The Process of Developing Custom Software
After you’ve hired the right software development company for your new software project, what happens next? How will development begin? What will be the time duration? How can you ensure the project is managed properly? In this article we will discuss the process of developing software from requirements analysis through completion and support. This is commonly referred to as the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).
All of your questions are justified and obviously all these questions might be overwhelming but you don’t need to be worried. Therefore, We will take you through a step by step guide. This guide will help you understand how your project will be developed.
Why is SDLC Important?
In technical terms, SDLC ensures your software holds up to the level of correctness and quality you set.
SDLC aims to develop software that meets your requirements. It breaks down what you want into stages. Each stage is more of the same tasks happening at one time, additionally, it also ensures development in estimated time and cost constraints. The SDLC process includes aftercare for your software.
To sum it all up, it is important because it provides clarity. In other words, Clarity about your project’s progress, the team’s ability to meet your requirements and that your project is progressing according to the cost and time you set.
Phases of SDLC
The various steps of SDLC involve the following phases:
- Requirement analysis
- Software Design
- Software Development
Goals of Different Phases
Let’s go deeper into what each phase of SDLC does and what its goals are, moreover, along the way we will also talk about the documents you should expect from the team.
Main Goal: Get your requirements across
This is the single most important phase of the entire cycle. To clarify, requirement analysis is essentially just delivering your requirements to the team. Experts and business analysts that have domain experience gather your requirements, consequently, they then understand your requirements so they know what you want.
Once the requirements have been laid out analysts further decide if your requirements are correct and achievable. They decide the functionalities and features that will be required in your software. The team develops a workflow to outline how the project will progress, and what the team will have to cover.
Document to Expect: Requirement Analysis Document (RAD)
Planning in SDLC
Main Goal: Finalize an agreement (requirements, time, cost, legal, etc.)
In the first phase of planning the team will focus on outlining technologies that they will use according to the requirements you stated. Technologies include the language being used for development, tools for design and platforms that the software will be developed on. They will tell you about the devices that the software will run on, that is to say, you can choose your preference but more often than not the team knows what to do.
The team will define the development methodology, however, usually agile methodology is adopted but teams are open to whatever your preference is. The team will take note of every design requirement and finally, a plan for development will be defined.
The second phase of planning is all about cost and time estimations. Development teams are experts in their domain and they will clearly state how much time your project will need, consequently, based on the technologies your project will use, they will also define the cost of the project. Some other considerations will also include:
Legal – Some of the important legal considerations that are often part of a statement of work.
Confidentiality – You and the company sign a non-disclosure agreement so, while the software develops it protects your confidential and proprietary information.
Ownership – Ownership agreement declares who owns the software for your company. This agreement will declare the license ‘owner’ of the software.
Payment Terms – (ie 50% down with installments based on milestones, dates that payments are due, etc.)
Finally, the business analysts will do risk analysis against each requirement and further they will try to find a way around each risk. Secondly, they will define the plan to implement the project without any risks.
The Statement of Work document combines all the details of the project. This document is a part of the company’s contract with the customer. The benefit of this document is the avoidance of any disputes involving deliverables, budgets or timelines and above all, it is vital that the SOW is clearly understood by all stakeholders especially you.
Document to Expect: Statement of Work (SOW)
Main Goal: How will we do what we want to do
After the development of the plan, the business analyst and the designer now work directly. We do this step to translate the user requirements into system specifications. System specifications are features of your software essentially, just your requirements. If you were building a house this phase would be compatible with the architectural design phase.
Designers design a prototype before development starts. A prototype is an incomplete version of the software that the team will showcase to you for feedback. It is essentially just the graphical representation of your software application or user interface design. As development progresses, designers develop multiple prototypes. Designers use tools like Sketch are to design each prototype. Many prototypes are designed and they are managed through design approval tools like Invision. Prototypes are usually easy to throw away if they don’t meet expectations.
Just like the planning phase, the design phase is extremely important. A failure at this stage will be a big one, consequently, it may result in cost over-runs or the re-design of software overall.
The team will design the prototypes based on two approaches:
- High-Level Design
- Low-Level Design
Let us make it easy for you to understand.
To start out, in this phase we look at the project from afar. So what Modules, their functionality, how they interact with each other will be defined here. The architecture that will be followed and how the data will be stored will also be added. These will be defined both visually and verbally. Business analysts, designers and developers will all work together for these initial designs. Often you the customer is involved in these discussions before moving to low-level design.
This design phase is all about getting into the details. Breaking down each module that has been included. Their functionality, the data flow, etc. All dependency issues and solutions will be involved, that is to say, the analysts and developers will dive down into the micro details. Once again the customer’s feedback during this phase is a critical component to completion of the low-level designs.
You don’t want to worry about the technical terms. Teams are cooperative with their clients and help them understand what’s going on. What’s essential is that you give your feedback and suggestion and finally, when you’re satisfied development will begin.
Document to Expect: Software Design Specification (SDS), and prototypes (wireframes and other graphical representations of your software application)
Software Development using SDLC
Main Goal: Code Your Project
Up to this phase we’ve been defining how we will develop the project, the strategies we will follow. In this phase we start coding. Developers begin writing code for each module of the software. A project manager manages the team of developers.
Project managers will primarily focus on daily tasks and resource management. They ensure the appropriate tasks are created to meet the SDS, meanwhile, estimate how long each task will take in order to meet timeline requirements. Additionally, they ensure these tasks are assigned to the correct developer. It is their responsibility to check if the task is completed within the schedule. To manage these activities, Project managers nowadays are using software project management and communication software. Popular options include Jira, Assana, Trello, or in our case a custom developed solution we call Cuewel.
You don’t need to get into the details of managing the project however, you should have access to your project in the project management software. You should be able to generate reports and various other task information related to your task. These could include Average age report, Burn-down reports, Time tracking reports, Version workload reports, etc. This will give you real-time visibility into the development of your software.
This phase is the longest of the SDLC life cycle. You need for the team to finish development to move on to the next phase.
Document to Expect: No document in this phase, you can choose to have access to the project management software, or the have the project manager send incremental reports as a file.
Main Goal: Did we get it right?
Testing and Quality Assurance is often performed by the development team. Once development is complete you will have to review and test the finished product before deployment to a production environment (user acceptance testing or UAT).
Quality Assurance teams develop test cases for each feature. A test case document will be made so that test cases are being recorded continuously. A test plan is also developed for outlining the method of testing.
Testers test software in real environments with the maximum load to determines the feature’s usability and durability. Identification of bugs and errors is being done at this point. Once a feature is tested, they let the developer know if the feature needs improvement. Testing is performed all over again, finally, iterations continue until your project is bug-free and there are no faults. Constant rigorous testing ensures each feature is tested multiple times. Now the feature will be ready for your review again.
Tests cases for software are often run in large volumes and can be manual or automated. QA and testing teams use popular test case management tools like Testrail, etc. Test cases that are covered can be tracked through them.
Documents to Expect: Test Document and Test Plan
Final Phase of SDLC: Deployment
Main Goal: Let’s Use the Final Product!
We’ll be honest; it’s a long hard struggle to get your project just right, however, look at the bright side; by the time you will reach this phase, you will have your project compiled and completed.
You will be able to look forward to the use of your project for your business needs or as a SAAS solution. It’s often very gratifying to introduce your project to the user base.
You can additionally have a plan in place for managing your software after it has been deployed. Most software development companies offer plans for the management of software based on 6 months or a yearly basis. The team will keep your software secure, up to date and bug and error-free, so in conclusion, you should hire the same company for management, because hiring a new company is never easy.
SDLC enables effective management of your software project, additionally, documentation in the SDLC phases enables you to understand your project better, finally, SDLC also enables you to keep a record of what you have had developed and how. We hope that our guide was able to help you and if you need any further assistance feel free to leave a comment!