Software Development Process: Definition, Stages & Methodologies

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Imagine you want to take a significant life leap or make a decision. The first instinct is to p lan and create a process or a series of steps. The same principle applies to the software development process. To build quality software products, there should be a plan—a process that the software development team can follow to yield great results.

As a software development company, we have helped companies with their software development processes for over a decade and we understand the importance of having the right software developers on your team. Choosing the appropriate software development process for your project is crucial to its success. 

In this article, we will break down the software development process, explain the software development lifecycle (SDLC) stages, and discuss the different software development methodologies. 

What is the software development process? 

In software engineering, the software development process is a strategic approach designed to build a software product or project to meet specific business goals and objectives. This process is iterative and encompasses the creation, development, design, debugging, technical documentation, and deployment of a software solution.

Software consists of a series of instructions, data, or programs that guide computers in executing specific tasks. There are three primary types of software:

  • System software, which uses an operating system to manage the computer system's operations.
  • Programming software, which aids programmers in creating, debugging, and testing software applications.
  • Application software, which helps users accomplish tasks. These can be either web or mobile applications.

Why is the software development process important?

It is very crucial for businesses to have a process that enables the fast delivery of quality software products. The technology landscape is highly competitive, and having a software development process can improve product quality, enhance the user experience, and expedite the launch of innovative products to the market.

The software development process is iterative, which allows software developers and engineers to continually build upon the initial products and features. For businesses, this means they can manage their data more efficiently.

Beyond data storage, security is an important aspect of any software development process. With a structured software development process in place, developers can implement security practices at every stage through DevOps. DevOps ensures that the software product is secure from potential threats, from the beginning to the launch of the project.

Moreover, software development contributes to making the world a better place. Technology is ubiquitous, and every interaction, whether web or mobile, involves digitization. Thus, the software development processes that companies implement are designed to address a business need and solve real-world problems.

Using a systematic approach, the software development process can produce a range of high-quality software products. This is especially important for companies aiming to become more energy efficient and to create better products to combat climate change. The software development process sets the right direction for achieving these goals.

What is the software development life cycle (SDLC)?

The entire process of developing a software product from its inception to its launch is known as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). The SDLC is the approach taken by the development team to create quality software products efficiently and within a set timeframe. The primary goal of the SDLC is to ensure that software products meet customer expectations and align with business needs.

This process serves as a comprehensive guide to help the software development team break down the project into manageable tasks. In the context of agile methodology, these tasks are further divided during the sprints.

The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Stages

Each development team has its unique process for building software products. The process depends on the complexity of the project, the timeline, and the primary features of the minimum viable product (MVP). The SDLC framework enhances seamless collaboration between the project managers, product managers, and the software developers on the team.

Planning & Analysis

The first stage of the SDLC is the planning phase. In this stage, the team focuses on gathering the necessary business requirements from the clients and stakeholders. The data gathered is transformed into a software requirement specification document. This document sets the expectations and goals for the project.

The planning stage helps the team align on critical details such as the value of the software, its cost, the projected build time, and the level of technical expertise needed for the project. It's important to determine the number of project managers, software engineers, designers, and the tools and technologies required for the project. This knowledge helps accelerate the project and avoids the setting of unrealistic budgets. Once these factors are decided upon, the development team can move on to the next stage.

Design

The design stage is where life begins for the intended software product, as a detailed design is created for it. In this phase, the design helps define the software development workflow and is compiled into a software design document. This document includes the system design, chosen programming language, technologies, and application security measures.

The design phase offers insight into how users will interact with the software application or product. UI/UX designers craft wireframes and may even develop a prototype, showcasing each feature and functionality of the product.

During this stage, the team can visualize the product and its appearance to users. They have the opportunity to make any necessary changes before actual construction begins and finalize the product's design. This is also the time to determine the best methods for integrating the new software into the company's existing IT infrastructure.

Development

Now that the requirements for building the software product are clear, the actual development can commence with the writing of the necessary code. The development team breaks down the product requirements into smaller coding tasks and tackles these throughout the set timeline.

It's essential to establish expectations and a timeline for the software developers so that the project can be tracked efficiently. This phase is intricate in the software development process and requires an experienced software development company that can understand the product requirements and navigate challenges seamlessly.

Importantly, the development team's approach to creating the product will depend on the chosen software development models.

Testing

The software testing phase is a continuation of the software development process. Testing is performed as the software developers write the code. The primary aim of testing is to verify the functionality, usability, and experience of the product.

In this phase, your quality assurance team conducts validation testing to ensure every feature functions correctly and performs its intended action. 

Testing the product will also highlight any user experience or security issues.

The quality assurance specialists will employ both automated and manual testing to identify any bugs and determine if the product aligns with the product requirements and customer's needs. 

There are various types of testing conducted during this phase:

  • Functional testing: Evaluates whether the software fulfills the requirements.
  • Performance testing: Assesses the speed, scalability, and response time of the software under varying conditions.
  • Security testing: Confirms the software's security and pinpoints any potential external or internal threats.
  • Unit testing: Examines individual units of the software to ensure they function as intended.
  • Usability testing: Reviews the user-friendliness of the software and its overall appearance and feel.
  • Acceptance testing: This beta testing stage evaluates if the software performs satisfactorily and meets user expectations.

Deployment

After coding and testing are completed, the next step is to deploy the final product to the user. The deployment phase commences once the development team has approved the product's functionality and everything is deemed ready. 

The software that customers use is referred to as "production", while the product team continues working on the production environments for potential upgrades or feature updates. This ensures that customer interaction with the application remains unaffected post-launch.

Often, the product is initially released to a small group of individuals to test and provide feedback. This helps catch any errors or issues. After reviewing this feedback and making necessary adjustments, the software is officially launched.

The deployment phase includes packaging, environment configuration, and installation.

Maintenance

The maintenance phase is an ongoing process that keeps the software updated and valuable for users. Because software development is iterative, continuous improvement and upgrades are essential beyond just the initial launch. After the product's release, the software development team must continually monitor it and implement changes as necessary. Based on user feedback, the software team will make adjustments and rectify any bugs that might have been overlooked during the testing phase.

If a completely new feature is being added, the team will restart the SDLC process and follow the framework to incorporate this new addition.

The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) Models & Methodologies

The SDLC models provide an organized approach to help companies apply the software development lifecycle. Each model presents different ways to implement and optimize the development cycle. Here are some of the most popular SDLC models:

Agile Model

Over the years, the agile approach has become one of the most popular software development methodologies, implemented by 71% of companies in the United States. The agile methodology enables a collaborative and efficient way of releasing a product with fewer errors. It is an iterative process that allows for incremental changes in each cycle.

Agile software development helps the software team to complete projects within the estimated timeline and budget. It allows for fluid interaction across cross-functional teams, the software team, and the product owner. It is highly recommended for software projects that require flexibility.

Agile implies being fast and flexible; so unlike the waterfall model, features can be developed in segments with user feedback after each release, allowing for immediate changes. This approach eliminates the need for the software team to make complex changes that could affect the entire project. Examples of the agile methodology includes: Scrum, Kanban, Feature-Driven Development, Lean Software Development, and Extreme Programming.

Read more about the agile methodology here.

Waterfall model

The waterfall model is a traditional software development methodology that is most suitable for small software development projects. It is commonly referred to as the linear-sequential life cycle model. In this model, each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous stage. That is, the software team does not move to the next stage in development until the previous stage is completed. The software engineering process flows from one phase to the next, much like a waterfall.

In the waterfall model, there's little to no room for changes once a stage is considered complete. To use this model, every detail, from budget and timeline to technology, must be accurately defined for your software project to avoid any challenges.

Iterative model

In the iterative model, the software team develops a small part of the software requirements with features and functionalities. They then gather feedback from users and upgrade the application. For instance, the first version is released, followed by subsequent versions with implemented user feedback and upgrades. With each version, the software product moves closer to the final version. It's an iterative process that continues over time until the software is ready for deployment.

The software team releases a new version of the product at the end of each iteration. This model is suitable for projects with flexible requirements that were defined early on.

Spiral Model

The spiral model combines the iterative model and the linear approach of the waterfall model, prioritizing risk analysis. This model focuses on frequent releases and improvement of each feature in every phase. It is especially suitable for large and complex projects that require frequent changes, but it may be expensive for smaller projects.

The Big Bang Model

In the big bang model, software engineers begin coding without prior planning. This means that software requirements are implemented as they are received, as opposed to being pre-planned before application development. To make changes, the software team might need to rework the entire software application. 

This model is particularly recommended for academic projects and smaller projects involving one or two developers. Also, the software teams using the big bang model lack comprehensive project requirements and are uncertain about the final release date.

What is the Product Development Lifecycle?

The product development lifecycle refers to the entire lifecycle of a software application from the product ideation to the product launch. It includes:

  • Project planning
  • Product design and architecture
  • Product development
  • Product testing
  • Market research
  • Product release
  • Product upgrades.

The product development lifecycle focuses on product development and encompasses the marketing and communication of the product to users. The goal of the product team throughout the lifecycle is to ensure the product meets customer needs and generates revenue for the company.

SDLC best practices

In software engineering, the best practice is to ensure the SDLC is effective, efficient, and every member of the team is on board with the process. This will guarantee a successful software solution. A successful software development process includes:

  • A well-secured deployed software application
  • Clean code without bugs and errors that meets world-class standards
  • Effective collaboration across internal teams and cross-functional teams
  • Streamlined workflows

How Devsu can help in your software development process?

Devsu can assist you in meeting your project needs in various ways.

First, we meet you where you are in the development process. We can augment your team with the right software developers, engineers, and technical skills you require. 

If you're trying to understand your project's requirements or determine the best programming language for it, our agile software development team and technology consulting services will ensure your product aligns with your specific needs.

We can assist with your custom software development project, serving as your dedicated software partner to increase your speed to market. Get started today! 

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