6 SDLC Methodologies (And How to Choose the Right One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing software is a complex process with several distinct stages and many possible approaches. Software developers try to choose a method that can help them produce clean, error-free code that works as intended. Learning about software development life cycle (SDLC) methodologies can help you understand the different ways to develop software and how to choose the appropriate method for your project. In this article, we define SDLC methodologies, explain the stages of software development, list different methodologies, and explain how to choose a method.

What are SDLC methodologies?

SDLC methodologies are the processes that software developers follow as they create new programs. Every SDLC method aims to help developers produce functional, error-free code that fulfills its intended function. These processes can guide developers through the entire life cycle of a piece of software, from planning to implementing and updating. Developers use different methodologies according to their preferences and project requirements. Methodologies might prioritize different stages of the development process to help guide developer decision-making.

Related: Understanding Project Management Methodology (With Examples)

6 SDLC methodologies

There are several methodologies that developers use to guide them through the process of creating new software. Here are some popular development methodologies:

1. Waterfall method

The waterfall method is a traditional approach to software development in which developers follow each step of the process in succession. This method emphasizes careful planning before any design and development begins. This emphasis on planning helps development teams identify potential issues and accurately estimate the time to complete the development cycle. During the design phase, developers using the waterfall method strive to quickly correct any issues before proceeding to the following coding stage.

2. Agile method

The Agile method emphasizes a rapid development process and flexibility in how the team meets design requirements and moves between steps. Agile developers follow the Scrum project management process, dividing the development team into smaller groups and working on completing tasks in short stages. During the development phase, Agile developers use the fast failure approach to identify aspects of incorrect code and make adjustments. The Agile method involves less planning and documentation than other approaches, which can help save money and make the development process quicker.

Related: What Is an Agile Project Manager? (With Crucial Skills)

3. Iterative method

Developers who use the iterative method focus on the development stage and implement requirements without a significant amount of planning and analysis. This method helps the development team learn about the nature of the program requirements as they create the code and can help them discover novel solutions to issues that may arise in the development stage. As the team implements requirements, members constantly test, evaluate, and update to produce new software iterations, each version building upon the last. This approach to development allows the team to adapt to changing project requirements quickly.

4. Lean method

The lean method seeks to eliminate waste and increase efficiency in the development process. Developers who use the lean method aim to deliver the finished product as quickly as possible by refining their understanding of the requirements, making key decisions as late in the process as possible, keeping the integrity of the original design concept, and empowering the team to make decisions. The lean method often involves focusing on one aspect of the design process at a time and eliminating inefficiencies whenever possible.

5. Spiral method

The spiral method is a cyclical approach to development that emphasizes constantly making gradual improvements to a program and repeating the development stages. After the team implements a program, they gather feedback and observe results, and then move back to the planning stage to generate improvements. This method can work well for large projects that require constant updates.

6. V-model method

The V-model method emphasizes testing at each stage of the development process. During the planning stage, the development team runs tests to determine system requirements. Then, at the development stage, they rigorously test each feature and eliminate any defects. The developers can catch bugs earlier and avoid making costly mistakes by testing at each stage. This method works well for complex or novel programs that require significant testing to run efficiently.

Software development life cycle stages

Every software development life cycle involves several distinct stages. These stages are:

1. Planning

Most software projects begin with a planning stage where developers think about the general nature of the program they plan to create. Developers consider things like the program's purpose, data inputs and outputs, potential users of the software, and the criteria determining the program's functionality. At this stage, the developers consider the scale of the project, the software's intended use, and the requirements necessary to make the software function.

2. Analysis

During the analysis stage, the developers take a deeper look at the requirements and consider if they're realistically achievable. Then, they think about designing the software to meet these requirements and produce a requirements specification document that outlines the features of the program they plan to develop. If the developers can't see a way to add specific features to the program, they might remove them from the requirements. At the end of the analysis stage, they aim to have a clear idea of the program they intend to build.

3. Design

During the design stage, the developers map out the program architecture. They determine software and hardware requirements for the program and consider how it might function as a system. At this stage, the developers also create a testing strategy for evaluating aspects of the code as development work progresses.

4. Development and testing

The development stage is when the actual coding begins. The developers break up work on the program into small, actionable units to progress towards their final goal in several stages. Development methodologies suggest that they test each aspect of the software during this period to discover any potential errors. As work progresses, requirements might change according to how the code functions. Development and testing is often the longest stage in the software development life cycle.

Related: Differences Between Software Engineer vs. Software Developer

5. Implementation

During the implementation phase, the developers deliver and deploy the software. They often perform beta tests on the new program to determine that it functions as intended. Clients might use the beta version of the software and provide feedback for the developers, allowing them to make changes before releasing the final product.

6. Maintenance

After the software deploys, the developers monitor its performance and release updates as necessary. If users encounter any anomalies, the developers can implement updates and change how the software functions. Developers might maintain and update popular programs for years after the initial release.

How to choose a development methodology

It's important that developers choose a methodology that suits their project. Here are some steps to follow for choosing a methodology:

1. Consider project goals

Before you determine a development methodology, take time to consider the project's goals. You might receive feedback from a client on their requirements for your software, or have an idea of the type of program you wish to design. Think about the end user and how they utilize the program. Consider limitations like the project's budget and timeframe.

2. Assemble the right team

The makeup of the development team can be crucial to the success of a project, and the development methodology you choose depends on the team you assemble. Assemble a team that can help you meet the project goals. Look at team members' past work and ask them how they can help you on the current project. Recruit team members with a range of specializations to ensure the team can meet any unexpected challenges.

3. Learn the methods

Once you have a clear idea of your project goals, take time to learn about the different development methodologies to decide which one suits your project. For example, some development methods work better for large, complex undertakings, while others favour rapid work or error-free code. There are many books covering the detailed aspects of each methodology, so find one that works well for your project.

4. Consider your team

When work on the project is underway, ask your team for feedback on the development process and consider members' input. Some teams might appreciate how the Agile development method helps break up tasks into achievable parts and emphasizes short, intense work sprints, while others might favour a more systematic approach. If your team struggles to work within the development methodology, consider changing course and using a different approach to finish the project.

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