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The ultimate guide to software development process: flow, steps, methodology


Kirill Karakhainko




May 25, 2022

There is currently a high demand for software engineering. It has shown how crucial it is to refine the development process so that it is highly efficient and helps deliver the best results in the shortest amount of time.

While different teams can follow different approaches in regards to software development, each development process boils down to several of the same steps.

This article details the key stages of software development and provides some insights into software development methodologies.

Software development process steps

The software development process flow, also known as Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), consists of a sequence of steps, each covering a different aspect of software development.

Step 1. Analysis

Once a project has been requested, it is vital to estimate its scope in order to figure out if the team has enough people and tools to successfully complete it in addition to whether it will fit into their schedule.

Step 2. Kickoff meeting

Of course, no one loves making shots in the dark, so each project starts with a kickoff meeting with the client. This meeting introduces the project team to the client and provides the opportunity to discuss said future project, as well as identify requirements and expectations. Other important aspects discussed at a kickoff meeting typically involve:

  • project scope

  • statement of work

  • project timeline

  • deliverables

  • status reports

  • collaboration tools

  • risk management

  • cost estimation

Step 3. Creating the project roadmap

One of the early stages of software development involves designing the project roadmap. It is a strategic plan representing the future product’s functionalities and timelines of its’delivery.

Usually, the teams create two roadmaps:

  • an internal roadmap for the company's management and engineering teams, which focuses on the features, direct customer benefit, testing efforts, etc.

  • an external roadmap presented to the customer, highlighting the advantages of the project deliverables for the customer’s business.

The project roadmap helps keep tabs on the project’s progress and effectively manage expectations.

Step 4. Design & prototyping

The actual program development cycle begins with a design. In the software engineering process, design means building the architecture of the project as a whole. This step helps minimize errors by establishing a standard for the team to follow and defines how the product will work.

Some of the most essential aspects that are involved in design are the following:

  • platforms (Apple, Android, Web, etc.)

  • architecture (general design, programming language(s) etc.)

  • user interface (ways in which end-users interact with the software)

  • security (SSL traffic encryption, password protection, etc.)

Prototyping in the program development process means building the simplest working version of software to demonstrate how it will look and run. It’s safe to say that prototyping is one of the most important steps of software development.

That is because this step allows you to minimize mistakes and better manage customer expectations by making early improvements based on the customer feedback.

In addition, it’s a no-brainer that it’s less costly to make changes at this stage of the program development cycle than to modify code during the actual development.

Step 5. Development

This is definitely the longest and the hardest of all software development process steps. At this stage, software developers get down to the actual software engineering process and create the required components and functionalities of the product based on the design documents and specifications.

Step 6. Testing

Although the software is being continuously tested in the program development process, it needs another round of testing before it goes live. The primary goals of software testing are to check whether the product meets the initial requirements and to ensure that it is defect-free.

There are multiple types of software tests, each having specific objectives. Here are some examples:

  • unit testing (ensuring that each unit operates as intended)

  • acceptance testing (making sure that the entire system runs as initially suggested)

  • performance testing (checking how the product would perform under various workloads)

  • integration testing (verifying that all of the components or functions work well together)

  • stress testing (estimating the amount of strain the system can cope with before it fails)

  • usability testing (checking how well an end-user can interact with the system)

Step 7. Review

A software review suggests examining software development deliverables (including the requirements documents, project plans and budgets, designs, source code, test specifications, etc.) by all the interested parties in order to collect feedback or approval.

Software reviews are generally divided into three categories:

  1. Peer reviews, which are carried out by one or more team-mates of the author and aim at assessing the technical content and quality of the product.

  2. Software management reviews, held by the management in order to estimate the status of the work performed.

  3. Software audit reviews, undertaken by an external party and intended to check compliance with standards and specifications.

Software reviews play an important role in software development since they help identify issues earlier before the product goes live.

Step 8. Release

Finally, upon testing and reviews, after the coding errors are removed, the finished code is implemented into software and delivered to clients for use. To ensure that the product performs well on a large scale, it is recommendable to first carry out a beta test.

Step 9. Maintenance and support

The software development life cycle doesn’t end when the software is launched. Requirements and customer needs are constantly changing, which calls for continuous maintenance and updates. This stage involves collecting feedback on the product and gaining insights into further improvements. Not to mention, it is also crucial to monitor the way the product performs to detect any bugs and ensure that it runs smoothly.

3 most common software development methodologies

The steps of software development outlined above are more of a guideline and they can vary across different software development companies, depending which software development methodology they follow.

In a nutshell, software development methodology is a structured process used when working on a software project. Over the years, a multitude of software development methodologies were introduced to leverage the available technologies and resources.

Let’s explore a couple of the most commonly used ones.

1. Waterfall

The Waterfall method is the most traditional approach to software development. In essence, it is a linear model consisting of sequential stages (requirements, design, implementation, verification, maintenance).

With Waterfall, each stage needs to be fully completed before the next stage begins. Although it is fairly easy to manage, the Waterfall approach is often slow and expensive.

2. Agile methodologies, Scrum & Kanban

The Agile methodology suggests an iterative and dynamic approach to development. In contrast to the Waterfall’s sequential flow, the Agile teams work in “sprints” (short periods of time wherein a team works to complete specific tasks) to develop and release usable software.

In other words, the teams develop software in iterations involving mini-increments of the new functionality. Agile is about moving fast and promptly responding to user needs.

There are different types of the Agile method, such as Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), etc. At TechWings, we leverage Scrum and Kanban to improve efficiency. It allows us to spot and fix issues early on as well as fully satisfy all customer expectations.

3. Rapid application development

Rapid application development (RAD) is a software development approach that helps produce high-quality systems for those who have low budgets.

This method consists of four stages: requirements planning, user design, construction, and cutover. The user design and construction steps start all over again until the user approves that the software suits all requirements.

This approach is best for small to medium projects with clear business objectives and a clear-cut user group.

A proven software development process from TechWings

The software development flow is a step-by-step plan that helps bring a software product vision to life. Sticking to this plan will help efficiently mitigate risks, avoid delays, and minimize errors in the development process, regardless of how small or big the project is.

TechWings supplies a proven software development process that allows us to deliver clients' projects quickly and at a high level. Contact us to get a project estimate today!

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