Understanding SDLC Methodologies

Understanding SDLC Methodologies: Which One is Right for You?

There are entire companies dedicated to the training on different SDLC methodologies. It isn’t surprising that implementing software development methodologies is confusing to both developers and project managers.

This article covers some of the most common methodologies and shares their pros and cons.

With a deeper understanding of SDLC methodologies, you will be able to pick the one that works best for your project.

What Are SDLC Methodologies?

The software development life cycle is a series of phases that describe how software goes from idea to release.

The seven phases in the SDLC are:

  1. Planning
  2. Feasibility analysis
  3. Product design
  4. Coding
  5. Implementation and integration
  6. Software testing
  7. Installation and maintenance

The different methodologies give developers options on how much emphasis they place on each phase of the SDLC. The frameworks also dictate how those phases interact with one another.

For example, the Agile methodology places emphasis on getting working software made sooner. Waterfall focuses more on documenting decisions made between phases.

Planning takes longer on Waterfall than on Agile, but the goal of both is to please all project stakeholders and produce good software.

The 6 Most Common SDLC Methodologies In 2020

Now that you have an overview of SDLC methodologies, we’re going to look at some of them in more detail.

When reading about these methodologies, consider whether they would be a good fit for your team as well as the product you’re building.

There isn’t one methodology that is better than the rest. They all have strengths that will benefit different teams at different times.

Your choice of methodology will impact how your development team works and your hiring decisions.


The Agile model focuses on getting something workable in front of users as soon as possible and then working on improvements. In Agile, the focus is on the interactions between the users and developers, and developers work closely together to reduce feedback loops.

Your team might enjoy the Agile model if tight feedback loops are important to them.

Agile Pros

End-users get to see quick improvements and feels ownership over the software because developers ask for their feedback in every iteration.

The Agile movement has gained lots of momentum in recent years. Using Agile methodology is often a selling point when hiring staff.

Agile Cons

The Agile model produces what the client wants quickly, but if the client doesn’t know what they need, developers waste time.


The Waterfall methodology is the most established SDLC approach. The goal is to finish each stage before moving on to the next one. Each phase relies on the information gathered from earlier stages and there is no going back.

Your developers might benefit from the Waterfall model if external factors require that work happens in a staged way with signoffs happening throughout.

Waterfall Pros

The Waterfall methodology is easy to understand and explain to development teams and stakeholders, making onboarding easier compared to other approaches. Managing a team is easier, too, because each stage has a fixed start and end date.

Waterfall Cons

In the Waterfall approach, early delays have cascading effects on the rest of the project. Also, even if you learn something new at a particular stage, you can’t update previous stages to suit. This is due to the fixed nature of this development framework. As a result, the product often incorporates less user feedback.

Many people see Waterfall methodology as a relic. The bad publicity it receives makes it hard to hire people into projects that work this way.


Lean has its founding in lean manufacturing principles. The Lean methodology prioritizes moving fast and cutting waste when possible. To accomplish this, the development team focuses on one task at a time and achieves one milestone before working on the next.

Your development team could benefit from the Lean model if developer efficiency is a core team goal.

Lean Pros

Taking a Lean approach allows teams to incorporate lessons learned from past inefficiencies. This drive to be efficient leads to well-functioning teams in the long run.

Once the team is working efficiently, it produces a lot of value for stakeholders in a short time.

Lean Cons

Onboarding new people into a Lean process can be a cultural shock. Therefore, team managers need to plan onboarding more carefully than they would if they were working with other methodologies.

Also, the team can only work on one feature at a time, which in the short term can cause conflicts with stakeholders.


With the Iterative methodology, the development team doesn’t wait until it understands all of the users’ needs before starting to work. Work towards the first specified need begins immediately, and new requirements lead to new iterations.

Your project might benefit from the Iterative model if the end goal is only very loosely defined.

Iterative Pros

Iterative development is one of the fastest ways to get something in front of a user base and show progress quickly. The team feels empowered to make changes and improve things as they go.

Iterative Cons

It’s hard to plan how long something will take. You only know the number of iterations you’ll need to complete the project once it’s closer to being done.


The Spiral methodology applies rigor to the Iterative approach. Similar to the Iterative methodology, work happens in a cycle. Unlike Iterative, there is a specified method to follow.

In this methodology, developer teams:

  1. Consider what stakeholders need
  2. Identify and test approaches for satisfying the requirements
  3. Find and mitigate risks that stem from the selected approaches
  4. Get approval from stakeholders and commitment to pursue the next cycle

Use the Spiral model when your project goals are unknown but you need to consider the risks before the development team starts working.

Spiral Pros

The Spiral methodology allows for early feedback since the first iteration is quick to produce.

Unlike other methodologies which overlook feasibility analysis, Spiral looks for risks at each development iteration.

Spiral Cons

Working this way has the same drawbacks as working with Iterative development. It’s hard to see an end to the work. You can mitigate this by getting stakeholder approval, but this can lead to bottlenecks.


In the DevOps model, developers and operations teams work together, often as a combined team.

With the teams working together, updates to the software can happen more often than with other methodologies.

Your team might benefit from a DevOps model if a robust system from the outset of the project is what it needs.

DevOps Pros

Robust testing and stability from the outset are the main advantages of working with DevOps.

Within the DevOps methodology, deployed software is production-ready, secure and scalable.

DevOps Cons

Merging two teams into one requires a large-scale mindset and culture change in a company. Considering operations early on in the project often delays the first iteration.

Which SDLC Methodology Is Right For Me?

The methodology you pick for a particular project will depend on the constraints of the projects and the people involved.

The methodologies we’ve talked about today are frameworks for doing excellent work. They are only as good as their implementation. If an implementation isn’t working for you, change it.

The best teams adopt the spirit of a methodology and implement it in a way that works for them.