Today’s software developers are required—and trained—to work quickly as part of an agile team. Agility is a big element in the software development landscape, and it is considered important because of the rapid pace which the current market and available technology are evolving. At the same time, an entire development team is also required to be accurate with every iteration that gets released. There is little room for mistakes.
As a result of the growing need for agility and accuracy, incorporating the right best practices during software development is a must. The Software Development Life Cycle, also known as SDLC, is the approach that many development teams and companies turn to as a solution. By leveraging SDLC best practices within the technology value stream, software development can be streamlined.
What Is Software Development Life Cycle or SDLC?
The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) can be defined as a framework that guides the development process for IT teams from start to finish. SDLC is designed to help the development process become more streamlined through the use of phases and pre-defined tasks.
When implemented correctly, SDLC acts as a structure for all developers to follow. Different parts of a software development team can work seamlessly with each other by following a detailed system and a list of best practice guidelines for each stage of the development pipeline.
Naturally, the structure of SDLC consists of several functions within the development process itself. What’s interesting about the SDLC approach is how it strives to improve both the system and the end product generated at the end of the life cycle or value stream.
The SDLC Functions
In its most detailed form, SDLC consists of nine phases or functions. Each function tackles a specific set of tasks that are crucial for successful software development. These functions are then simplified further into the seven-phase SDLC approach that we know today.
The entire process begins with Planning. It is at this stage that a detailed and practical approach is devised for the whole development project. Project requirements are set at this stage too, and they act as key performance indicators that will help keep the entire project in line. The phase is also followed by the creation of a system design.
During this next phase, we undertake a thorough Requirements Analysis. This involves a thorough feasibility and resource study which is conducted with the purpose of discovering which factors and resources related to the development project are needed, including the goals that need to be achieved, the technical assets and developers available for the project, and other metrics that define the scope of the project itself.
Now it’s time for the Development phase. At this point, developers already have a clear—and unified—vision of what needs to be achieved. Whether it is new software or an improvement/additional feature for existing software, the development process becomes more targeted and focused when the details are well-defined. For developers, this is where all the fun begins.
After dealing with pull requests and writing the code themselves, the SDLC cycle will bring you to the next phase: Testing. The written code is tested against key performance indicators defined earlier. Is the new code capable of achieving its objectives? Is the performance of the new code on par with the standards? More importantly, are there bugs lurking behind the lines of code?
The previous test is usually done by a team of Quality Assurance specialists. When you take a look at the standard software release workflow, you will find that the Dev/QA team is responsible for handling deployment to a staging or development server, the actual process of testing the deployed solution, and the signing off of the release once all requirements are met.
Throughout these processes, proper Documentation must be made and maintained properly throughout. The idea of documenting the changes made and the solutions created is so repairs and further changes can be made with pinpoint precision in the future. Such documentation also helps with testing and deployment.
With everything ready, the new software can be deployed to a production server. The Deployment phase can either be simple or complex, depending on the scale of the software implementation, the hardware used to support this deployment process, and other factors that play equally important roles in this phase.
And finally, Maintenance comes next. It is often considered the end stage of SDLC. With the new software deployed and ready for use, it is up to the IT team to keep the system running smoothly. In reality, however, maintenance isn’t the last phase of SDLC.
As the name suggests, SDLC is designed to be a development cycle. Once the software is deployed, it is also necessary to evaluate its performance and find new ways to improve the software itself. The result of that evaluation is then fed back to the first phases of the cycle: Planning and analysis. As expected, the next iteration of the software begins its life cycle.
SDLC Methodologies and How They Are Implemented
As a framework, SDLC is also famous for its flexibility. While the structure of the framework is meant to guide the entire software development life cycle, the way SDLC is implemented may vary depending on the challenges that need to be solved.
- The most common implementation of SDLC is known as the Waterfall Model. Historically, it’s the first process model to have been produced. Organizations that implement this model see the entire development cycle as, well, a cycle. This means that every phase needs to be completed before the cycle returns to step 1.
- The Incremental Model is the most flexible model of them all. With the incremental approach, multiple cycles can run simultaneously as smaller iterations. Of course, the effectiveness of this model depends on how well you can manage the available resources.
- Another model also worth mentioning is the V-Shaped Model. It is a similar model to Waterfall, where each phase is executed in a sequential manner. However, V-Shaped developments usually focus more on testing, making the end products of this development approach more reliable and longer lasting.
SDLC is an interesting framework, to say the least. The framework has been used successfully in many different situations. Even better, the SDLC approach can be adjusted to better suit the individual challenge you face, the resources you have available, and the software being developed. If you are looking for a way to be more agile and accurate, SDLC is a solid approach to consider.
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