Mastering the 7 Stages of the System Development Life Cycle

Developers often think that only one of the seven stages of the system development life cycle applies to them. But, to work at their best, everyone in a software development team should have a good working knowledge of all stages of the SDLC.

Below, we discuss each stage and where it fits into the bigger picture. We also provide examples of expected output, describe team members needed, and share resources for individual learning.

1. Planning Stage

In any software development project, planning comes first. Before getting started, it is important to make sure the project has enough people and financial backing. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t have people or money, moving forward will be a poor business decision.

The planning phase involves the entire project team. The outputs from the planning stage include project plans, cost estimations, and procurement requirements. When you are finished, your plan should be something the entire team can understand.

Here are resources for getting better at planning:

Book: Software Estimation Without Guessing

Course: Project Planning & Management

2. Feasibility or Requirements Analysis Stage

In feasibility analysis, your team ensures that the project requirements help the end-user of the system.

Gathering requirements means talking to stakeholders and looking at as much relevant data as possible. At all times, you’ll want to consider the users and how workable the feature is.

The outputs from the requirements analysis stage will vary depending on the methodology you are using. Regardless of whether your team is working with a formal requirements document or a list of tickets, everyone has to understand each need.

At this stage, architects, developers, and product managers work together with relevant stakeholders.

Resources for getting better at feasibility or requirements analysis include:

3. Design and Prototyping Stage

During the design phase, developers and designers prototype a feature or map out a solution. Prototyping is useful for getting early feedback and informing technical decisions.

Without prototypes, there’s a risk that the team will waste time on production-ready solutions that don’t meet user needs.

For some software development methodologies, the design phase needs specific output before a stakeholder can sign it off and more work can happen.

When done well, the design and prototyping phase can produce tangible outputs that help drive decisions going forward. In web development teams, a prototype often serves to show that the functionality works, although it will still need polishing.

The following are resources for getting better at design and prototyping:

4. Software Development Stage

Software development turns your project’s requirements and prototypes into working code. it’s the earliest phase in which you start to see something that resembles the final product.

By the end of this stage, you will have a working feature to share with customers.

Developers are the most involved during this phase. They will often need to confirm things with the product owner and the testers.

Consider these resources for getting better at software development:

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5. Software Testing Stage

During the software testing phase, testers put the code through its paces.

Testers check for:

  • Code quality
  • That code meets the stated requirements
  • That code is performant
  • Evidence of secure development principals

Some teams automate all their testing. Other teams test manually, but most do a combination of the two.

The output of software testing is a better solution that meets edge cases and user needs. Developers can’t code for every eventuality; the fresh perspective that testing brings can help.

Testers are the main people involved at this stage. They will often seek clarification from developers or product owners.

Resources for getting better at software testing include:

6. Implementation and Integration

Often called ‘deployment’, the implementation phase takes code and puts it somewhere people can use.

In simple projects, this will be as simple as deploying the code onto a web server. In large projects, this could involve integration with many different systems.

The output from this stage is usable software. For some projects, this phase also encompasses the creation of documentation and marketing material.

At this stage, the operations team focuses on deploying the software. The product owners work with content writers to produce documentation such as user manuals.

Here are resources for getting better at implementation and integration:

7. Operations and Maintenance

In the operations and maintenance phase, developers watch software for bugs or defects. If they find one, they create a bug report. During maintenance, it is important to consider opportunities for when the development cycle starts over again.

A sign that this phase is working well when developers are able to quickly identify and resolve problems.

During this stage, support specialists will report issues, product owners will help prioritize them, and developers will work with testers to make improvements.

Here are some resources for getting better at operations and maintenance:

Learn More About the 7 Stages of the System Development Life Cycle

Gaining mastery of each level of the system development life cycle requires lots of dedicated learning and experience.

With that in mind, look at the resources we’ve shared in the order that most benefits you right now.

Through each phase, there needs to be excellent communication between people. Improving your communication skills will help your performance in all stages.

We are always on the lookout for great resources to improve how we reason about the seven stages of the system development life cycle. Let us know your favorites at @TextExpander and on Facebook.

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