Is There Room for Improvement in Any of the SDLC Phases?

The software development life cycle, or SDLC, loosely describes the stages that software must go through to become a usable product. There isn’t one, but several SDLC models. Some teams subscribe heavily to agile methodologies. Others to the waterfall model. Regardless of the method, the work happens in phases.

Different software development methodologies will prioritize different phases of the SDLC over others or have additional steps. The five SDLC phases that we will be covering in this post are:

  • Requirements analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Evolution

Each one requires input from developers, project managers, testers, and stakeholders.

Because the best way to improve any process is to ask questions, we’ll suggest questions to ask about each SDLC phase below.

Requirements Analysis Phase

The requirements analysis phase is where software engineers ensure that software ultimately helps the end user of the system.

Gathering requirements involves talking to stakeholders and looking at as much relevant data as possible. Being efficient and effective during this phase will help the project get off to a great start.

Questions to ask while performing requirements analysis include:

  • Am I getting requirements from our users?
  • Are we reacting too quickly to one person’s opinion?
  • Can we back up demands with data?
  • How do we communicate the needs back to the end user?
  • Are the requirements being led by the roadmap?

Design Phase

In the design phase, developers often prototype their work, mapping out a solution without actually implementing it. 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 raise concerns about issues such as security and scale.

Questions to ask during the design phase:

  • Are we continually designing the same thing over and over?
  • For how long do the initial designs hold?
  • Is the output from this phase looked at again in the future?

Implementation Phase

When programmers reach the implementation phase, they take their prototypes or designs and turn them into fully functional features. Implementation is where simple SDLC methodologies stop.

It is during the implementation phase that other teams, such as Operations, might get involved. It can be costly to make changes after this phase, which is why it is imperative that you ask questions to help ensure you are working effectively.

Questions to ask during the implementation phase:

  • How much technical debt are we introducing?
  • How much did the implementation deviate from the original design?
  • How much back and forth was there between the people designing the solution and the people implementing it?
  • Does implementing this feature harm other features?
  • Is code getting reviewed?

Testing Phase

The testing phase can cover a few different areas. Generally, testing is concerned with making sure that the implementation meets the initial requirements analysis, and that no regressions have occurred in other parts of the application as a result of these new changes.

Testing usually requires working with a testing team and users of your system. With so many teams involved, it pays to make sure you’re working well in the testing phase.

Questions to ask during the testing phase:

  • How much of the testing is automated?
  • Are we continually making the same implementation mistakes?
  • How long does it take to test the project end-to-end?
  • What bugs generally slip through the testing process?

Evolution Phase

The evolution phase gets called many different things, including maintenance. This phase is all about fine-tuning and reporting on the work that has been done. These reports turn into more requirements analysis in the future.

Depending on the SDLC methodology your team uses, there might be a well-defined case for doing another iteration.

Whether this is the true end of your project, or a phase before you start again, you should approach the work with the same professionalism as you have the other stages.

Questions to ask during the evolution phase:

  • How much time do we give to maintenance?
  • Are we able to accurately report on changes made by a feature?
  • How much of what came before is taken into account when looking at new features?

You Cannot Answer These Questions Yourself

These questions are not designed for moments of introspection; they should be starting points for a conversation with the people in each relevant team. For example, when thinking about automated testing, you need to speak to both developers and testers to see what they think needs to change.

Additionally, the answers to these questions are not set in stone. You will find that as you make changes to one part of your process, it will impact other parts. Be sure to revisit these questions often.

There Is Always Room For Improvement

Whichever programming methodology your team has adopted, and whatever you call the phases of your life cycle, there is always room for improvement.

Keep asking the right questions and making small improvements to your process. With time, your team will become more efficient and provide more value.

What development methodology does your team use? Let us know in the comments below.

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