Key Benefits of the Software Development Life Cycle (Updated 2019)

A software development life cycle (SDLC) refers to the various stages involved in system development in the fields of software engineering, system engineering, and information systems. It may be focused on software, hardware, or a combination of both.

SDLC is crucial because it breaks up the long and tedious life cycle of software development. By and large, evaluating each part of the development is much easier and it helps programmers concurrently work on every stage.

But what is SDLC, really?

SDLC is the process of planning, creating, testing and deploying. This life cycle is often a waterfall model as it cascades from feasibility study, systems analysis, design, implementation, testing, and finally to install and maintenance. While there are countless advantages of having this structure for a design project, here are the most common ones:

  • It makes it clear what the problem or goal is. It is easy to get ahead of yourself when taking on a large project. With the SDLC you can clearly see the goals and the problems so that the plan is implemented with precision and relevance.
  • The project is designed with clarity. Project members cannot move from one stage to another until the prior stage is completed and signed off on by the project manager. A formal review is created at the end of each stage, which allows the project manager to have maximum management control.
  • It will be properly tested before being installed. The installation in a project that is executed using an SDLC has the necessary checks and balances so that it will be tested with precision before entering the installation stage.
  • If a key project member leaves, a new member can pick up where they left off. The SDLC gives you a well-structured and well-documented paper trail of the entire project that is complete with records of everything that occurs.
  • Without the SDLC, the loss of a project member can set you back and potentially ruin the project. If paperwork is missing or incomplete, the new project member will have to start from the beginning and even possibly change the project to make sense of it. With a well-designed SDLC, everything will be in order so that a new project member can continue the process without complications.
  • The project manager can properly manage a project if deliverables are completed on time and within the budget. Sticking to a budget is easier with a well-organized plan in which you can see all the timetables and costs. Project members can submit their work to an integrated system that flags anything that is past due. When the project manager can spend less time micromanaging, he or she can spend more time improving efficiency and production.
  • The project can continuously loop around until it is perfect. The stages are meant to feed back into the earlier stages, so the SDLC model provides the project with flexibility.
  • When designing and implementing a project, a software development life cycle is the best way to ensure optimal control, minimize problems, and allow the project manager to run production without having to micromanage the project members.

Compared to a product life cycle (PLC), a system development life cycle is used to develop a functional, large-scale business system. Most developers use SDLC methodologies such as Waterfall and Agile and apply it to their projects. Other examples of commonly-used SDLC models are DevOps, Iterative, Lean, V-Shaped, and Spiral.

SDLC is a continuous process that begins from decision-making, and ends with a full deployment. There are several SDLC methodologies to choose from-each with its own pros and cons.

Below are the other ways you and your team can benefit from the SDLC.

1. Proper Direction for Projects

In this digital age we live in, it’s baffling how many projects and companies still aren’t adhering to the SDLC process. Most software development initiatives implement a fly-by-night approach — something that often yields low-quality results.

Creating a product from scratch without any guidance from an SDLC often results in systems that go over budget, are delivered late, and that fail to reach end-user/customer expectations. It might even cause an entire project to completely fail, which could be a nightmare for all stakeholders.

2. Better Scope Management

Lots of teams lack motivation or have poor morale because of projects whose scope constantly changes. They also suffer when “bandage” solutions are often used due to poorly-implemented processes around their work.

With an SDLC in place, this problem can be greatly reduced. Developers have a roadmap they can refer to, so the management of scope is improved and development problems are less likely to happen. While there will always be unexpected issues during a software development process, adhering to a structured cycle will certainly minimize these occurrences.

3. Helps Avoid Issues During Development

The absence of an SDLC typically leads to several problems that will become more prevalent as the development goes on. For example, a lack of proper communication between the development team and customer can produce systems that do not meet the needs of the end-user. If there’s mistrust in the customer management staff, there will be an impact on the development contractor maintaining a follow-on contract.

Another thing to consider is that without basic processes or methodology concepts, you will likely end up with defective deployments. Delivering an unstable output negatively affects not only the company’s reputation but also the track record of developers.

4. Streamlines Process

Starting a new SDLC process with a simple meeting and discussing the shortcomings of a finished project can do wonders for future projects that have a similar scope. Conducting a review helps the development team eliminate steps in the development process that did not provide any kind of value at all.

Performing steps in a development process just for the sake of doing so can waste valuable effort and time. On the other hand, removing unnecessary stages provides teams with multiple benefits, such as early system deployment or flexibility to solve unplanned problems down the road.

5. Potential Problems are Identified Immediately

Following a well-defined methodology allows development teams to produce stable systems, ensure customers are informed, have a clear understanding of the task at hand, offer better estimates, and identify potential pitfalls early on in the project.

Over time, teams that adhere to a software development life cycle will become more effective at determining issues before they even occur. This will help them not only eliminate problems completely but also create better workarounds in case they happen.

How a Software Development Life Cycle Works

All engineering projects have a so-called “lifecycle.” For those creating a complex system, it is called a system development life cycle. If the system you’re creating is software-intensive, then that lifecycle is known as the software development lifecycle.

Regardless of the type of project, the process is the same. Everything starts by identifying stakeholders and their expectations from the project, before figuring out what is required to create and make sure the definition of what should be created is clearly agreed upon by all stakeholders.

Then, how the product will be built should be defined. The process continues to product design, building, and testing. This will be followed by deployment so the project will be useful to the stakeholders. The product is maintained for a while until they decide to retire the product.

There are lots of ways to conduct the aforementioned steps: incrementally, iteratively, or sequentially. Developers and project managers have many frameworks and models to choose from. The different SDLC methodologies refer to the various activities that go into the steps to allow an organization to create and maintain products.

Having a clear understanding of the basic life cycle activities gives you the assurance that all the tasks that should be accomplished are appropriately accounted for.

Final Thoughts

When done right, the software development life cycle can provide teams with the highest level of documentation and management control. Developers are more efficient because they are informed and guided on what they should create and why. All concerned parties agree on the objective upfront and come up with a clear action plan for achieving that goal. Each stakeholder also understands the resources and costs required.

There’s no such thing as a specific SDLC methodology or a cookie-cutter approach for all types of projects. The system development life cycle only works as a starting point of your efforts-it still needs to be tailored according to your unique needs.

For project managers using an SDLC, search for a model that works for you and stick with it. Doing so enables you to come up with an end result that perfectly suits your particular needs and situation.

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