By DeVry University
New software programs and apps are emerging every day. Whether you’re tracking your finances or fitness routine, downloading a new game or finding new apps to connect with faraway friends, you’re likely using more software programs than you even realize.
At any given moment there are countless software development teams around the world working diligently to get their next products out the door. But how do they make it happen? Generally speaking, they do so by following a software development process and software development lifecycle (SDLC).
Defining Software Development
Software development encompasses many information technology subspecialties. It takes a team of designers, programmers, data architects, analytics experts, systems specialists and others. Teams can be focused by platform, industry, function or user demographic. It can be a challenging and exciting field for creative thinkers, especially those with an interest in mobile apps and gaming.
How Does Software Development Work?
Software development begins with a need. A need that when filled might be able to help:
- Companies work faster and smarter
- Technologies improve through machine learning
- Consumers stay informed about their health data
- People manage their finances and their lives
- Friends and families connect
- Entertain us with games, music, videos and more
Once the need is identified, user groups are consulted to help determine programming requirements. This is what allows the software development team to plan, analyze and design their program. When that is complete, the program will be implemented and thoroughly beta tested before ever going live.
Software development is a balance of both aspirational concepts and a finely detailed methodology with an established lifecycle. Accuracy and attention to detail are critical, as cutting corners or skipping steps can be detrimental to your desired outcome.
What is the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)?
According to Stackify, the software development lifecycle (SDLC) is “a process that produces software with the highest quality and lowest cost in the shortest time possible. SDLC provides a well-structured flow of phases that help an organization to quickly produce high-quality software which is well-tested and ready for production use.”
Phases of the SDLC
Planning is perhaps the most important stage of the SDLC. Once the need has been identified, it is necessary to select the team, allocate resources, determine budgets and establish a project plan with timeline. Planning also involves looking at contingencies and potential risks.
Once the plan is in place and communicated to all of the stakeholders, the team gets down to business. They analyze existing programs and technologies to see where gaps or opportunities exist. They look at algorithms, data structure, system needs and coding requirements.
At this point, the software designers take over center stage. They build out the specs for the program or app, collaborating with stakeholders to ensure the desired end product will be achieved. Team leaders play an important role in reviewing designs and ensuring their viability within the project’s budget and timeline.
This phase is the heart of the software development lifecycle. It is usually where the heavy coding happens, with all activity conforming to the specs established in the design phase. The build phase can also include optimizing previously developed software into new workflows. It is a quiet time, where team members have their heads down as they work to meet project milestones.
Now is when we get the big reveal. The program or app is implemented into an environment where it can be accessed by other team members, internal clients and any external stakeholders.
Testing and Integration
The program or app is put through its paces, and beta tested by the wider group for quality assurance purposes. It is tested across all desired platforms and browsers to ensure that it works correctly for the widest diversity of users. Problems are identified, prioritized and debugged. Once the product has cleared testing, it is ready for integration into the real world.
Maintenance is scheduled at periodic intervals to fix any post-launch glitches and program in any minor updates.
Software Development Process Models
There are several different software development process models within the software development lifecycle outlined above. Robert Half, a global leader in staffing services, identifies six models as follows:
- Agile – One of the most popular methods highlighting rapid development, fast failure and ongoing software release cycles.
- Lean – A model in which only the necessary tasks are worked on, in a just-in-time fashion that cuts waste in time, money and resources.
- Waterfall – The oldest established methodology in which each phase logically “waterfalls” into the next along a strict sequential project plan.
- Iterative – In this model, teams begin before all requirements are fully defined, working in “sprints” to add features as they go along, with each new iteration.
- Spiral – This model is best suited for large projects with a lot of customization. Phases in the software development lifecycle are repeated over and over again until full refinement is achieved.
- DevOps – Made popular by Amazon Web Services (AWS), this process model quickly advances through the SDLC phases with small, yet continual, post-launch enhancements.
Managing Projects in Software Development
Regardless of what software development process models are used, there is always an assigned project manager (PM) who oversees all team activity. The PM is the glue that holds everything together, keeping track of the project plan, timeline, milestones, budgets and allocated resources. They serve as a leader, problem solver, risk manager, quality assurance professional and the hub for all project communications.
Project Management Tools
Two important tools for software development project managers are GANTT charts and PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique):
- GANTT charts show project plans and timelines on a day-by-day basis, across a linear calendar, often within Excel spreadsheet format.
- PERT is more a statistical tool that helps PMs analyze time required for each individual task and extrapolate that data to develop realistic deadlines and delivery dates.
Collaborative project management platforms – such as Jira, Asana and Trello – are increasingly being used in the software development space. Jira serves as a ticketing system, Asana assigns tasks and manages workflow and Trello is set up with “cards” that contain specific information on different tasks.
All of these tools have simple to use interfaces, dashboards and commenting functionality. Tasks and subtasks can be assigned to team members to complete by a certain deadline. Supporting materials (documents, graphics, style sheets, etc.) can also be contained within each task or sub-task so that the team has everything they need to complete their assignments.
The Future of Software Development
Considering the multitude of programs and apps we each use every day – and all those that continue to emerge on the marketplace and compete for our attention– it’s easy to see that there is no shortage of innovation or opportunity in the field. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an estimated 22 percent growth, on a national level, in the occupation through 2029.1
Get Started in Software Development
If you are interested in the software development process, it’s never too soon to build your knowledge and skills. Get started by taking a look at our Online Software Development Bachelor’s Degree Program, and then contact us to build a schedule that meets your needs.