Architecture & DesignWhat is the Software Development Lifecycle?

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Software development is a complicated process involving many elements and steps, ranging from planning and design to coding, testing, refactoring, deployment, and, often, updating and patching. The software development lifecycle (SDLC) can be thought of as a structured programming methodology that can be used to manage and control the software development process.

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Typically, the software development lifecycle defines the stages, flow, steps, and activities used to develop software. Further, the SDLC is a framework programmers can follow to ensure that the software they create is high quality, meets the requirements of the end-user, and is delivered on time and within budget. In this programming tutorial, we will discuss the software development lifecycle in great detail, talk about some of the tools used during the development process, and give a brief highlight of the major component of each phase.

Overview of the SDLC

As stated above, the SDLC is a continuous process used to create software and apps, where each phase may (or may not) involve iterations and revisions depending on feedback from stakeholders, project managers, users, testers, and changes in the project requirements. Below is an outline of the typical steps involved in developing a software development framework and processes/workflows that occur during the software development lifecycle:

Software Planning Phase:

  • Identify project scope and project objectives
  • Define project requirements
  • Create a project plan
  • Risk analysis, where we Identify potential risks, roadblocks, and constraints
  • Set project budget and timeline based on stakeholder feedback

Requirements Gathering Phase:

  • Identify stakeholders, including project managers, IT support, developers, remote programmers, and anyone who holds a “stake” in the success of the project
  • Conduct interviews and surveys with stakeholders to determine needs and resources
  • Document all requirements
  • Confirm requirements with stakeholders

Design Phase:

  • Choose architecture and systems that will be used, alongside languages, technologies, servers, and so forth
  • Developer both a high-level and a detailed design document
  • Consider creating a prototype if the project requires one
  • Review, get feedback, and finalize the design with stakeholders

Implementation Phase:

  • Write initial code
  • Perform unit testing on code
  • Integrate code with other components and elements
  • Perform integration testing
  • Perform system testing

Testing Phase:

  • Create test cases and scenarios
  • Perform functional tests
  • Perform performance tests
  • Perform security tests
  • Perform user acceptance tests

Deployment Phase:

  • Deploy software to production
  • Train users
  • Perform post-deployment tests
  • Monitoring and maintenance

Maintenance Phase:

  • Perform system monitoring and maintenance
  • Fix any errors, bugs, and issues
  • Patch and update the system as needed, including an future upgrades
  • Conduct reviews and software audits on a scheduled basis

We detail some of these steps in the SDLC below in greater detail.

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SDLC: Planning Phase

The Planning Phase is the first phase, step, or stage of the software development lifecycle. Planning involves defining the scope of the project, defining project goals, and figuring out what resources are needed to finish the project. During the planning stage, a project manager will work with stakeholders and developers to create a detailed project plan that outlines the software project’s timeline, budget, required resources, and any deliverables.

One crucial tool used during the planning phase is known as the project charter. A project charter is essentially a document that outlines a project’s objectives, scope, and stakeholders. Project charters provide a high-level overview of a software project and will be used as a reference throughout the development lifecycle.

For example, let’s say a video game company wants to develop a game. During the planning phase, the software development team’s project manager consults with stakeholders to determine and define the scope of the project, identify the goals, and decide which resources will be required to finish the game. The project manager then takes this information and uses it to create a project charter that outlines the video game project’s objectives, scope, and any stakeholders that will be actively involved in its creation.

Gathering Requirements

Once the planning phase is complete, next up is the requirements gathering phase. Here, project managers will collect and analyze data relating to the proposed software’s features and functionality. Further, the project team works with the stakeholders to identify the requirements of the software and document them for future reference.

Requirement documents are used during the requirements gathering phase. They can be thought of as a detailed description of a piece of software’s features and functions. This document outlines what the software should do, how users will interact with it, and the way the software will behave.

For instance, if we are creating a video game that is a role playing game (RPG), we could say that one of the features of the game is that the player can choose from a group of character types. We need to document what those types will be. Further, each one of those character types will have abilities or features, which further need to be documented. Will the game be single-player or multiplayer? Will it have online play and require cloud functionality? All of this will be noted in the requirement document.

Design Phase

The next phase of the software development lifecycle is the design phase. This stage of the SDLC is where the development team creates a detailed design for the software and its features. The project team works with the stakeholders to create a design document that outlines the proposed software’s architecture, languages, technologies, data models, user interface, and user experience expectations.

For our video game example, the project team would create a design document that outlines the game’s architecture, including its database schema, APIs, and server infrastructure. It would also include wireframes, flowcharts, and mockups of the game’s user interface and supplemental material.


The implementation phase is where the actual writing of code and the software build take place. The software developers and programmers use the design document to write code that implements the software’s functionality and core features, using a code repository or version control system, which lets developers collaborate on code and keep track of changes to the codebase over time. This is important in case mistakes are made, so that code can be reverted if need be.


The fifth stage of SDLC is known as the testing phase. The testing phase is where we verify that the software meets the project requirements and is free of errors, issues, and bugs. During testing, the team tests the software to make certain that it behaves as anticipated and that it is free of errors.

The team uses a test plan, which is a document that outlines the testing strategy that will be used for the software in question. This document describes the types of tests that will be performed, any tools needed to perform the tests, and the anticipated results.


Deployment is where the development team deploys the software to the production environment and makes it available to users. This work will be performed based off of the deployment document, which outlines any steps needed to deploy the software to the production environment, or prod. This document includes important information such as which servers the software will be deployed to, database configurations, and any third-party integrations.


The final stage of the SDLC process is the maintenance phase. The maintenance phase is used to maintain and update the software over a given amount of time – typically the life of product. During this phase, the team monitors the software for defects, bugs, or errors not caught during testing, and makes any updates to address issues that pop-up.

Typically, bug tracking software and tools are used to track and manage issues in the software. This developer tool helps ensure issues are tracked and addressed in a timely manner.

nTask Bug Tracking
Example of nTask Bug Tracking Software

Final Thoughts on the Software Development Lifecycle

In this programming tutorial, we discussed the software development lifecycle – also known as the SDLC. We learned that the SDLC is a structured development methodology used to manage the software development process.

We also learned the seven stages of the SDLC, which includes: planning, requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance. Every stage of the SDLC is important and serves a specific purpose; chiefly, to ensure the finished software product is of high quality, meets customer requirements and expectations, is free of errors, and is delivered on time and within budget. Following the SDLC framework, programmers and project managers of software development teams can release quality products to the end-user efficiently.

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