In almost everything we do, there’s software involved. Chatting online, playing games, mobile banking, online shopping— these apps are run by software, each built for specific purposes. A lot of work goes into building software, and in this article, we’ll discuss the six basic stages of the software development process.
But first, a primer on software:
Software is described as a set of programs, data, or instructions used to operate computers and perform specific tasks. It is a generic term referring to programs, applications, and scripts that run on a certain device.
In order to build fully-functioning, high-quality software, a process called software development life cycle (SDLC) is used. It consists of detailed planning, developing, and testing software that meets or exceeds customer expectations. Depending on the actual software, any of the following models/methods can be used in the software development process:
- Agile model
- Spiral model
- V model
- Waterfall model
- Incremental model
- RAD model
- Rational unified process (RUP)
Six Stages of Software Development Process
Aside from being the first step in the software development process, planning— also known as general analysis and requirements gathering— also happens to be the primary focus of most companies. This is when project managers and involved stakeholders discuss certain requirements for the software, such as resources, costs, utilization, and demographic. After gathering the requirements, analyzation and careful study of the software conditions will take place, as well as the creation of a requirement specification document (project requirement document).
Some of the strategic outputs of this initial step include:
- Project plans
- Estimated costs
- Procurement requirements
This list will serve as the blueprint for everyone involved in the project to ensure the success of the software creation. If the planning stage doesn’t go well, it can lead to disastrous results in the development of the software.
After gathering the requirements and understanding what the software should be like, it’s time to design it. This step is when software architects and developers design the general architecture of the product, which include the following processes:
- Determining the software modules required and their relationships
- Choosing the right development platform (Java, .NET, Laravel, etc.)
- Rapid prototyping for comparison
- Designing the UI (user interface) and UX (user experience)
In the design stage, software architects and developers also have to create design documents with lists of the patterns for both architecture and software development, components, and code developed during rapid prototyping sessions.
Designing the whole software architecture is crucial in the software development process, as it will serve as a base for the next step, which is coding/programming. Improper design of the software can set your team very far back and can waste a lot of time and resources, which is always not good for any business.
The third— and generally the longest— phase of the software development process is coding/programming. This is when the development team writes the code and converts the design documentation into the actual software.
Coding is vital in the development of software. For one, this is when all the planning, analyzing, requirements gathering, and designing materialize into the actual software that the managers and stakeholders want. In this stage, the software engineering team has to ensure that the code meets the specifications of the software requirements, as well as the stakeholders’ wishes.
Aside from programming, the development team also performs unit or module testing to detect potential problems as early as possible.
Each step of the software development process is important, but this rings even truer for the testing phase. Not testing the software before releasing it to the public is like serving food in a restaurant without cooking it first. Any software is not ready to use unless it has been tested in different ways and levels. Once the complete architecture and planned functionality of the software is built, it’s time to test the product for possible bugs.
After coding, the development team tests for code quality— this includes integration testing, performance testing, and security testing. Other kinds of testing to be done include functionality testing, acceptance testing, and validation testing. The development team, along with the quality assurance (QA) team, test the software to see if there’s any bug/error in the system, as well as the usability and function of the software from an end-user point of view. After eliminating possible bugs and making adjustments in the code to ensure that the software is working as it was intended, the teams can move on to the deployment stage.
After performing several tests in the testing phase, making sure that the software is as bug-free as possible, the application is now ready for deployment. This stage of the software development process includes beta testing, which is crucial before the final release of the software.
In the deployment stage, the software will be open to a chosen public (including the stakeholders) to further test the product. This is also known as beta testing, and its purpose is to spot bugs that weren’t seen by the development team/QA team in the testing stage. Beta testing also helps in delivering real customer feedback to the developers. Beta testers act like the potential users of the software, and they can suggest changes to the development team if they think something’s not right with the UI/UX of the software.
If all goes well with beta testing, the software can now be released to the general public. At this point, the software should be more than ready for its intended users.
The final step in the software development process is operations and maintenance. Like the term suggests, this involves maintaining the software and keeping it operational after it has been released into the market. This includes fixing potential issues, making sure that the software is always up-to-date with the latest patches, and consistently listening to real customers’ feedback regarding the product.