The Seven Phases of the System Development Life Cycle

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 6, 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.

The system development life cycle (SDLC) is a seven-phase procedure that assists systems engineers and developers in planning, designing, developing, testing, and launching information systems. Effective planning and execution of this process may aid in developing high-quality information systems that are both time and cost effective. Learning what the SDLC is can help you improve your application development process.

In this article, we define SDLC, explain how it works, list the seven development phases, and provide tips for implementing it successfully.

What is the system development life cycle?

The system development life cycle is a series of distinct work stages that assist developers and engineers in delivering high-quality systems. Some people refer to it as the software development life cycle or application development life cycle. The SDLC concept applies to a wide variety of software and hardware configurations, including those entirely composed of software, hardware, or a combination of the two.

Related: What Is Project Coordination and Why Is It Important?

How does the system development life cycle work?

The software development life cycle is similar to an assembly line because it's necessary to complete each step before proceeding to the next one. This enables users to create high-quality systems that satisfy client expectations, adhere to schedules, and meet all customer needs.

Due to the complexity of computer systems and the fact that they often connect systems from various software providers, software development life cycles enable developers and engineers to concentrate on a single phase and streamline the development process. They may use any SDLC approach or model, such as Waterfall, Agile, Spiral, or Incremental, to assist them in developing systems across the life cycle stages.

7 phases of system development

While some guidelines combine or add stages, there are typically seven phases in the system development process, including::

1. Planning

System engineers and developers use planning to determine if a new system can assist a company in achieving its strategic goals. A preliminary plan, also known as a feasibility study, enables development teams to estimate the resources necessary to establish new infrastructure or update current services. This stage of the life cycle assists teams in identifying potential issues and working toward a resolution. Businesses may complete the planning stage in the following manner:

  • Initial analysis: During your first investigation, attempt to identify the client's goals and understand the situation thoroughly. For instance, if a customer requested you to develop a chat function for their website, you might determine all the features they need and how the site currently operates.

  • Brainstorming: Consider leveraging the organization's goals, interviews with employees, customers, suppliers, consultants, and competition research to assist you in developing your ideas during the second part of the planning step. In the previous case of the chat function, you may examine the chat capabilities of various websites to see which one best suits the client's requirements.

  • Cost-benefit analysis: A cost-benefit analysis may assist you in analyzing and describing the advantages and costs of your suggested solutions. You may opt to keep the current system, modify it, or construct a new one based on the findings of your preliminary study.

    Related: The 5 Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle

2. Analysis

During the analysis phase, development teams focus on determining the cause of the problem or the rationale for the intended change. They can use the concepts developed during the planning phase to define the functional requirements for their proposed project or solution, determining the most efficient approach to accomplish their objectives. During phase two, they may perform a system analysis and analyze end-user requirements to ensure that the proposed system satisfies expectations.

The analysis phase is critical for allocating team members to specific project components, determining the business' requirements, and creating project schedules. Several tools can help teams in the second phase, including:

  • Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE): CASE is a set of timesaving tools developers use when creating project management frameworks. The tools can help them stay organized and improve their productivity.

  • Defined requirements: You likely started formalizing the client requirement process in the planning phase, but take the time to organize and fully understand the project goals and the desired functionality of the intended application.

  • Structured analysis: Evaluate your proposed solution or system by performing a formal analysis using end-user information to help you address inconsistencies or incompleteness in your plan. You might explore what the end product may look like to make sure it meets the clients' specifications.

3. Systems design

The third phase of the system development life cycle includes a comprehensive description of the intended features and processes. This may contain layouts for screens, business rules, and process diagrams. End users may express their requirements for the proposed system by clearly explaining the processes in the planned algorithm or system. Consider developing a master document outlining the strategy and requirements.

For instance, a development team may use a flowchart to describe their method and explain critical project features, such as modules, architecture, component interfaces, and data to a customer or company. The client or organization might then clarify or alter several components of the project.

4. Development

After extensive planning, analysis, and evaluation, systems engineers and developers begin implementing the project. Because all stakeholders collaborated to define the stages, dates, and expectations, production can proceed with confidence. When collaborating with external development teams, it's critical to ensure that the developers and programmers understand the project requirements and system architecture completely. You may distribute the master document you developed to help ensure everyone learns the development plan.

For example, your development team may begin by writing or installing a widget based on the choices taken during the previous stages.

5. Systems testing and integration

The next step examines the installed programs and processes. Typically, a quality assurance specialist completes this stage by confirming that the proposed design satisfies pre-defined standards. You may want to test the new system many times to identify faults, check for flaws, and verify compatibility. Repeat this process until you resolve all issues and ensure the product meets the end user's criteria. Completing the verification and validation stages contributes to the success of the program.

For instance, you may test the chat feature to ensure that the answers, timeliness, and visual presentation fulfil client needs and integrate smoothly with the existing site's functionality.

6. Implementation

Implementation is the point at which the software or program becomes available to the end user. Depending on the project requirements, you may also utilize this time to perform a straight cutover, transferring data and components from the old system to the new one. Consider performing your cutover when no one is using the system and warning users they might experience a loss of functionality while you complete the process. When you've finished, you can able to use the new program or service.

7. Operation and maintenance

When the new program or system is operational, it's critical to monitor for flaws and malfunctions and implement the changes end users request. You can consider evaluating the software development life cycle's efficacy during this phase. Determine which phases operated smoothly and which aspects of the process you can improve next time.

Tips for managing the software development life cycle

Here are some additional tips you can use to maximize the effectiveness of the software development life cycle:

Ask for feedback

After your project, request feedback from customers, end users, developers, or anyone engaged in the system development process. Then, utilize the comments to strengthen what went well and focus on what you can improve. Some important questions to consider include:

  • Did you effectively involve our development teams in the process to make sure everyone understood the project requirements and feasibility concerns?

  • Did you deliver a product that met our clients' specifications?

  • Did you meet timeline requirements? If not, what can you do to improve our processes moving forward?

Emphasize security

If you're developing a software program, security considerations might be important to the project's success. Due to the vulnerability of software, preventing breaches is an important concern. Consider precautions you might implement during the planning process to avoid future security breaches in your application.

Related: Differences Between Software Engineer vs. Software Developer

Plan carefully

While coding and execution are critical components of the life cycle, investing adequate time to plan your project may help avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications throughout the development process. It might be beneficial to create a master document that specifies the project requirements, expectations, and pseudocode. Before proceeding, ensure that everyone knows the system requirements and desired features.

Explore more articles