The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is the process that has made many software apps available to the world. Whether you’re using an app to check the weather or listen to music, you have software developers and SDLC to thank.
What is SDLC and is it really so important for developers? SDLC encapsulates the steps software engineers and other stakeholders have to take to develop their software. It basically sets the path through development stages from beginning to end and how to manage each one. You may think of SDLC as a blueprint for managing software development. It not only provides guidance but also flags potential roadblocks and errors before they reach the final stages where it’s more expensive to fix them.
What are the basic stages of any SDLC methodology?
So, SDLC is a general plan that helps software developers and stakeholders get everything right the first time! And, as with any other plan, it includes several phases:
- Formation – where an idea is formed to develop a solution or improve an existing solution.
- Requirement analysis – technical and functional requirements are shaped into a design plan for the software application solution.
- Software development – the coding stage requires software engineers to work together to build a prototype of the solution and eventually create the solution itself.
- testing – focuses on testing the software to make sure everything works perfectly and there are no defects, bugs, or errors that may stand in the way of greatness.
- deployment – once developed and tested, the software is ready to be launched and released to the end-user.
- maintenance – focuses on making sure the software is operational – it may involve updates to meet quality standards and improvements to remain appealing to the end-users.
These are the phases any SDLC methodology has to follow to help create a viable, functional, and successful product. So, why is there more than one SDLC methodology? The stages of the development process may be the same for all SDLC methodologies, but each stage comes with its own functions. And this is where the methodologies differ!
The ancestor of all SDLC methodologies, Waterfall keeps going despite the rumors that it was not actually meant to be a process model for real projects. The oldest SDLC methodology comes with the advantage that it is easy to use. The Waterfall approach takes you step by step with no going back. Each phase is based on the information provided by the previous stage, so the project requirements and plan are pretty easy to follow.
A traditional linear methodology, Waterfall follows a strict model: project requirements, design, execution, testing, and release. Nothing less, nothing more! While some may appreciate its straightforward approach, many developers consider the entire development process to be too rigid for their evolving product requirements. It may be simple and fast, but early delays might throw off the entire project timeline. Moreover, any problems that may need fixing can only be addressed in the last stage of the methodology. Waterfall is definitely not a good idea for long-term and ongoing projects.
The most beloved of alliterative approaches, Agile methodology aims for excellence and often achieves it. The iterative model relies on team collaboration and is a dynamic and interactive methodology. Unlike the Waterfall model, which lacks flexibility, Agile offers cross-functional development teams the possibility to work in sprints and provide continuous improvement based on rapid responsiveness to changes.
One of the greatest advantages of the Agile model is its time efficiency and flexibility that allows for changes at any stage of the project. The short-term deliveries called sprints won’t last longer than four weeks and customer feedback is quickly implemented into the product in the next sprint. If we were to think about one drawback of the Agile method, this would be its requirement for specific skills. To produce high-quality software, it demands the presence of a team of specialized developers who focus only on that one project at a time. Moreover, since the model is based on customer interaction, the lack of requirements and feedback from customers may compromise its success.
Similar to the Agile model, Lean focuses on efficiency and fast project delivery. Inspired by the Japanese “lean” manufacturing principles, the lean approach gravitates around increased efficiency by reducing waste. The principles underlying the entire process are: eliminate waste, amplify learning, decide as late as possible, deliver as fast as possible, empower the team, build integrity, and optimize the whole.
Lean doesn’t encourage multitasking and focuses on one phase at a time. Moreover, the model tries to cut waste every step of the way, from reducing documentation to canceling meetings. Agile and Lean may seem similar in some aspects, since Agile is a Lean method for the SDLC, but Lean focuses mostly on waste elimination to promote more value and increase customer satisfaction as a consequence. Agile prioritizes customer input.
Iterative was released as an alternative to the Waterfall framework. The methodology follows the same steps as the Waterfall model, but the novelty is that it does so in repetitive cycles called “iterations”. In simpler words, the operations team doesn’t start with a fully known plan. What they do is implement a set of software requirements, test and evaluate them, and then set new requirements. Basically, they create a version of the software based on the initial requirements, and every new phase (or iteration) concludes with a new version of the software. It’s a system based on repetition until success is achieved.
While changes may be cheaper to implement due to its early delivery of working versions, all this repetition may lead to insufficient resources. Also known as the iterative approach, this SDCL methodology allows for fast error identification and fixes through several testing phases increasing software quality and efficiency.
The new kid in town, DevOps echoes Agile and Lean processes used for operations in the development life cycle and understands the need for collaboration between the development and operations teams during the entire development cycle. The DevOps methodology encourages communication between Developers and Operations to achieve more ideas, great innovation, shorter development time, and faster deployment of high-quality software products.
In the traditional SDLC methodology, the product gets developed and tested by quality assurance engineers and released into the world by the operations team. Thus, communication is key for everything to go according to plan. DevOps wants to take things to the next level and be more than just a model for software development. Its goal is to foster cultural changes in an organization to promote efficiency, continuous feedback, and process improvements.