When it comes to developing a system, product, or software, it doesn’t just materialize out of thin air. There’s a team that has spent countless hours and resources to make it happen. Sometimes, you get it right the first time, but at other times, you end up with a product that was a huge drain on time, money, and resources. This is why development teams rely on specific systems and methodologies to deliver results, so they’re not starting off on the wrong foot and delivering an incorrect product. One such process is a Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). This is a key methodology, especially when it comes to IT, managed services, and enterprise software development, to deliver consistent results every time.
An SDLC is a framework that is used by software development teams to produce high-quality products, in a very organized and systematic way. This takes the traditional software building process and breaks it down into a series of phases or steps that provide a common understanding of the various parts of a project. This way, each part builds a foundation and logically leads to the next step, and there’s little to no danger of missing anything. Without any missteps, dependencies or items that tend to cause the scope to creep, this also serves as a very cost-effective way to develop software.
But, depending on the project’s context and the business requirements, the first task of any project manager will be to determine which SDLC model their software engineers should use, and what their measure of success should be. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it’ll depend on the specific concerns and requirements of the project, to nail down which methodology will be the best for the team.
Here are the key pros and cons of the most common SDLC methodologies:
This is a model that relies on sequences and is one of the oldest and most straightforward of the linear methods. It’s based on 5 phases:
In this model, developers finish one phase, then move on to the next. There is no moving backwards, and each stage relies on information from the previous stage. This method is easy to understand and manage.
One of its major drawbacks, however, is its lack of flexibility. If you encounter a delay, it can throw off the entire timeline. Also, there is not a lot of room for revisions once the stage is completed. You’d essentially have to wait to address problems until you get to the final stage. Therefore, if the project is long-term and ongoing, this methodology isn’t a good fit, nor will deliver the success you’re looking for.
This is better known as the Verification and Validation model. This method grew out of Waterfall and is notable for having a corresponding testing phase for each development stage. Therefore, you get to test along the way, but like Waterfall, the next stage can only begin once the previous one has ended.
This model is useful when there are no surprises, sudden scope changes, or unknown elements, as it’s still difficult to go back and make changes once a phase is complete.
This model is all about repetition. Instead of starting with a full list of requirements and running with them, this model lets you start with a set of certain requirements, test them, and upon evaluation, you pinpoint further requirements. This means that there’s a new version of the software that is produced with each phase; hence ‘iteration.’ You then essentially rinse and repeat the process until your product is ready.
What makes this model more useful than others, is that it gives you a viable glimpse into the product early enough, that you can make changes sooner, rather than later, at a more inexpensive time. On the other hand, however, resources can be quickly eaten up by repeating the same processes over and over again.
This is one of the most flexible SDLC methodologies, taking some of its inspiration from the Iterative model and its dependence on repetition. In this one, the project passes through 4 phases over and over again in a “spiral” pattern until completed. This allows for multiple rounds of polishing and refining.
This model can be great for building a highly customized end-product that can incorporate user feedback early on, but it also runs the risk of creating a never-ending cycle of revisions and updates.
This is the most common model for project and software development. In this methodology, the product is broken into cycles which promotes continuous iterations of development throughout the lifecycle of the project, as well as conducting concurrent development and testing activities. This model produces ongoing releases, each with an incremental change from the previous release. At each iteration, the product is tested.
This model emphasizes interaction between the customer, developers, and testers to continuously improve the product. But, since the methodology relies heavily on customer interaction, the project can fall off the rails if the customer is unclear on the direction or changes the scope entirely. Also, all the interactions make it difficult to accurately estimate the development time.
So, how do you decide which one is right for you? In all honesty, this tends to be the most challenging part of a software development project. There’s really no set criteria for small and large organizations to use in selecting a methodology, and several SDLC models might be a fit for any given project. But given the fast-paced, results-now nature of the world, a nimble, transparent, and flexible approach will probably offer you the best chance at hitting all of your KPIs.
Choosing the right Software Development Life Cycle Model
Whether you’ve been in the business for a while or just starting out, it’s still a valuable experience to critically analyze the various methods and apply a systemic approach.
- Step 1. Learn about the SDLC models. It’s best to have all the tools and information at hand, to make an informed decision. If you know them already, it doesn’t hurt to review.
- Step 2. Assess the needs of the stakeholders. By understanding the business landscape, stakeholders’ concerns and requirements, business priorities, technical capability and ability, and technological constraints, you can easily narrow down which SDLC fits their criteria.
- Step 3. Define your criteria. Some questions you can ask are:
- Is the SDLC suitable for the size of our team and their skills?
- Is the SDLC suitable for the selected technology we use for implementing the solution?
- Is the SDLC suitable for client and stakeholders concerns and priorities?
- Is the SDLC suitable for the geographical situation (distributed team)?
- Is the SDLC suitable for the size and complexity of our software?
- Is the SDLC suitable for the type of projects we do?
- Is the SDLC suitable for our software engineering capability?
- Is the SDLC suitable for project risk and quality insurance?
From here, then you can start to get an inkling on which methodologies will be a fit and go from there.
- Step 4. Now, it’s time to decide. Once you’ve defined the criteria and discussed them with the team, it might help to create a decision matrix that gives your criteria a defined weight and score. This should make it easier for you to settle on a decision.
- Step 5. Be flexible. You might start the project aligned with one method, but as changes and updates occur, you might need to pivot to a different model. In fact, some companies have created their own SDLC model which takes pieces from other models, and tailor fits it to their organizational structure.
How Do You Measure The Success of Your SDLC Methodology?
Ultimately, your software project needs to be delivered on time, on spec, on or below budget, and at the highest level of quality. This means that your processes and methodology should allow you to minimize your risk, manage issues before they happen, and enable you to control costs along the way. How do you do that? Simple, you rely on something that offers predictability and can adapt to any changes or issues along the way.
This will hopefully mean that there’ll be no surprises and all outcomes can be clearly managed. Overall, the methodology you choose should decisively manage risk. A successful model manages all the knowledge at hand and keeps a tight hand on the reins of the project while hitting all the KPI’s. More importantly, the right model is adaptive to the product’s demand, which almost always ends up as a win for all the stakeholders.
Learn More About About K2 Partnering’s Solutions
If you’re looking to improve your software development projects, and need resources that know Agile, Scrum, or Kanban, we can help. We have a team of specialists, technical experts, and enterprise solutions consultants with years of experience in delivering custom solutions, complex migrations, and software development – all requiring unique project management methodologies and KPIs.
Having been at the forefront of technology and talent for over 20 years, with world-class solutions at our fingertips, we help businesses to innovate and grow. By keeping your scope, managing your time, ensuring quality, and keeping your costs down, we can deliver product solutions with minimal fuss. With our worldwide network of locations, we offer a global reach, with local expertise. This means we can deliver first-class technology solutions and unparalleled industry knowledge to our clients.