software development life cycle (SDLC)

Software Product Development Life Cycle: How to Choose the Right Model

The software product development life cycle (SDLC) is a framework that describes the stages involved in the development of a software. It contains a detailed plan for the designing, deploying, and maintenance of the software product. It is important that you choose the right model so that your software development needs and expectations might be met more fully.

There are many reasons to understand why the SDLC is important for developing software. The first being that it acts as a mechanism to track, monitor, and control a project’s development. It also helps all stakeholders weigh in on the development process due to the greater visibility of project planning it allows. Finally, it offers a basis for planning projects, scheduling its deployment, and estimating its timeframe and costs.

There are dozens of existing SDLC models that address diverse product requirements from greater flexibility to an increased ability to collaborate. This makes choosing the right model so complex. To simplify this process for you, let’s break down the life cycle into its component parts.

There are 7 stages that define the complete development life cycle of a software. These include:

  • Stage 1: Requirement collection and analysis
  • Stage 2: Feasibility studies
  • Stage 3: Design & development
  • Stage 4: Coding & implementation
  • Stage 5: Testing
  • Stage 6: Installation & deployment
  • Stage 7: Maintenance

Now that we know what the stages are, let’s dive into them in more detail.

Requirement Collection & Analysis

This stage requires business analysis and market research and calls for a discussion of the product’s concept. This stage is also important in that it grants a clearer picture of the entire scope of the project and explores any anticipated opportunities and issues that may arise. The project’s timeline and cost estimates are also determined at this stage. It is at this stage that the product’s required features and functionality are set.

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Feasibility Studies

There are multiple feasibility studies and checks that are required to ensure that all the features listed can be developed during the project’s life cycle. It is important that the core team figures out whether they can complete the project within the specified budget. They also need to determine whether all regulatory and legal compliances can be met. Additionally, the team needs to check whether they have the right infrastructure and operations in place to ensure the successful development of the software. It is also at this stage that the team needs to determine whether the project can be completed within the specified schedule or not.

Design & Development

The design and development stage in this process involves figuring out the choice of programming language, software and hardware platforms, and software product architecture that will be used. The design documents created at this stage provide a brief description of each module, an outline of the functionality of each module, the interface relationship between modules, and any dependency issues that might arise. The functional logic of each module, inputs and outputs, and any UX/UI specifications are also defined here.

Coding & Implementation

In this stage, developers begin to build the entire system using the programming language chosen in the previous stage. The tasks are divided into different units (or modules) and assigned to each developer. Developers have to follow strict coding guidelines and employ programming tools such as interpreters, compilers, and debuggers to create and implement the code.

Testing

Upon coding completion, the software is deployed in the testing environment where the testing team assesses the functionality of each module and the entire system. This is to establish whether the entire application works according to the client’s specifications or needs further refining. The quality assurance and testing team look for bugs and other issues that might compromise its quality and ensure that the final product is error-free, works according to the business needs, and is stable.

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Installation & Deployment

The final deployment process involves the release of the software, where it is exposed to working conditions. It can be installed on specific devices, released on the market, or even integrated with certain systems.

Maintenance

Once the software is deployed and customers begin using it bug fixes, software updates, and new features are continually released. The functionality of the product is maintained and improved on to ensure that the specifications outlined in the first stage are still being met.

How to Choose the Right Software Product Development Life Cycle Model

There are 3 basic parameters that will determine your SDLC needs. These include the frequency of your releases, the flexibility of your requirements, and the extent of your collaboration in the process. Each of these parameters can be described using a scale and each SDLC model will fall somewhere on that spectrum.

  1. Continuous Delivery vs. One Major Release

How you see your product growing over time will determine which approach you take. If you see your software only being launched as a full-fledged product at your final release, you can either go with the V-model or Waterfall SDLC model. Both models are suitable for smaller projects given that product delivery can be completed within a short period of time. Larger projects will require more time for testing and pose a greater risk of dealing with a greater number of bugs because developers and QA specialists have to keep track of a larger amount of code. In this case, other SDLC models like Iterative, RUP, Kanban, and Scrum will better serve your needs given that they involve regular releases at shorter intervals (2 weeks to 2 months). This means you can get a working product early in its development and watch it gradually evolve. More features are added with each release or iteration and bugs can be isolated with greater efficiency using these models.

  • Flexible vs. Rigid Requirements
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How flexible your software product requirements are will determine the SDLC model you choose. The Waterfall and V-model involve setting your requirements at the very start and leave no room for any changes or pivots during the entire process. In the middle are models like Scrum, Iterative, and RUP, which allow for some room to make changes. The most flexible models, however, are EX, Spiral, and Kanban as they implement frequent modifications during the entire product development life cycle.

  • Collaboration vs. Documentation

How involved you want to be in the development of your software product will also determine which SDLC model you should choose. Models that require very detailed documentation seldom allow for much communication or collaboration between parties. Such models include Spiral, Waterfall, and the V-model. The RUP and Iterative model attempt to balance communication and documentation, while EX, Scrum, and Kanban involve frequent and direct communication as a fundamental cornerstone. This allows for greater collaboration and communication, and therefore, reduced documentation.

There are multiple approaches to developing software that involve different levels of communication, frequency of releases, and flexibility. While it is difficult to assess which software product development life cycle model to go with, it is important to choose the right one because the functionality of your software will depend entirely on it.