The software development life cycle differs from company to company. However, there are common stages in the life cycle of every software product that are worth highlighting.
From planning to eventual deployment a lot has to go right in the development cycle to create a quality software product.
Below we’ve highlighted the seven stages of software development, explained the form they often take, the responsibilities at each stage and how they contribute to the overall development of the software product.
Requirements analysis is also sometimes called requirements engineering and refers to the process of gathering the requirements of stakeholders for the product. This is the planning stage and must always take place at the beginning of the process.
A project manager will consider the demands of the client and put together a development team that they believe is capable of fulfilling those requirements.
How many developers does your team need? How will the maintenance of the software product be conducted? Which SDLC models should be used? How long should the software development life cycle be? All this largely depends on the needs of the clients and stakeholders that will be revealed during the requirements gathering phase.
All these requirements must then be recorded in a way that is quantifiable, detailed and relevant before the planning stage is complete.
The design phase concerns the way the software will function. There are many aspects to design and it can be one of the most labor-intensive and time consuming stages because it is so important. Design can be modified at a later stage but it is more efficient, cost-effective and convenient if the design is suitable from the start.
With software, design elements include programming, architecture, user interface, security, communications and the platforms on which the software will run. System design can be a complex development process and it is here where many critical decisions will be made.
However, having ‘Design’ as its own separate, distinct stage also enables development and engineering teams to experiment and be creative.
The design phase may also incorporate some form of rapid prototyping allowing developers to compare solutions and find the most effective versions. Quality software is often the result of continual designing and redesigning.
After the design stage comes development. Once there is some consensus regarding system design, the development phase will begin in earnest. Developing the product will involve actual coding and as a result will take up a significant proportion of the overall project.
In some SDLC models the software product will evolve and change during the development process. Here the practicalities of the design phase are really put to the test.
The engineering teams will build and integrate the code and experiment with the system design. Whether you are following an agile model or an incremental model, the software development phase will require significant investment and time. Hopefully, at the end of the development phase there will be testable and functional software.
Once you have designed and developed your software product it’s time for the testing stage. Quality assurance and system analysts will conduct testing by looking for any bugs or errors within the software. The testing stage is crucial and should not be rushed because it is the only way you can catch problems before they lead to critical losses.
There are a variety of testing methods for software products including:
- Unit testing
- Integration testing
- Security testing
- Acceptance testing
- Code quality
- Performance testing
Tests should be run regularly and many choose to automate the tests to ensure they are thorough and error free. This testing stage will ensure that each function of the software works properly before the next phase.
The implementation phase is also often referred to as deployment and should be a highly automated part of the project. The software, which has developed one phase after the other, should be implemented as soon as it is ready. Medium and large-size enterprises use Application Release Automation (ARA) tools to automate the deployment of applications to Production environments.
The implementation stage is where you get the first indication of the success of your software product. Implementation can be complex as the software product may need to be integrated with several other systems and the users will have to get used to using a new system and possible new technologies.
To support the future development, maintenance and operation of the product system documentation is required. Documentation provides an outline of the system and helps engineers and stakeholders understand the underlying technology. It usually consists of:
- Requirements document
- Architecture design
- Source code
- Validation docs
- Verification and testing information
- Maintenance or help guide
Documentation helps programmers keep track of all the relevant aspects of the software product. In the lifecycle of a project documentation is a vital part of organization. All software applications should undergo some form of documentation after implementation and before the maintenance phase.
The final stage is maintenance. The development process is almost complete and the software cycle is about to end. To ensure the software product works and continues to function as expected the client will often require general product maintenance. The maintenance phase is key to the long-term success of the product.
The benefits of following the seven stages
Why follow this software development life cycle? Why do you need a defined testing stage or a defined development stage when undertaking a software project? There are plenty of benefits to following these seven stages of software development.
A clear plan
It always helps to be able to present a clear plan to your development team. When you have a clear action plan that separates the life cycle of the project into manageable parts it is easy for team members to focus on the task at hand. It also enables there to be clearly defined roles and responsibilities among developers, designers and project managers.
Following these seven stages of software development is a great way to manage your resources and ensure you are operating efficiently. To develop quality software you need time and money.
When you follow a clear development cycle it is easier to know how many resources you can invest in the design stage and how much will be left for the testing stage or the final stage. These seven stages will help team members manage their resources from the initial idea all the way to the maintenance phase.
Defined communication channels
Communication between the development team and stakeholders is improved when you follow structured software development phases. Team members will be able to receive feedback at determined points with the software cycle and can inform future development.
SDLC Models explained
Every project manager will find a different approach to these stages of software development. There are a few models to adopt when planning the software development life cycle (SDLC) such as the Agile Model, the V Model or the Waterfall Model.
In the SDLC Waterfall model before development starts all the steps must be finalized and you must receive approval on each stage before the team can start working on to the next one.
This is a rigid approach to creating software that prioritizes risk mitigation and surety. Less companies are opting for this model and more are moving towards more flexible systems like the Agile Model.
The Agile model aims at more frequent releases and tangible results. It is more flexible than the Waterfall Model in its approach to the various stages of the software development life cycle. The Agile Model enables team members to incorporate client feedback into the development of the software product at every stage.
Ultimately, you have to implement the model that best suits your development team and the software you are hoping to develop. The seven stages will serve you well whether you are using an Agile Model or a Waterfall Model.
Following these stages will help to improve your resource management, provide team members with a clear plan throughout the process and enable clear communication between the team and stakeholders.
Why is it important to follow the 7 stages when developing a product?
The success of a software product is often dependent on how well these stages in the development cycle are followed. Each stage provides a framework for the progress and maintenance of the software product.
From the design phase to the testing phase to the delivery phase, developers must consider the needs of end users and work with an array of team members to develop software that is purposeful, innovative and efficient.
There are several benefits to having listed stages for development when creating software including improved resource management and enhanced communication. Each stage should be tailored to your business needs allowing one phase to lead seamlessly into the next. The stages should also enable developers to focus on actual coding and creating bug free software products that serve end users.