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What Is the Software Development Life Cycle?

The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) refers to a specific framework made up of defined processes for building, creating, testing, and shipping software to production. This process is typically used to create concrete, developmental efficiencies within an organization in order to quickly produce well-tested, high-quality software that can be production-ready after going through the lifecycle process.

How the SDLC Works

The SDLC framework is leveraged to lower the cost of the software development process and create consistencies around high-quality development and simpler operations. Additionally, following this process will help to alleviate any gaps, delays, or problems in the development process, including making sure the software built is pushed to production as quickly as possible, with quality at the forefront of its completion for customers to consume.

The SDLC is comprised of seven stages:

  1. Planning
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Development
  5. Testing
  6. Deployment
  7. Maintenance

Stage 1: Planning

The planning stage is one of the most critical components to the eventual success of a software deployment. The planning stage acts as a project outline for the entirety of the development process, producing a process-centric foundation for the rest of the project.

Key aspects of planning include:

  • Recognizing the problem that needs to be addressed and how the solution will solve said problem
  • Identifying the risks involved with this project.
  • Understanding the technical requirements and estimated people + asset cost for a successful deployment
  • Creating a checklist of goals and milestones to track project progress

Stage 2: Analysis

Analysis is another important component of the SDLC framework that aims to gather the necessary parameters and guidelines for the project as a whole. This phase is also used to gather third-party insights, suggestions, and feedback from key stakeholders in order to produce a solution that checks all the necessary boxes. By taking these steps, teams can ensure that the development lifecycle will satisfy the needs for each aspect of the development cycle. This is also a stage where teams with other perspectives and departments can widen the scope of the software solution as a whole.

At the end of the analysis stage, teams are able to identify a realistic, reachable timeline they can march to. This timeline includes producing an MVP (minimum viable product) up to a GA (general availability) solution.

Stage 3: Design

From a technical perspective, the design stage is one of the most critical stages in the SDLC. This stage aims to lay out the software blueprint from the developer all the way to the end user, and encapsulates all the components of the solution and how it will operate in production, as well as how to make tweaks and changes for maintenance. Slightly different from the planning and analysis stage where you lay out what the program will need to run, the design phase articulates how the software solution will run, and the specifications necessary to reach the intended outcome.

Stage 4: Development

The development stage is where the planning stops and the building begins. It is important that the developers working on the project stick to the blueprints and designs layed out for them in the previous stages. This way, there is a degree of standardization across the source code, applications, and other services that may be built into the software solution.

During the “build” or “implementation” phase is where the code base starts getting generated. In terms of coding practice, it is also important to define a standard nomenclature for scripts, file names, and other aspects of the process to ensure clarity across teams and a standardized development process.

Stage 5: Testing

The testing phase is primarily used to test the newly developed code base for defects, bugs, and other deficiencies or vulnerabilities that may be present within the code. This stage also ensures verification that the process guidelines laid out in the blueprint were properly followed throughout the development phase. Several different iterations of testing can be done in order to ensure the software is able to do what it was originally intended to do in the planning & design process.

Stage 6: Deployment

At this stage, the goal is to deploy the software to a production environment for customers to start using and consuming; however, many organizations typically move newly released software through phases of production, which can include a sandbox or pre-production environment, before releasing to full production. This gives developers and other key stakeholders the opportunity to interact and use the new software solution to see how it operates in production, and to make sure everything is working properly and as expected.

Stage 7: Maintenance

The maintenance stage is the final—and continuous—stage of iterating and building upon your software solution as it operates and progresses in a production environment. This could include bug fixes, upgrading security protocols, updating features and specifications, among many others.

Benefits of the SDLC

The SDLC is a useful software framework that enables engineers to have complete visibility over the project and total control over the design, development, and maintenance of their software, while still completing the requirements and meeting the standards set in place by their organization. The SDLC also gives stakeholders and team members an end-to-end blueprint to follow when giving input, and makes room for aspects of continuous improvement.

When new software solutions or applications are deployed to a production environment, their performance should be closely monitored to ensure the customers/users interacting with the product have a delightful experience. If something goes wrong and the software sees a disruption in service or outage, teams need to be able to alert the proper teams and orchestrate a response before it affects the user.

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