Every software development process starts with a plan and a process. But with several different types of software development processes how do you know which one is right for your project.
To start with it is important to understand the lifecycle of a software or application development process.
What is the software development lifecycle?
The software development lifecycle is basically the steps that a project goes through from inception to launch. Every step in the process creates an output which could be a document, diagram or a piece of software. This output is then built upon in the following stage of the process and so on until the final goal is reached.
Software development is a continuous process and often evolves over time. The first phase of development is usually never the only one. Over time business and user needs evolve or change and this requires changes to be made to the application. But for the first phase of application development knowing the steps and having a clear plan is critical for smooth and timely output.
So what are the benefits of a clear software development cycle?
Firstly having a defined process and timeline sets expectations. All stakeholders know what is expected of them and have clear timings around when they need to be involved or what they need to contribute. A prescribed timeline makes it easy to make the point that should a stakeholder delay on their contribution that delay will impact the following phases and ultimately the end delivery date.
A clear plan creates a common vocabulary so that everyone involved developers, project managers, testers are all using the same language. Measurements of success and tracking of progress is achieved with ease when a software development lifecycle is adhered to as KPIs can be set according to the various phases.
The 7 stages of a software development lifecycle
Analysis and Planning
This phase is critical as it paves the way for the other stages involved. In this phase everything is taken into account from resources to budget and how the project aligns with overall business plans. It is important at this stage to identify all the stakeholders involved in the application development process and make sure they are aware of their role and the level of commitment that is needed to ensure the software project is a success. This phase usually culminates in a scoping document that outlines the high-level plan.
This phase is all about asking questions about the specifics of the project in order to define the technical requirements. For example
- What problem does this solve?
- Who will use this software application?
- What data is used by it? Is it sensitive data such as medical records or financial information?
- What does it output?
- Does it need to be integrated with other systems?
The development team will use these details to scope out the technical requirements and decide on what technology they need to use.
The next phase is to design the functionality and the flow, basically what the software application will look like and how it will function. This could involve creating wireframes which are essentially mock ups or more intricate prototypes. Feedback at this phase is essential as once it goes beyond this phase it is more complicated to make changes.
Once all stakeholders have given feedback in the phase above the build of the software application can begin. It is at this stage that the plans outlined in the scoping document and design phase are committed to code. This is a potential risky stage and project managers need to be stringent that they stick to the scoping document to avoid project runover.
Testing usually happens in parallel with the software development so bugs are identified and fixed quickly. However the most concentrated phase of testing takes place after the development phase is over and features and function are in place. Often a testing team are involved for more indepth testing. It is a very important part of the overall application development process as delivering software to users that has bugs in it is very bad for a software development company’s reputation.
User Acceptance Training
UAT is a critical component of a software dev project. The goal is to ensure the software can handle real world tasks. Users are given access to the solution in an environment that mimics the live environment to confirm that the software fulfils its intended functionality and to check for any bugs before signing off.
With the bulk of the work done the next phase post development is to launch the application to the users. In technical terms this does not refer to launching the software application into the marketplace but moving the code from build stage into production.
Ongoing Maintenance and Enhancements
As mentioned at the start of this article software development process is a lifecycle – even after launch. As user needs develop and market demands evolve adaptations are needed to software applications to accommodate these fluctuating changes. Also as the software gets more use inevitably bugs are unearthed or the need for new features becomes exposed. All such requests need to flow back into a task list to be prioritised and become part of the product roadmap. Read more about IT Support.