Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) – An Explanation

Every digital product has multiple stages of production. It begins with an idea, then first mockups are created and later on, it’s time for design, development and quality assurance. All that can be collected into one shared term of Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Basically, it’s a system that organizes the whole process of building software and all tasks included in it.

Having such life cycle in place helps IT companies to collaborate with their clients better to create high-quality products beyond expectations. There are several principles of SDLC that are worth knowing and implementing into any software house’s workflow. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Software Development Life Cycle?

SDLC is a concrete, established process that a team follows while creating digital products. It should be prepared within the organization that will implement it into their operations. Each part of this strategy describes precisely what has to be done during every stage of the project, from idea to release. Involved parties need to know best practices and follow them to achieve satisfying results.

What are the phases of Software Development Life Cycle?

Traditionally, SDLC has six main phases that address the needs and expectations included in the project at the current stage of development. A product that wasn’t planned and developed cannot be tested because there wouldn’t be anything to test. Or maybe there would, but without proper preparations and execution, it would be a nightmare to conduct effective tests. Thanks to the refined Software Development Life Cycle, everything goes according to a plan, step by step:


1. Identification of needs and pains

At the very beginning, when a client reaches out to a software development company, the analysis of requirements has to be done. The team takes all insights like industry tendencies, market research, customer surveys, competition comparison and other useful data to predict what should be done within a project. Identifying crucial features and ones that are unnecessary can save a lot of time and effort that could be moved towards more important tasks.

At this point, everyone involved should ask themselves what the problem is and how they want to solve it. Determining risks and challenges should also happen. Usually, first decisions in terms of the technological stack are also made.

2. Planning

Some experts put the first phase and planning as one, but they deserve separate mentions. Of course, they blend, but creating plans is more concrete and driven by the previous stage’s conclusions. The first time and cost estimations happen and the team plans their workflow with iterations.

While planning, it should become clear what will be done and what end result is expected.

3. Design

All the requirements discussed during the two previous phases are collected into Design Specification. They are passed to the design team so they can prepare product architecture with UX and UI. At this point introducing changes and additional features is still acceptable because it won’t interrupt the workflow too much.

The design phase is responsible for creating an effective and user-friendly customer journey. All functionalities need to be accessible and visually appealing to the potential customer.

5. Development

This is the moment when coding begins. Programmers create each part of the software according to the plan and Design Specification. Depending on the type of project, they need to develop back-end and front-end. As for mobile apps, it’s either one team that creates a cross-platform product or two separate native teams. The choice of the tech stack also influences the work – that’s why it’s picked beforehand.

It is crucial for developers to stick to the plan and create consistent, clean code. Changes shouldn’t be introduced too much at this point, but if there’s a need for that, we have to pick the right moment. Interrupting the process with constant additions will not only disrupt the team’s work but also can decrease the final quality of the software.

6. Quality Assurance

Testing is usually performed throughout the whole design and development process, so this phase should be treated as an integral part of it. Different testing methodologies are used to find out if everything works according to the initial strategy, all features are functioning as they should and expectations are met.

All the issues are fixed and if there’s a bigger problem, the team tries to find the best solution. That’s why it is essential to conduct QA activities at all stages of the project. It helps to avoid situations when something is very hard to repair.

7. Deployment and Maintenance

Sometimes these stages are mentioned separately, but we can talk about both because, at this point, the main collaboration ends (unless the client wants to expand the product further). When the software is ready, it is released to its destination market. The IT company‘s role is to help with technical difficulties and updates.

The product owner should monitor their audience and collect customer feedback to find out if everything works right. If they see there’s potential for further growth, they can always continue collaboration to add new functionalities and tweak the design.

Software Development Life Cycle

Software Development Life Cycle models

All the phases we discussed above are a part of a well-prepared and thought-through process, but the work style is determined by the SDLC model that a particular company implements. It is used to organize tasks, plan meetings and prepare solutions for when sudden changes occur, or a crisis happens. Here are the most popular models used by software houses:

1. Waterfall model

The most basic SDLC model that the industry has known for years. Each phase has its explicit beginning and end. The work is flowing from one stage to the other, hence the name. The waterfall model has one disadvantage – small issues can significantly delay the production process.

2. V-Shape model

This model is almost the same as the waterfall, but it introduces quality assurance on every other production stage, which is considered good practice in the IT sector.

3. Agile model

One of the favorites, based on cycles of development, constant feedback and collaboration. The product owner becomes an active part of the process and the team can quickly deliver high-quality results. Communication is the key in agile development. Everyone can propose ideas and adequate solutions.

4. Iterative model

Creating small pieces of the product quickly, testing them and then improving them. That’s the most concise description of this model. On the one hand, it can save resources because perfecting minor parts of the software prevents it from bigger defects later. On the other, if it’s not efficiently managed, it can consume a lot of time and money.

5. Spiral model

Like the iterative model, it repeats all the phases from planning to testing several times to touch up every part of the product. Flexibility is the most significant advantage of the spiral model.

6. Big Bang model

A risky approach that is usually applied to very small projects. It skips the analysis and planning part to focus on development.


Software Development Life Cycle provides a structure for everything that is happening in a project. This way, the team that creates a digital product can deliver quality without resource waste. When it comes to SDLC models, every software house should pick one that will be most suitable for their work style, team size, and needs. The ultimate goal is always client satisfaction.

Working with a Software Development Life Cycle in mind can be beneficial for all parties involved in the production process. The product owner will know exactly what is currently happening, which means they can control the workflow and provide unique insight for the team. Designers, developers and testers will work more efficiently if their tasks are properly organized and managed. Introducing changes won’t be painful if there’s predicted space for them. The benefits of SDLC are quite self-explanatory.

If you want to implement one of the models mentioned above, ask your teammates what they need the most in their current workflow. Are there areas that could be optimized using SDLC? Think about it and remember that separating concrete parts of the project can result in better quality and more aware, deliberate actions of every involved person.

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