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The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) is broadly defined as a project management approach to building high quality software at the lowest cost and timeframe possible. While the SDLC is a project management approach in itself, there are a number of more detailed project management methodologies that can also be applied to the SDLC process. This article will address:

What Types Of Projects Benefit From The SDLC?

As mentioned previously, the SDLC process applies primarily to software projects. These project types include everything from train station arrival notices to an app on your smartphone to a company website. Really any project within the IT space can be managed successfully using the SDLC approach because the approach expands on standard project management methodologies such as Agile, Waterfall, etc., to include necessary development stages such as software testing and maintenance.

The projects that benefit from the SDLC process do so because:

  • They often include project requirements that can change quickly either by customer demand or technical roadblocks, therefore, the project timeline needs to be flexible to accommodate these changes in scope.
  • Long-term maintenance and software end-of-life need to be considered and properly managed, therefore, the project lifecycle may be incredibly long but not necessarily highly active during every phase.
  • Security needs to be constantly tested, therefore, a dormant project may quickly require more attention as new threats populate.

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What Are The Phases Of The SDLC?

Project Managers can apply the Software Development Lifecycle to really any project management methodology but what makes it different than following a simple agile or waterfall approach is that they integrate seven key development phases into the methodology of choice, whether they follow an iterative or linear plan.

1. The Planning Stage

To lead a successful project requires that you properly plan. This statement holds even more truth in software development, where scope creep and customer requirements can quickly lead to a project vastly out of proportion of the budget (it can be incredibly difficult for a-non technical person to understand how what they see as a single feature can require hours upon hours of additional development time).

To properly plan for a software development project, you need to incorporate all stakeholders and understand each of their expectations in regards to the project scope, timeline and budget. Additionally, you need to push on their ideas further until you reach a complete understanding of their wants and needs and how certain requests may affect security, user experience and more. All of these elements together affect how each individual element needs to be built and integrated into the system as a whole.

It is important to note, that you likely will not think of everything but the closer you get to considering all of the elements needed, the more likely that you will be close to your budget and eliminate the need to ask for any significant amount of additional funds.

2. Requirements Stage

The Requirements Stage can be viewed as an extension of the planning stage. The main difference is this stage examines the project from a more technical level. During this phase, the project team delves into the actual hardware, software and network requirements needed (and their costs) to implement the envisioned project design.

3. Prototyping Stage

The Prototyping Stage, also known as the Design Stage, takes the requirements outlined in phase 2 and puts them into a logically ordered document that can essentially be translated into the programming language that will be used. This phase also makes critical decisions regarding which language, framework, etc. that should be used for development. Finally, coding guidelines and other reference documents will be created in this phase that developers and managers alike can reference throughout the development period.

4. Development Stage

Not surprisingly, the Development Stage is the part of the SDLC where the software is actually developed. Programmers will take the project’s vision and goals, in combination with the guidelines and requirements, outlined in the previous stages and start coding the application.

5. Testing Stage

While the planning and design stages should ideally create an easy path for developers to follow when building the desired application, it doesn’t guarantee that everything will be built perfectly the first time. This is where the Testing Stage comes into play. This is a critical stage in which every single element of the application needs to be tested from every possible angle to ensure nothing is broken or performing outside of the desired expectations. This critical steps requires a detailed-oriented, investigative personality to muddle through all of the software’s features and keep an eye out for anything performing oddly. By investing time into the Testing Stage, you ensure the final product rolled out meets the standards of quality the end-user demands.

6. Implementation Stage

The Implementation Stage essentially rolls out the final software product. Code is cleaned up as needed and your application is packaged up nicely for the market to consume.

7. Maintenance Stage

While it may seem Implementation is the final stage of the SDLC, that is far from the reality of a software development project. Think of when a person buys a house, the work doesn’t end after you move in; things will come up big and small that need to be addressed in order to keep your house in a livable state. The same is true with any software application on the market. End-users will find bugs you didn’t uncover in the Testing Stage that need to be fixed or supporting software will make updates that affect your integration that need to be addressed. While building software requires great effort, the project does not end once it rolls out rather it enters a maintenance stage for the rest of its life. The amount of time your time will need to invest in it will certainly throughout this stage but the important factor is that you still need to monitor your application and fix it when required until you determine it has reached the end-of-life phase where you no longer support it.

What Job Roles Are Needed In The SDLC?

In order to successfully manage the Software Development Lifecyle, you need the right people on your team. Your team will not only need technical skills to complete their roles but the right human skills to effectively interact and collaborate with the rest of the team and any project stakeholders. Typically, software development projects need the following job roles:

  • Project Sponsor: This title will vary greatly depending on the size of your organization but essentially this is the person who navigates the space between the development team and internal/external project stakeholders. It is important to note that this person is not actively managing the project but rather setting and managing expectations.
  • Project Manager: This is the person who will lead the entire project through all 7 SDLC phases.
  • Product Owner: This person is responsible for putting the user’s needs first when prioritizing tasks within the SDLC.
  • Software Developers: The number and type of developers needed will vary project to project but they are obviously a vital component of the project’s overall success. When it comes to choosing developers you may need people with UX/UI skills, specific programming language skills such as in Python, front-end development or back-end development skills & more.
  • Software/QA Testers: Software and Quality Assurance (QA) Testers are a much needed component to help verify your software meets all of your necessary requirements of your end user and any other QA criteria.
  • Security Engineer: This person ensures that your software is safe and secure according to industry standards and known or potential threats.

How Does Security Fit Into The SDLC?

Security has not always held a prominent role within the Software Development Lifecycle, however, today it is a vital component that should be incorporated from the start. Secure SDLC is a widely adopted concept where security is addressed at every phase in the SDLC. The design phase should examine how potential security threats could infiltrate the planned architecture and how to fortify the design against it. Similarly, testing should not only be reserved for how the application meets the end-user expectations but also how it stands against security threats and intentional penetration tests. By integrating security into every SDLC phase, you will likely detect and address threats much earlier and at a much lower cost.

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