A software development cycle is a system that’s used within the software development industry to design, develop and then test software. This process ensures that all software that’s produced is of the highest quality and will meet their user’s expectations and needs. By following the software development cycle, companies can ensure work is completed on time and within the set budget.

It is a good idea for any company that is thinking of having a custom software system or perhaps a business mobile application developed for their company, to gain a basic understanding of the software development lifecycle, so they are prepared in advance. Here we’re going to break down the stages of the cycle so you can understand how your software developer’s workflow will impact your project.

What is it?

When building software applications, the software development lifecycle offers between six and eight steps to help plan the procedure. Companies may opt to drop or combine a few of these steps, but you can expect to see most of the following included in any software development lifecycle:

  • Planning
  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Build
  • Document
  • Test
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance

The software development cycle is used to improve processes and helps you to ensure each stage is fully completed before moving onto the next one. This helps companies work more effectively and can result in reduced costs in the long run. By identifying issues early on, the process will finish on time, and fewer issues will appear further down the line. Companies may choose a software development model or methodology to use alongside this cycle, such as Agile or Waterfall.

Stages

To help you understand what is involved in the software development lifecycle, let’s take a look at the most commonly used stages in the process. As every custom software system or mobile application is unique, your software developer may want to combine or drop any of these stages. This will depend on the requirements for your application, the timeframe you are working towards, and the intricacies of your project.

Requirements and Planning

Defining requirements is critical before beginning any work and will allow you and your software consultant to determine exactly what will be included in your software system or application.

The software consultant will then work with the project manager and other leaders to establish the initial requirements and look at the timetable for the project and the labour, to establish the full costs involved. This can then help them to create the appropriate team for the work. During this stage, you will still be involved to provide feedback and offer suggestions for the app or software. By the end of the initial phase, you should have a clearly defined purpose for the project, which will guide your development company through the entire project’s lifecycle.

Finally, the costs will be determined and you will either agree to the full cost of a fix priced project or agree to pay per hour, based on an estimated value. You may also be given a Software Requirements Specification and a project proposal.

Design

During the design stage, your developer may produce a prototype of the product. Your software developer’s senior team members will look at the architecture of the software, the user interface, and the various platforms you’ve selected to run your software on. Security is also a key consideration at this stage to ensure user credentials are stored securely and that traffic is encrypted if needed. A prototype will be the earliest model of your software, which will give you and your team a basic idea of what it will look like and how it will work. You can then give feedback at this stage to improve the application, which will save you time and money further down the line.

Development

By this stage, the development team will be established and ready to begin writing your program, which could involve just one team member or a wide variety of teams. The complexity of your project will determine how long the development stage lasts. Thorough instructions and documentation will be used throughout this process to ensure the developers are coding to meet your requirements. Many companies begin compiling user guides and FAQs during this stage as they come across issues and questions during development.

Testing

Testing is one stage that should never be skipped during the software development lifecycle and is essential to conduct before releasing software. A lot of testing is currently automated, but some projects may involve testing within specific environments. Each function should be fully tested to make sure there are no issues. Your developer will also ensure that all bugs and errors found are corrected, ready for release.

Deployment

During the deployment stage, your software system or application will be released for staff and/or customers to use. This stage is often automated using pipelines that make it easier and quicker for your developer to release and update your software.

This process could be as simple as having your app uploaded to the application store for users to download on their devices. However, deployment may be more complex if you are upgrading a huge company database or involving other systems. This integration may take more time and effort than a simple app launch and extra time will have been added by your software company to cover this.

Maintenance

Once your product is launched, the development cycle isn’t finished. Operations and maintenance will be the final phase which usually involves fixing bugs that weren’t found during the development lifecycle. This may also involve future releases, however, most often, this will start a new development cycle. If your project was based on an Agile model, you’ll simply return to the start of the lifecycle again and your development company will begin working on the next release.

In conclusion

The software development cycle can be tailored to each project or team as needed but will generally involve a combination of the above steps. Testing and maintenance are two steps that some companies often overlook but are critical for a smooth development process.

By using the software development cycle, your developer will create a smooth development process, that can also be used alongside other development methodologies. You’ll find it offers more structure and will help the developers to provide you with regular updates and a more precise timeframe for delivery. At BSPOKE Software we use the software development lifecycle as we have found that it improves user satisfaction, see some of the software we have already developed here.

To find out more about custom software, contact the BSPOKE Software team.