What is success? In most cases, it’s the result of taking smart, consecutive steps towards a clear goal. In software development, you have a ‘shortcut’ for achieving success — the SDLC process.
What is SDLC?
Software development life cycle (SDLC) is a method for organizing all the phases of the software development process (using various methodologies and tools) to improve the efficiency of production.
With the help of a SDLC infrastructure — a set of tools and services, supporting the SDLC’s key phases — you can strengthen the quality of your software development process, pertaining to architecture, design, and programming.
In essence, the SDLC process acts as the backbone for setting the right project direction, ensuring a steady pace of execution, and maintaining tight collaboration during all key stages of the development.
Why Having a Strong SDLC Process is Essential for Project Success
Software development is a complex process. According to the PMI survey, between 6% and 24% of IT projects are eventually deemed as failures. Also, 31% of projects don’t meet their goals, while 43% exceed their budget. Adoption of a strong SDLC methodology can help you mitigate those risks.
In particular, here are the benefits a strong SDLC can bring in:
Better Overview of Development
A strong SDLC process helps define and understand the project’s goals and milestones. As a result, C-level management will have a detailed strategic roadmap with deadlines, available resources (budget, in-house dev team, outsourcing partner) and tools (technology platforms, cloud service, software).
Shorter Time-to-Market (TTM)
Planning activities at early SDLC phases allow organizations to pinpoint processes that don’t add enough value to the process. Automation of the most time-consuming steps leads to a significant TTM reduction without compromising on end-product quality.
Effective SDLC helps companies leverage computer-aided software engineering (CASE) tools, like automatic report generation, performance analysis, and syntactic correctness check-ups. Development teams use these tools to automate recurring tasks during all development stages, thus minimizing non-productive activities.
Strategic Product Management
Bugs found late at the late stages of the app development lifecycle are more expensive to fix. You can avoid such scenarios by using an Agile SDLC methodology that encourages incremental development and cross-functional team collaboration.
Implementing security solutions at the earliest development stages can help mitigate vulnerabilities in the onset instead of patching them after product deployment.
With SDLC methodologies such as Agile, you can create more accurate budget and timeline estimates. The same applies to IT outsourcing. A company with a strong in-house SDLC can provide accurate project timelines and ensure a steady pace of progress.
To sum up, a strong SDLC improves productivity, shortens TTM, and allows companies to cut costs without compromising quality.
Key Phases of the Agile Software Development Life Cycle
1. Requirements Gathering (Definition)
Requirements gathering is the pre-planning phase of the SDLC. Your goal here is to create a comprehensive list of Software Requirements Specifications (SRS) that reflects all functional and non-functional requirements for the end product.
If you are planning to outsource software development (using managed project service model), then this stage will include the following steps:
- The team at your end needs to define and formalize the core project requirements and share them with the outsourcing partner.
- Your development partner will then analyze the requirements’ feasibility, provide feedback, and suggest a preliminary timeline.
- Together, you’ll decide on the optimal technological portfolio for the project and discuss any budget constraints.
If you are managing the development in-house or use a managed team service model, all of the aforementioned discussions will be among the key stakeholders only.
How can you improve the Requirements Gathering phase in the SDLC process?
- Find the optimal IT outsourcing model with an outsourcing readiness assessment. Strategic assessment can help you examine the company’s structure to pinpoint areas where outsourcing creates the most value. In addition to that, you’ll determine what outsourcing service model (managed project, managed team, or staff augmentation) is the best fit for your organizational structure.
- Conduct interviews with stakeholders. One-on-one and group interviews will help you get exhaustive information about the project’s requirements.
- Use questionnaires. Surveys can help you collect data from multiple stakeholders to fasten up the requirement-gathering process.
- Make sure that SRS reflects all arrangements. Ensure that SRS includes agreements between in-house departments, outsourcing companies, clients, and other stakeholders.
2. Architecture Design
At the Architecture Design stage, the product’s architects will create a Design Document Specification (DDS), where they’ll specify architecture design based on the collected data.
Here’s how you can optimize the Architecture Design stage:
- Formalize alternative architectures in the DDS. Include alternative architectures based on your project’s requirements. Multiple viable options for development will give engineers more flexibility and help stakeholders to make informed decisions.
- Make sure that DDS brings value. The documentation should be explicit to help understand key system functions, security capabilities, UIs, platform characteristics, and app logic. Ideally, DDS should be comprehensible enough for developers, testers, and key stakeholders to understand.
- Gather stakeholders’ input continuously. You many need to secure other stakeholders’ approvals for certain tasks (e.g. proposed architecture design or task priorities).
- Define roles and responsibilities in a RACI matrix. RACI (which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) helps define departments and people accountable for tasks and milestones. Furthermore, it allows C-managers to assess everyone’s workload and distribute assignments evenly across teams.
3. Coding (Implementation)
Implementation phase is the core of the software development process. At this stage, engineers work through the set list of tasks to transform the pre-approved architecture into a functional system. This SDLC phase marks the beginning of the production. It includes code writing, testing, and technology fine-tuning.
How do successful companies streamline the coding process? Some of the ways to achieve cost-efficient implementation are:
- Implement DevOps practices. Companies that opt for the DevOps approach (like automation of systems configuration and provisioning, container orchestration solutions, and database load balancers) experience a considerable efficiency improvement. According to the 2018 State of DevOps Research, DevOps helped 69% of respondents boost software deployment frequency, while 59% state that it led to a “significant improvement” in productivity.
- Set up a unified CI/CD pipeline. CI/CD introduces automation into app development, increasing the production rate and delivery of software apps. A strong CI/CD pipeline can improve code development productivity by approximately 600% based on research by McKinsey.
- Adopt container development. Containers are lightweight virtual machines that contain minimal required resources (files, libraries, and software) to run an operating system. You can use them to deploy and test apps across different environments to fasten software development. Based on the 2018 IBM Cloud report, about 59% of businesses have improved app quality, reduced defects, and cut operation costs thanks to container development.
Testing is a continuous process in the SDLC process. It consists of Unit Testing and Integration Testing. Unit Testing is an ongoing process throughout development, whereas Integration Testing involves verifying all software components at the final stage of the production.
Some good practices you can incorporate during this SDLC phase include:
- Streamline Unit Testing. The unit testing includes isolating software by units and components to verify code correctness before wrapping up with the Inter-Module testing. Separating the code can help reveal such problems as security bugs, data spaces, and unnecessary code dependencies early on.
- Appoint QA implementation and integration managers. These specialists can help developers with the test results analysis and revision plans.
- Define Exit Criteria. If you’re using a RACI matrix, you should appoint an appropriate stakeholder for the Accountable role to ensure that all critical requirements are met before the project’s deployment.
5. Deployment and Delivery
The client can choose from several software deployment mechanisms in outsourcing. For example, an outsourcing vendor can deploy the product and even maintain it after release. Alternatively, the customer can accept the product and entrust its delivery to another company. Lastly, the in-house development team can handle software deployment.
Here are some effective practices to make sure that the product satisfies the end-customer:
- Establish Entry Criteria. Implement a sequential release procedure. For example, the release manager will verify that the product meets all predefined criteria. Once stakeholders agree that the project meets all technical and business requirements, the manager can release the product and deliver documentation to the maintenance team.
- Prepare documentation for the post-deployment stage. The outsourcing vendor or your in-house team should prepare solution documentation and manuals to help the maintenance team support the product after its launch.
Popular SDLC Methodologies
Agile promotes collaborative, cross-functional software development. According to Atlassian, it’s an iterative approach to management and development that allows teams to work in smaller increments. We’ve already described the key Agile SDLC phases above in great detail.
This methodology is common among software companies that strive for flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the development. For example, the Federal US government manages over 80% of its major software projects using Agile SDLC, according to the 2017 Deloitte analysis.
Waterfall is a sequential, linear approach, where each new SDLC phase begins upon completion of the previous one. Due to its highly structural backbone, this methodology lacks the flexibility of Agile. For example, it’s much harder to go back to prior stages in the product’s life cycle to change requirements during Implementation. That’s why Waterfall SDLC is gradually losing popularity.
Iterative SDLC starts with a smaller set of software requirements. Engineers examine and evaluate them to identify new standards. Afterward, the process goes through repetition with continuous improvement on each iteration.
This model is similar to Agile in many aspects, but the two have some fundamental differences. For example, in Iterative, teams review software at the end of each iteration, and development heavily relies on a baseline plan. In Agile, results are examined after sprints in retrospection meetings, while the plan evolves throughout the product’s life cycle.
Spiral SDLC is a combination of Waterfall and Iterative models. Each project goes through several SDLC phases that repeat in “spirals” until the end-product meets all the technical requirements. Spiral works excellent for large and complex projects because it provides accurate estimates and assesses risks at the end of each “loop.” Nonetheless, this model requires skilled risk management specialists and a much larger resource pool to be truly effective.
DevOps is more of a movement rather than a model. Its goal is to accelerate the deployment of software products via tight collaboration between development and operations teams. Continuous feedback and implementation throughout software development is a distinctive feature of DevOps. Furthermore, companies that prefer this approach strive to automate manual processes to maximize resource management.
A polished SDLC adds predictability to your software development process and helps ensure that your team is moving at the right direction, at the optimal pace. Remember: issues that escalate from the early stages become costlier to fix with each later stage. By strategically systemizing your approach to managing requirements gathering, design, coding, testing, and subsequent deployments, you reduce the chances of failure at every stage.
Edvantis has a strong SDLC, honed on 400+ successfully delivered client projects. We use it as part of our Managed Project and Managed Team service models. Contact us to learn more about our approach to software development!