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The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a process that helps quickly develop high-quality software ready for production. 

The argument goes that if you choose the right technology, have a large budget, and have a bright idea, success will be guaranteed. But such a seemingly trivial thing such as a misorganized software development life cycle can lead to your product not standing out on the market, or the targeted audience not using it. Lack of a holistic approach to SDLC can lead to chaotic processes that will cost you money, time, or even reputation. 

No less important is to choose the right approach to SDLC because not all projects fit new buzz or popular trends. There are many SDLC methodologies, and it’s easy to get lost in them without knowing what is best suited for your project and business needs. 

This article will describe popular SDLC models and explain in which cases each is applicable. Moreover, we will share some insights on how to choose the right approach, especially for your project.

SDLC Stages

Firstly, let’s start by describing a classic approach to SDLC and its stages. We can then discuss various SDLC methodologies that help enhance the process and the product’s quality.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Stage 1: Strategy

The first SDLC stage starts from defining system goals and objectives and the problems the future system needs to solve.

It’s essential to describe the target audience based on thorough research, including demographics, behavior patterns, and the users’ personal goals. The second step is competitor research—this will help you figure out what features are absent in competitor’s products so that you can include them in your app to make it stand out. This will help with choosing future core features and determining the importance of specific elements.

At this stage, it’s time to involve the vendor or supplier to participate in the early stages of development and jointly prepare a project roadmap and discuss evaluation effort and tech considerations based on the system’s intended functionality.

Stage 2: Design

This stage deals with how the system will work, focusing on software design and how it works with the technical and functional requirements of the system. Firstly, the software development team clarifies requirements and defines how users will interact with the software.

As part of the design stage, the team forms a system architecture for a better conceptual understanding and prepares the UI/UX for development, including wireframes, concepts, and prototypes. This stage also includes choosing the software platforms—such as iOS, Android, Windows, or Linux—and establishing programming languages and methods for troubleshooting, bug fixing and cybersecurity. No less important is to define a strategy for the support of web products for different devices, ensuring a responsive design.

Stage 3: Development

In this SDLC stage, the software engineering team builds the entire system by writing code using the chosen technologies.

Based on the chosen technology, the team selects the frameworks, libraries, and off-the-shelf solutions sets up storage locations (repositories), performs integrations with third-party systems, and transforms software specifications into a functioning and reliable solution.

Stage 4: Testing

This vital phase tests the software to ensure everything works as expected. During this stage, software engineers can identify defects and bugs and fix them to ensure that the product meets the original specifications.

Different parts of the application should be tested to work seamlessly together. The testing stage of the software development life cycle helps reduce the number of bugs that users may encounter and ensures smooth operation, leading to higher user satisfaction and retention rate. This stage is also for detecting any vulnerabilities and ensuring the software’s security and reliability.

Stage 5: Deployment

Software deployment includes all processes that ensure a software system or update is available to the users. Usually, this includes software release, installation, testing, deployment, and performance monitoring.

One of the steps is continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD). This method allows for the frequent delivery of apps to end-users by including automation into app development stages. CI/CD offers ongoing automation and monitoring throughout the SDLC, from integration and testing phases to delivery and deployment. 

Deployment can be complex—upgrading a company-wide database to a newly-developed application is one example. Because there are several other systems used by the database, integrating the upgrade can take more time and effort. This stage is also essential to ensure the system’s quick performance and relevant capacity in case of a high number of simultaneous users.

At the end of this phase, the development team hands over the product to the client. While you are in the active development phase, make sure that you give enough time and resources to your team to test everything, because after that, you will enter the maintenance phase, where major changes will be much slower and more time-consuming. 

Stage 6: Promotion and Marketing

At this stage, it’s essential to make sure the targeted audience knows about your new product. For a successful launch, it’s critical to take care of advertising, SEO, direct social media, email marketing campaigns, and other promotional efforts. 

Marketing activities can be covered by your in-house team, a third-party marketing agency, or experienced vendors that offer a full-cycle development including marketing and SEO activities to ensure product awareness.

Stage 7: Maintenance

In this phase, the development team processes feedback fixes bugs discovered by users or stakeholders and provides ongoing enhancements. Given the constantly changing market, it’s highly important to provide ongoing improvements, extend the software’s functionality to stay ahead of competitors and keep high user engagement and satisfaction.

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SDLC Models

There are a lot of SDLC models which are used during the software development process. In this section, we will describe the most popular SDLC models followed in the industry—Agile, Waterfall, Iterative/Incremental, V-Shaped, Big Bang, and Spiral—and when they are applicable. We will also cover other related methodologies: end-user Development, joint applications development (JAD), software prototyping, and rapid application development (RAD).

Agile Model

Agile SDLC methodology implies breaking development into iterations (sprints) of around two weeks or a month apiece, each focused on a product increment. This helps with receiving early feedback from users to define the strategy for the product course. This also allows for flexible planning, progressive development, early deployment, and constant enhancements.

At the end of each iteration, a release is provided for the client’s review and feedback. Testing of each release provides valuable information which is incorporated into the next version.

Agile methodology includes several popular approaches that provide a cost-effective way for companies to effectively scale agile methodologies across organizations and achieve desired business outcomes:

  • Scrum is great when you don’t know what your product will be and can’t predict the exact outcome. It can be good for a mature startup and when you need to improve an existing product.
  • SAFe is applied across multiple agile teams, providing consistency, helping to deliver collaborative work and delivery. It provides for the business improvement as a whole by making agile and lean decisions that encompass all functional and organizational units.
  • Extreme Programming (XP) suggests taking the best practices that have worked well in the past in software development projects to extreme levels.
  • Kanban involves real-time performance discussions and full transparency of work processes. 
SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • The project implies frequent requirement changes
  • The client wants to engage with the development team and track their progress continually 
  • The client does not have a final vision of the product
  • There is a need to launch the product very quickly to get user feedback and raise investments

GPS Tracking Case Study

Waterfall Model

The waterfall SDLC model is the oldest and, according to it, the software team finishes one phase and then starts the next. Each phase has a mini-plan and “waterfalls” into the next, relying on information gained from the preceding phase.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • The project is in a complex domain (e.g. aircraft construction, healthcare) where there are many regulations and requirements that do not change often, which means that the specifications are fixed 
  • The requirements are clearly formulated
  • The deadline is strict
  • The project has a fixed scope and cost

Iterative/Incremental Model

This SDLC model implies repetition. Software engineers create a version of the product quickly for a relatively small price, then test and enhance it through rapid and continuous versions.

Each iteration produces a newer, more reliable version of the software under development. The team uses a repeated approach until the final software version takes shape.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • Requirements are defined 
  • The project is extensive
  • The project’s goal has been established, but there may be minor changes in the future
  • The main goal is to provide a viable product

V-Shaped Model

V-shaped SDLC methodology is inspired by the waterfall model, but the testing at the end of the project implies testing at each development step.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • Projects have clearly defined and fixed requirements
  • Technical resources are required and technical expertise is available

Big Bang Model

The Big Bang SDLC model concentrates on all types of resources in software development without planning. The team implements requirements when they arrive, and develops the product without strict deadlines. As predicted, the quality of such software can be low.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • Small projects have small development teams that work together
  • Academic software development projects have requirements that are either unknown or the final release date is not defined

Spiral Model

The spiral SDLC model is similar to the iterative model—it implies repetition. This model suggests the planning, design, build and test phases occur repeatedly, with step-by-step enhancements at each step.

Every iteration of the spiral methodology starts with anticipating potential risks and ways to avoid or lessen them.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • Frequent delivery is a requirement 
  • Requirements are unclear and complex
  • Changes may appear at any time
  • The project is extensive and has a large budget

End-User Development

End-user development (EUD) is a trending SDLC model that allows the end-user to manipulate data and information without deep programming knowledge.

End-users should be a central part of any software package, which is critical for the evaluation process in the end-user development context. The customer can directly change the algorithms and provide constant feedback for the development team to improve and configure the system.

For example, in the tax reporting IRS systems in the USA, new laws are released several times a day. Consequently, the organizations that send reports need to adapt quickly, and for this, the system must be flexible and amenable to change.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • The business domain involves frequent changes in requirements
  • Specific business domains require deep tech and industry knowledge 
  • A business aspect of the system where flexibility, participation of end-users and the ability to customize on the fly is a direct value of the system (HIPAA compliance, transparency)

Carsoup Case Study

Joint Applications Development (JAD)

Joint application development (JAD) is an SDLC model that engages the client and/or end-users to design the system.

Furthermore, this model is vast when it comes to agile delivery and implies that the software development team develops and releases the product in short iterations depending on the stakeholders’ agreements, also known as the minimum viable product (MVP).

Applicable when:

  • There is a need to establish requirements
  • The client wants all parties to be involved—stakeholders, developers, end-users – to clarify system requirements and expectations
  • The project involves large companies, enterprises, large projects and large budget
  • The client company has a flat organizational structure where each layer interacts with the other 

Software Prototyping

It’s hard to imagine a software development process without prototyping. This software development life cycle model implies building a prototype that will present an early version of a final software solution. It shows the client and end-users how the software can look and function under development. Usually, a prototype is rebuilt until the team can use it to develop a finalized solution.

SDLC methodologies for ensuring effective product development

Applicable when:

  • There is a need to test hypotheses on the feasibility from the technical side 
  • There is a need to see and feel the functionality and how it will work in the future 

Rapid Application Development (RAD)

This is an adaptive model that puts less emphasis on planning and more focus on an adaptive process. Rapid application development (RAD) is one of the most common SDLC methodology that is motivated by user interface requirements.

RAD is a response to the plan-driven waterfall model that designs and builds things almost as structured as building from its origin. In contrast, RAD is all about fast prototyping and iterative delivery.

Applicable when:

  • There is a need to create a project that finalizes in a short span time (1-2 months)
  • The requirements are clear
  • The budget is limited, and the results should come in a short period
  • The speed is more important than the quality 

Wrapping Up

In this article, we’ve outlined various SDLC methodologies that can be applied depending on the project type, budget and business needs, so you can utilize this information based on your particular case.

Being experienced in multiple SDLC variations, NIX mostly uses agile methodology—it’s almost 90% of our portfolio, having industry recognition in both Scrum and SAFe, and waterfall about 10% of the time. Unlike many who criticize the waterfall method, we think it’s quite suitable for some businesses and tasks, but since most of our clients have fast-paced businesses with active users, agile models are more applicable. Agile is flexible and helps both the client and the development team adjust the processes for maximum effectiveness. These methodologies allow the client to receive feedback on their product quickly and react to evolving market changes. SAFe, in turn, is popular precisely because it is scalable and allows you to work with large projects while remaining agile enough. Software prototyping and RAD models are effective for projects that are still in the early stages as they allow us to look at the task more conceptually. When the growth gathers pace, we prefer to move to more flexible models to ensure product scalability.

There are many methodologies, and if you can’t identify the ultimate best for you, don’t be afraid to mix methods to create a custom one that will suit your project precisely. We have been there and know that to bring real value to the client’s business, it’s not enough to take some off-the-shelf approach and wait for it to work. Depending on the goals and needs, you and your trusted development team can create a custom methodology to help build an on-demand product and stay ahead of the competition.

NIX has proven over the years that every choice in project development should be made based on business needs and product goals, whether it’s solution design, technical stacks, or SDLC models. When choosing one, you can freely rely not only on our insights and criteria but also on your product objectives.

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