The 7 stages of Software Development Life Cycle

1. Analysis and Planning

2. Requirements

3. Design and Prototyping

4. Software Development

5. Testing

6. Deployment

7. Maintenance and Updates.

1. Analysis and Planning

Once a customer or stakeholder has requested a project, the first step of the SDLC is planning. This usually means looking into:

Alignment: How does this project connect to your company’s larger mission and goals?

Resource availability and allocation: Do you have the people and tools you need to take this on?

Project scheduling: How does this project fit within your company’s goals and other tasks?

Cost estimation: How much is it going to cost?

The planning phase ensures you’re starting off on the right foot. So try to make sure you include all of the departments that are going to be impacted by this project, including project managers, developers, operations, security, and key stakeholders.

At the end of the planning phase, you should have enough information to put together a high-level scope of work (SOW) — a plan that details what’s being built, why, and how you see it coming together.

2. Requirements

The next step is to understand the technical requirements of this project. Every piece of software — whether it’s an app, website redesign, or new feature — needs to solve a customer problem.

As you move on from the planning phase and continue to fill out the SOW, ask questions about the specifics around this project, such as:

∙ What problem does this solve?

∙ Who’s going to use it and why?

∙ What sort of data input/output is needed?

∙ Will you need to integrate with other tools or APIs?

∙ How will you handle security/privacy?

Once your development team gets the answers to these questions, they can start to scope out technical requirements, testing terms, and decide on a technology stack. This phase is also where you might start sprint planning (if you’re using an Agile software development process) or break down large tasks into more actionable steps.

3. Design and Prototyping

With the requirements in place, it’s time to start designing what this software will look like and how it will function. We’re not talking about aesthetics here, but functionality and flow. As Steve Jobs famously said:

Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.

Depending on the software development process you’re following, this phase of the SDLC might mean you create simple wireframes to show how interactions will work in the software, or make more full-fledged prototypes using a tool like Marvel or InVision to test with users. Alternatively, you might decide you need more user feedback and do a design sprint to quickly get a feature or idea in front of your users.

4. Software Development

With everyone onboard with the software’s proposed functionality and design, it’s time to build it according to the requirements and SOW.

This phase is obviously the hardest and potentially riskiest stage of the SDLC (and each of the software development processes we’ll discuss below handle it differently.) However, whether you’re working in Agile sprints, building out an MVP, or using the more traditional waterfall method, the goal here is to stick to the SOW, avoid scope creep, and build clean, efficient software.

5. Testing

As your team is developing the software, you’ll most likely be simultaneously testing, tracking, and fixing bugs. However, once the features are complete and the product is deemed ready to go, you’ll need to do another round of more in-depth testing. This could mean releasing the product to a small group of beta testers or using UX tools to track how users interact with it.

While testing could be another long stage of the SDLC, it’s important to make sure you’re not shipping buggy software to real customers. As we wrote in our guide to bug tracking tools and workflows, bugs can kill your reputation, make you lose revenue, and, worst of all, take up hours of development time that could’ve been put towards building new features.

6. Deployment

With the heavy lifting (and coding) out of the way, it’s time to launch your software to all of your users. What we’re talking about here is pushing your code into production. Not coming up with and implementing a go-to market strategy (that’s more up to your sales and marketing teams).

In most companies, this step should be pretty much automated using a continuous deployment model or Application Release Automation (ARA) tool.

7. Maintenance and Updates

The SDLC isn’t over once your software is in the wild. It’s a “lifecycle”, remember? The ending of one phase is just the beginning of another, and that goes for post-launch as well.

Requirements and customer needs are always evolving. And as people begin to use your software, they’ll undoubtedly find bugs, request new features, and ask for more or different functionality. (Not to mention the basic upkeep and maintenance of your application or software to ensure uptime and customer satisfaction.)

All of these requests need to flow back into your product backlog of task list so they can be prioritized and become part of your product roadmap.


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