The system development life cycle or software development life cycle (SDLC) is a set of processes used by the software industry to design, develop, test, and release quality software. Often times, hiring cheaper and inexperienced developers throws out some of these standards. Removing known standards causes projects to fall out of scope, and preventable issues to occur more regularly.
The most recent version of the development life cycle has grown into seven stages, from the traditional five stages. Increasing the number of steps has helped analysts define clearer actions to achieve specific goals. This standardization is an easy way to keep software development on track, on time, and on budget.
The Seven Phases of the SDLC
The first phase, and the most important phase, is planning. Nowhere is the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” more true than in software development. The vast majority of failures in software development are really a result of a lack of planning. This step is meant to scope out the problem at hand and determine solutions. Resources, costs, time, benefits, and other items should be considered in this stage.
2. Systems Analysis and Requirements
The next phase is where the business will work on the source of their problem or the need for change. Does the scope and hypothesis identified in step 1 work in the real world? This is where teams consider the functional requirements of the project or solution. For example, a lot of companies have requirements for machine learning or AI programs. In this phase, the company may find that the graphic card requirements for running the program they wanted are way outside the budget anticipated. System analysis is vital in determining what a business’ needs are, as well as how they can be met.
3. Systems Design
The third phase defines all of the necessary specifications, features, and operations that will satisfy the functional requirements of the proposed system. This is the step where end-users (the people who are actually going to use the system) discuss and determine their specific needs for the proposed system.
After the planning has been done, the fourth phase is where the programmers roll up their sleeves and get to work. The major work of the project is done in this phase. The development stage is also characterized by installation and change, but is where the boots-on-the-ground folks get the work done.
5. Integration and Testing
The difference between a successful software launch and a failed launch comes down to testing and integration. Testing is one of the most important parts of the entire development process. Testing may (and should) be repeated, specifically to check for errors, bugs, and interoperability. Testing should be done with the goal to try and break the system, rather than trying to make it “work.”
The implementation phase is where the installation of the newly-developed system takes place. This step puts the project into production, moves data over, and is what could be considered the “product launch.”
7. Operations and Maintenance
The final phase involves maintenance and updates. This is when end user feedback is given to the programmers and allows for the fine tuning of the system.