use it to build technological systems. It also covers hardware, infrastructure, software architecture, and other tech deployments.

Which is better manual or automation?

In the world of software development world, there are two main ways to develop code: manual or automation. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, but which one is better? That depends on your needs and preferences.

What are SDLC tools?

SDLC tools are software development tools that can manage the software development process. They can be sued to help track the project, progress, and changes. It can also be used to automate tasks.

Jeff eats and breathes technology. His undying passion for software development inspired him to establish BIT Studios, a reputable custom software development company that caters to SMEs and Fortune 5...
Originally published October 12, 2022, updated November 22, 2022

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