Project management & leadership | August 26, 2021

Software Development Life Cycles (SDLC) Models and phases in IT projects. Agile vs Spiral vs Waterfall model 

What the Software Life Cycle is? What the most popular Software Development Lifecycle Models are? When given software development approach will work best? Read on to find out!


What is the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?

The time from when a software application is “born” to when it is fully functional always proceeds in a specific way and is usually divided into certain phases depending on the methodology used. Building software is not just about code development and testing. Find out what phases software goes through. In recent decades, new software development models appeared to lead the way to the development of high-quality software. Some of the models will work in complex projects, while others are better applied to those with a high level of ambiguity.

Software development methodologies systematize the work and structure processes needed to create high-functioning systems. They also foster efficiency and allow for the monitoring of progress. The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a process that yields software production through several essential phases to ensure efficiency and quality. SDLC is considered to have appeared back in the 1950s and 1960s, along with advances in computer science. Since then, SDLC has been impacted by emerging trends in technology, such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, and more recently Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

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What is SDLC in practice?

Simply put, SDLC processes are specific phases of software product or system development, which are necessary to create the best possible product in the shortest achievable time and within the assumed budget. From the many available, it is worth choosing the right process model for developing a different software application, as we write below. 

Project life cycle phases of software development

Requirement analysis

This stage of the software project includes business analysis, as part of which specialists in this area collect requirements to better define the project goal. Well-defined objectives enable positive cooperation between the business and development team as business analysts seek a common language for both. The Software Requirement Specification document created during the analysis stage should contain clearly defined product requirements to be constructed by software developers during the project life cycle. The aim of this stage is to ensure that the developed final product will meet assumed requirements and the system will be useful for the end-user. For this reason, the engagement of domain experts, software developers, and any other team members are crucial.

Planning and software design phase

he planning stage in software engineering includes establishing KPIs, selecting technologies and project tools, and creating specifications. At this stage, one should ask as many questions as possible. Do we have all the sources and competences we need to carry out a project? What needs to be done and whom do we need to engage? It is also the point at which the foundations are laid: the architecture of the system is built, and IT architects are involved in the work. Planning risk is also very important so that to avoid potential failures.

Software development life cycle

Development phase

The phase of the SDLC consists of programming, testing phase, and maintenance of a system or application. Programmers or the entire development team write the application code. The development phase also involves the software testing necessary to deliver a quality product. It’s not just developers and testers who are involved in this process. In the case of agile software development methodologies, a Scrum Master and Product Owner are also involved.

Maintenance and further development

The development lifecycle of an application does not end with its implementation in the production environment and making it available to end-users. Every application is like a living creature: it constantly changes and develops. Over time, its users report not only bugs but also development needs. That is why it is so important when choosing a software service provider to check whether they also have the capability to maintain it and carry out service work according to your needs.

Application development process

Application development process

Waterfall model

The Waterfall development cycle model has been in use since 1970 and is also considered a ‘traditional’ approach, it is a sequential model consisting of the following phases: creating documentation and gathering business requirements, programming, testing, implementation, and maintenance. It includes the creation of project documentation and works best when there is a good understanding of technology and the business requirements are clear. Some examples of the Waterfall model are PMBOK and PRINCE2.

Spiral model

The spiral type of SDLC was first described in 1986, this software development life cycle model combines an iterative approach of Agile methodologies and the traditional Waterfall approach. The process is divided into the following phases: setting up objectives, identifying and solving risks, developing software and obtaining approval, evaluation, and planning. In this model, special emphasis is placed on identifying and preventing potential risks so as to create a high-quality product.

Agile model

The Agile Manifesto was published in the early 2000s, describing the principles of Agile methodology. It is an iterative approach, as part of which work is divided into so-called Sprints. Despite the fact that Agile has been around for over 20 years now, it is often described as revolutionary. In contrast to the Waterfall model, it puts emphasis on communication and flexibility as teams develop software that meets clients’ expectations in a flexible manner, by reacting to changes. For this reason, Agile teams work using concise project documentation and dedicated tools for planning and keeping an eye on the progress. Agile SDLC phases include planning, implementation, review, and retrospective (as per the Scrum example). Agile software development works well in software development projects in which there is a high level of unpredictability and it is difficult to identify potential risks. 

Popular SDLC Agile methodologies in systems engineering:


The word ‘DevOps’ was used for the first time by Patric Debois in 2009 during an industry conference. The process consists of 8 steps: planning, development, compilation, testing, release, implementation, service, and monitoring, and includes frequent deployments carried out in an iterative manner. The widely promoted and increasingly popular DevOps culture means synergy between development (Dev) and operations (Ops). DevOps specialists follow Continuous Integration and Continuous Development practices to achieve the best possible results. Some of the prominent companies that use DevOps are Flickr, Netflix, Amazon, and Groupon.

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Which type of Software Development Life Cycle model will work best for my project? 

The software development process is not just coding. It is a laborious process that calls for involving a number of skilled experts in many areas at each stage. The software development life cycle model should be selected individually and according to the needs of the project.

Nowadays, thanks to cooperation with outsourcing companies, e.g. in the nearshore software development model, you can easily gain access to required competences and get something extra: advice on the recommended SDLC model that will work best for your project.

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