Software development – what exactly is it? A detailed guide

Software development - what exactly is it A detailed guide01

This article will look at the software development processes, basic types of software, and various stages involved in the software development cycle.

Basic types of software

Like Microsoft’s Windows, software can go into millions of lines of code or can contain only a single line of code. The software designed to run a smartphone is different from software designed to launch a nuclear missile. We shall discuss in brief about the different types of software. .

System software

System software provides core functions like operating systems, utilities, hardware management, risk management, and other operational necessities.

Programming software

Software development tools like linkers, compilers, debuggers, and text editors fall under programming software. These tools allow the programmers to create code for the software they want to build.

Application Software

Application software is an application that is used to perform various tasks. Office productivity suites and media players are examples of application software. Web apps used for shopping on e-commerce websites and socializing on social media channels also fall under application software.

Importance of software development lifecycle

Every software product goes through a similar journey from idea to execution. This journey is divided into various steps known as software development lifecycle or SDLC. Every step is essential in the SDLC as it creates the output in the form of a piece of code, document, or diagram, which acts as an input for the next step. Even after the software release, the SDLC is not finished as subsequent versions of the software need to be released.

To build a software product successfully, the developers need to have a formalized SDLC in place. Unfortunately, many developers practice developing software without having an SDLC in place, which creates problems in the future. By having a robust SDLC in place, the software developers can ensure that the process of building software is more efficient and less stressful.

Using a formalized SDLC has several benefits such as …

  •  It enables clear communication between the developers and project stakeholders.
  • The SDLC helps set roles and responsibilities for the entire team, enabling smooth execution of the project.
  •  It creates a common vocabulary for each step.
  • The SDLC helps the developers formalize the feature requests and updates.

An SDLC helps to transform the project idea into a functional and completely operational structure. SDLC not only covers the technical aspects of system development but also helps with process development, user experience, and change management.
It is important to remember that even a well designed SDLC won’t work if the participants do not follow the process or if they lack expertise.

Stages of software development

Software Development Stages
The software development lifecycle can be broken down into a few stages. Let us have a look at the various stages involved in software development. The steps are mostly common for all the software development processes. The steps can be combined, and the sequence can be changed depending on the goals and needs of the project.

1.  Analysis and planning

The first step of the software development life cycle is planning. During the planning stage, the management of the business who wants to develop the software ponders over the following questions.

How will this software help the company achieve its goals?

Are sufficient resources available to complete this project, or will the company need to acquire new ones?

What shall be the deadline of the project?

How will the project fit in with the other goals and tasks of the company?

What will be the cost of building this software?

It is vital to include all the departments in the planning stage to ensure that the views of all the stakeholders are considered before the project kicks off. At the end of the planning phase, the goal is to have a clear idea regarding what is to be built, why, and how.

2. Understanding technical requirements

The next step would be to understand in detail the technical requirements of the project. The developers need to ponder over the following questions to identify the technical requirements of the project correctly.

What sort of data input/output is needed?

Will integration with other APIs or third-party tools be required?

How would the software handle security?

Once the developers are clear about these questions, they can decide the technology stack to develop the software. Many software development teams like to break down large tasks into smaller steps in this phase.

3. Design and prototyping

This is the phase where the designers come in. During the design and prototyping phase, the designers envision how the software will look like. The functionality and flow, along with the aesthetics of the software, are decided in this phase. Depending on the process that the developers follow, the designers would either prepare a full-fledged prototype or build wireframes to show how the design interactions of the software will appear and work. This phase helps the software developers validate the ideas and get valuable feedback before they start the actual coding process.

4. Software development

In this process, the developers prepare an SOW (Statement of Work) and the clients and proceed towards coding the software. The SOW is a document that includes the following things.

  •  Objectives of the project
  • Project scope
  • Major deliverables
  • Timeline for completion of work
  • The resources required to finish work
  • Payment terms
  • Internal and external standards

Different software development processes handle this stage differently. The goal of this stage is to build clean and efficient software by sticking to the SOW.

5. Testing

Robust testing ensures that the end-users do not get an erroneous and buggy software to use. First, most software developers test and remove bugs while developing. Then, another round of in-depth testing occurs wherein the product is released to a small beta test group. Testing might seem a tedious and time-consuming process, but it is a very important part of the SDLC.

6. Deployment

This is the stage where the software developers launch software to the users. The developers push their code into production at this stage . Many software companies use automated continuous deployment tools to finish this task.

7. Maintenance and updates

The SDLC is not over once the software is released. Understand that SDLC is a lifecycle; hence it is an ongoing process. The ending of one phase is the beginning of another. The same holds for post-launch as well. The customers’ needs evolve rapidly, and as more people use the software, they would find bugs and give feedback regarding the functionality and features of the software.

Methods of software development

 Software Development Methods

Many different software development processes have evolved over the years. Selecting the right one depends upon the team developing the software and the requirements of the software. Let’s discuss the major software development processes.

Waterfall software development process

 Waterfall Software Development Process

The waterfall software development process is one of the oldest methods of developing software. The waterfall process is also known as the classic lifecycle model of the linear sequential process. In the waterfall method, the developers need to follow every step sequentially before they move on to the other step. Many people see the waterfall method as a plan-driven process to complete projects.. This is why the process is called the waterfall process, as every section flows into the next section. In practice, some phases do overlap slightly as feedback and information are passed between the phases. The following are the different phases of the waterfall process.

  •  Planning
  • Understanding requirements
  • Design
  •  Implementation
  •  Testing
  •  Deployment
  •  Maintenance/Updates

The waterfall method of software development is best suited for teams having rigid structures and documentation needs. Due to its rigid structure, the waterfall software development process is suitable only for those projects where the goal and technology stack is unlikely to change drastically. Many government organizations that require intricate planning and documentation find the waterfall process better for developing software.

Those companies who would like to be more dynamic with their software development process would not find the waterfall development process suitable to their needs. The lack of flexibility is the most significant drawback of the waterfall process. With the waterfall development process, it isn’t possible to build the MVP and make changes along the way.

Agile software development process

Agile software development process

The Agile software development process opts for an iterative and dynamic approach towards software development. As opposed to the rigid sequential flow of the waterfall method, in Agile, the software teams work together in sprints of 2 weeks to 2 months and release usable software solutions. The idea is to get customer feedback and make the necessary changes based on that feedback. The Agile methodology revolves around releasing often and moving fast to respond to the users’ needs. Agile is not concerned whether the original plan is followed or not. The advantage of Agile is that one does not need a detailed list of objectives before starting the work. The idea is to start moving in a direction and improvise along the way.

Take a case: A team of developers decides to inculcate a set of new features into the software. Adopting the Agile methodology (rather than trying to include all the features into the software) the developers would try to build a bit of software that is both useful and usable in short sprints. Agile software development methodology ensures a robust feedback loop in the software development process to adapt and react quickly to the needs of the customers.

Agile software development Phases

  • Building a product backlog
  • Building a sprint backlog
  • Designing and developing the sprint
  • Release the sprint
  • Feedback
  • Planning for next sprint

Agile methodology is super-focused on the user’s needs. The dynamic nature of the Agile methodology makes it a favorite amongst startups and technology companies. This is because these companies need to continuously test for new products or make changes to existing ones. Agile reduces the risks that software development companies face. With Agile, the companies can move faster and test various theories without putting too much at stake on a major release that could fail. With Agile, it is easy to track bugs or roll back to a previous stable version if something does not go according to the plan.

The disadvantage of following the Agile methodology is that the projects can easily run over their initial stipulated time frame due to its dynamic nature. This fact means that Agile might not prove to be the best choice for companies with tight deadlines to meet. The dynamic nature of Agile also means that the developers often need to make changes to the code, which requires additional resources. Hence Agile is not for risk-averse or resource-strapped teams.

The Agile process requires dedicated resources like an Scrum master to ensure that the process goes on smoothly. Using Agile and Scrum requires a sound understanding of the underlying processes without which the project can easily derail.

Incremental and Iterative software development process

 Incremental and Iterative Software Development Process
The incremental and iterative software development processes fall somewhere in the middle between the rigid structure of a waterfall methodology and the dynamic approach of the Agile methodology.

The incremental software development process

In an incremental software development process, the idea is to break down the software development process into small manageable portions called increments. Every increment builds on the previous version of the software. The incremental software development process is like building an MVP, where only the core features are built first. Then other features are included depending on the feedback of the users.

Incremental software development phases

  • Increment planning
  • Specifications
  • Development
  • Validation
  • Repeat for each version

The iterative software development process

In an iterative software development process, every release consists of all the planned features.

Iterative Phases:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing

The incremental and iterative software development processes are suitable for teams with clear requirements but with more flexibility than the waterfall method.

The iterative and incremental software development processes are great for building large projects with well-defined scopes and for teams with very low-risk tolerance levels. While the incremental process helps validate the business case, the iterative approach provides the users an early look at the full product features, which helps the developers get better feedback.

Both incremental and iterative software development processes provide the developers a better idea regarding what the users want. This helps software development companies save a lot of time and money spent waiting until the end of the development cycle to find out the faults with the code.

When we try to add structure to a flexible approach, issues creep in. We have seen that the goals, procedures, or technologies of a company often change over time, making the previous iterations of the software obsolete.Thus, the iterative and incremental software development processes are not for companies with long-term technology plans.

Both iterative and incremental processes require the developers to do decent planning and architecture building during the early stages. This fact makes both these processes challenging to follow for teams who expect many changes in the product during the development process.

Difference between Incremental, Iterative, and Agile

Upon reading the Agile, incremental and iterative software development processes, it seems that all three are the same. However, there are a few key differences between the three.

While every increment builds a complete feature in the incremental approach, the developers build only small parts of all the features in the iterative process.

Agile, on the other hand, combines aspects of both approaches. In each Agile sprint, you build a small portion of each feature, one at a time, and then gradually add functionality and new features over time.

The V-Shaped software development process

 V-Shaped Software Development Process

The V-shaped software development process removes a flaw from the waterfall method. In the waterfall method, the developers wait for the entire code to finish and then test the code. This creates issues many times as it becomes complicated for the developers to test and debug the entire code at once. In the V-shaped software development process, testing is done at every stage of the process.

Phases of the V-shaped software development process

  • Requirement understanding
  • Specification building
  • Design
  • Development
  • Unit-level testing
  • Integration testing
  • System testing
  • Acceptance testing

The V-shaped software development process is ideal for small projects that have a tight scope of work. The major benefit of a V-shaped software development process is that it provides many opportunities to the developers to test the code along the way.

The flaw with the V-shaped development process is that early input and feedback are required from the users. Without this, there is still a risk of building incorrect software. If the developers build anything beyond a simple project, it is not possible to create a detailed development plan before starting the work.

The spiral software development process

The spiral Software Development Process
The spiral software development process combines the dynamic nature of Agile processes and focuses on testing the V-shaped process. Once a plan is in place for a specific iteration or milestone in the spiral software development process, the next step would be to identify excessive-risk areas. When the developers want to add a feature that isn’t a part of the original plan, they need to validate its features. The developers would need to build a prototype that will be sent to the users for their feedback. In the spiral development process, the scope expands after each milestone is completed.

Phases of spiral software development

• Planning
• Risk assessment
• Development and validation
• Evaluation of the results
• Planning for the next spiral

The idea behind the spiral software development method is to reduce risks. Hence the spiral software development method is great for projects in which the software developers cannot take more risks. The spiral software development process can prove to be a correct choice when the project requires a high level of documentation and validation.

There is a considerable amount of time and cost associated with the spiral software development process. This is the reason why the spiral software development process is not used often. The project managers use the spiral software development process to show the developers how to think critically about an iterative approach.

The need for a professional software development company

Software development is a complex and challenging process. Multiple teams of developers, designers, and testers come together to build software. The developers should start the process of software development by understanding the steps of the SDLC. Good planning would help the developers set concrete goals for their software project.

The developers should then pick the most suitable software development process according to the goals of their project. Once the process is selected, the developers should gather feedback from the team and, if required, make the necessary changes in the process. While developing software, the developers should understand that software development is an ongoing process that does not end when the software is released. Regular updates and maintenance of the software is also required to ensure that the software keeps functioning as desired.

A top software development company can help entrepreneurs build robust software that satisfies all their requirements. At Prismetric, we have more than a decade of experience developing high-quality software products for our clients. We would love to hear your idea and take it to fruition.

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