If you are already familiar with the software development life cycle, you will have a good idea of what the system development life cycle entails. The system and software development process are very similar to one another.
To complete a new system development project, you need a conceptual model that ensures all policies and goals are met. This is where the system development life cycle comes into play.
This post will explain the broad steps of the systems development life cycle and a few of the most popular SDLC models development teams use to create a new system.
The Steps of the Systems Development Life Cycle
To truly understand system development, you must understand the critical phases of the systems development life cycle.
The system development life cycle is a project management model that clearly defines the phases of bringing a new system development project from beginning to end. The critical steps of the system development life cycle include the following:
- Support and maintenance
Planning is the first step of the system development process that project managers must complete. Planning involves defining the target problem, the scope and objectives of the new system, project constraints, and security considerations.
After this phase, a feasibility report of the entire system development project should be prepared. While the project is still ahead of the analysis phase, it is crucial to understand whether or not the project should continue.
The longer your business pursues an infeasible project, the more money and resources will be wasted. If, at the end of the planning phase, your organization realizes the feasibility is dubious, don’t be afraid to walk away and rethink your system development project.
Once the system development project has been deemed feasible, the next step is to analyze the available information and define the system’s requirements. The end product of the analysis phase will be a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document.
An SRS document specifies the project’s software, hardware, network, and functional requirements. All alternatives and options will be thoroughly analyzed during this phase to determine which requirements will impact system performance most.
The value of thorough analysis and an SRS document is that it helps keep your system development project aligned and ensures that resources are appropriately allocated.
Before your developers can move onto the development stage of the process, you must first address system design. The design phase transforms the information in the SRS document into a logical structure.
At this point in the process, all aspects of the project will be designed, including system interfaces, user interfaces, databases, and network configurations. Designers must ensure that all requirements detailed in the SRS document are met.
After the design stage, the team should create a design specification document that will be used in the latter phases of the process to guide the team through development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.
During the development phase, the project moves into the production environment, where the specifications detailed in the design document are brought to life in code. If the prior steps of the process have been well-documented, the development phase should be straightforward.
While this phase of the process can be lengthy, it can be manageable and simple if the appropriate actions are taken before development begins. Projects not tightly defined or well-designed tend to run off the tracks.
The value of having thorough design and SRS documents is that it simplifies the development stage. The less time spent developing the right solution, the sooner your business can deploy it.
In addition, project issues in the development phase can lead the project to run over budget.
Once the project has been developed, it moves into the testing phase. The testing phase is critical to ensure that the system is free of bugs and functioning as expected.
Buggy code and poorly developed systems not only put your organization at risk from cyber attacks, but they also can lead to poor user experiences that damage the image or reputation of your business.
Testing any product is vital. Your team should have defined quality standards in the SRS document. If so, the testing portion of the process is just a matter of ensuring that the system meets the quality standards laid out in the SRS document.
Getting a new system deployed is exciting, but don’t rush into deployment without thoroughly testing the system.
Once testing has been completed, the system is ready for deployment or implementation. Again, your development team should have detailed deployment standards and procedures in the SRS document.
If this was the case, deployment and implementation should go smoothly. If your team didn’t thoroughly detail integration standards and deployment procedures, going live with the system could cause issues for your organization.
Support and Maintenance
Ongoing support and maintenance represent the most prolonged system development life cycle phase. As time passes, your system will need regular support and maintenance to keep running and performing as expected.
If your system is successfully developed, it will be active for many years, so support and maintenance will have to be a focus for your team for years. Many organizations overlook the importance of this phase and fail to properly prepare the necessary resources for it.
Popular SDLC Models
Which SDLC methodology is suitable for your organization? There are several models to choose from. The most popular options include:
- Rapid application development
- Big bang
The Waterfall model is a linear and sequential approach to system development. It consists of distinct phases that must be completed in a specific order.
The Waterfall model suits projects with well-defined and stable requirements, where changes are costly or not allowed, such as in critical systems like medical devices or aerospace.
However, it may not be ideal for projects with evolving requirements or fast-changing markets.
Agile is an iterative process and incremental approach to system development that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and customer feedback. Agile methodologies include Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP), among others.
Agile is suitable for projects where requirements are expected to change or the project scope is not well-defined initially. It’s often used in industries like software development, where rapid innovation and flexibility are essential.
Rapid Application Development
Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a method that focuses on speedy development and prototyping.
It involves the following fundamental principles: rapid prototyping, reusable components, setting fixed timeframes for each development phase, and continuously refining and improving the software.
RAD is suitable for projects where speed to market is crucial, and there is a need for frequent user feedback and continuous refinement. It’s often used in situations where time and budget constraints are stringent.
The Big Bang model is a less structured and more informal approach to system development. It doesn’t follow a predefined process like Waterfall or Agile. Instead, it’s characterized by rapid development with minimal planning or documentation. Developers work on various parts of the project simultaneously, and there is no clear phase-by-phase progression.
The Big Bang approach can be suitable for small projects, proof-of-concept work, or situations where requirements are vague and subject to frequent change. However, it’s generally considered less suitable for large, complex projects with significant risks.
The system development life cycle is a straightforward approach to system development. By following clear steps and documenting everything thoroughly, your organization can drastically reduce the complexity and stress of system development.