Software development process

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Software development
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In software engineering, a software development process is the process of dividing software development work into distinct phases to improve design, product management, and project management. It is also known as a software development life cycle. The methodology may include the pre-definition of specific deliverables and artifacts that are created and completed by a project team to develop or maintain an application. [1]

Software engineering is the application of engineering to the development of software in a systematic method.

Software development is the process of conceiving, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing involved in creating and maintaining applications, frameworks, or other software components. Software development is a process of writing and maintaining the source code, but in a broader sense, it includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, sometimes in a planned and structured process. Therefore, software development may include research, new development, prototyping, modification, reuse, re-engineering, maintenance, or any other activities that result in software products.

Software design is the process by which an agent creates a specification of a software artifact, intended to accomplish goals, using a set of primitive components and subject to constraints. Software design may refer to either "all the activity involved in conceptualizing, framing, implementing, commissioning, and ultimately modifying complex systems" or "the activity following requirements specification and before programming, as ... [in] a stylized software engineering process."


Most modern development processes can be vaguely described as agile. Other methodologies include waterfall, prototyping, iterative and incremental development, spiral development, rapid application development, and extreme programming.

Agile software development is an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end user(s). It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, empirical knowledge, and continual improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

Waterfall model

The waterfall model is a relatively linear sequential design approach for certain areas of engineering design. In software development, it tends to be among the less iterative and flexible approaches, as progress flows in largely one direction through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, deployment and maintenance.

Software prototyping is the activity of creating prototypes of software applications, i.e., incomplete versions of the software program being developed. It is an activity that can occur in software development and is comparable to prototyping as known from other fields, such as mechanical engineering or manufacturing.

Some people consider a life-cycle "model" a more general term for a category of methodologies and a software development "process" a more specific term to refer to a specific process chosen by a specific organization. For example, there are many specific software development processes that fit the spiral life-cycle model. The field is often considered a subset of the systems development life cycle.

Systems development life cycle Systems engineering term

The systems development life cycle (SDLC), also referred to as the application development life-cycle, is a term used in systems engineering, information systems and software engineering to describe a process for planning, creating, testing, and deploying an information system. The systems development lifecycle concept applies to a range of hardware and software configurations, as a system can be composed of hardware only, software only, or a combination of both. There are usually six stages in this cycle: analysis, design, development and testing, implementation, documentation, and evaluation.


The software development methodology (also known as SDM) framework didn't emerge until the 1960s. According to Elliott (2004) the systems development life cycle (SDLC) can be considered to be the oldest formalized methodology framework for building information systems. The main idea of the SDLC has been "to pursue the development of information systems in a very deliberate, structured and methodical way, requiring each stage of the life cycle––from inception of the idea to delivery of the final system––to be carried out rigidly and sequentially" [2] within the context of the framework being applied. The main target of this methodology framework in the 1960s was "to develop large scale functional business systems in an age of large scale business conglomerates. Information systems activities revolved around heavy data processing and number crunching routines". [2]

Information systems (IS) are formal, sociotechnical, organizational systems designed to collect, process, store, and distribute information. In a sociotechnical perspective, information systems are composed by four components: task, people, structure, and technology.

Data processing is, generally, "the collection and manipulation of items of data to produce meaningful information." In this sense it can be considered a subset of information processing, "the change (processing) of information in any manner detectable by an observer."

Methodologies, processes, and frameworks range from specific proscriptive steps that can be used directly by an organization in day-to-day work, to flexible frameworks that an organization uses to generate a custom set of steps tailored to the needs of a specific project or group. In some cases a "sponsor" or "maintenance" organization distributes an official set of documents that describe the process. Specific examples include:


Structured programming is a programming paradigm aimed at improving the clarity, quality, and development time of a computer program by making extensive use of the structured control flow constructs of selection (if/then/else) and repetition, block structures, and subroutines.

Cap Gemini SDM

Cap Gemini SDM, or SDM2 is a software development method developed by the software company PANDATA in the Netherlands in 1970. The method is a waterfall model divided in seven phases that have a clear start and end. Each phase delivers (sub)products, called milestones. It was used extensively in the Netherlands for ICT projects in the 1980s and 1990s. PANDATA was purchased by the Capgemini group in the 1980s, and the last version of SDM to be published in English was SDM2 in 1991 by CAP GEMINI PUBLISHING BV. The method was regularly taught and distributed among Capgemini consultants and customers, until the waterfall method slowly went out of fashion in the wake of more iterative extreme programming methods such as Rapid application development, Rational Unified Process (RUP) and Agile software development.


Structured Systems Analysis and Design Method (SSADM), originally released as methodology, is a systems approach to the analysis and design of information systems. SSADM was produced for the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, a UK government office concerned with the use of technology in government, from 1980 onwards.

Soft systems methodology (SSM) is an approach to organizational process modeling and it can be used both for general problem solving and in the management of change. It was developed in England by academics at the University of Lancaster Systems Department through a ten-year action research program.



It is notable that since DSDM in 1994, all of the methodologies on the above list except RUP have been agile methodologies - yet many organisations, especially governments, still use pre-agile processes (often waterfall or similar). Software process and software quality are closely interrelated; some unexpected facets and effects have been observed in practice [3]

Since the early 2000s scaling agile delivery processes has become the biggest challenge for teams using agile processes. [4]

Among these another software development process has been established in open source. The adoption of these best practices known and established processes within the confines of a company is called inner source.


Several software development approaches have been used since the origin of information technology, in two main categories [ citation needed ]. Typically an approach or a combination of approaches is chosen by management or a development team [ citation needed ].

"Traditional" methodologies such as waterfall that have distinct phases are sometimes known as software development life cycle (SDLC) methodologies[ citation needed ], though this term could also be used more generally to refer to any methodology. A "life cycle" approach with distinct phases is in contrast to Agile approaches which define a process of iteration, but where design, construction, and deployment of different pieces can occur simultaneously [ citation needed ].

Continuous integration

Continuous integration is the practice of merging all developer working copies to a shared mainline several times a day. [5] Grady Booch first named and proposed CI in his 1991 method, [6] although he did not advocate integrating several times a day. Extreme programming (XP) adopted the concept of CI and did advocate integrating more than once per day – perhaps as many as tens of times per day.


Software prototyping is about creating prototypes, i.e. incomplete versions of the software program being developed.

The basic principles are: [1]

A basic understanding of the fundamental business problem is necessary to avoid solving the wrong problems, but this is true for all software methodologies.

Incremental development

Various methods are acceptable for combining linear and iterative systems development methodologies, with the primary objective of each being to reduce inherent project risk by breaking a project into smaller segments and providing more ease-of-change during the development process.

There are three main variants of incremental development: [1]

  1. A series of mini-Waterfalls are performed, where all phases of the Waterfall are completed for a small part of a system, before proceeding to the next increment, or
  2. Overall requirements are defined before proceeding to evolutionary, mini-Waterfall development of individual increments of a system, or
  3. The initial software concept, requirements analysis, and design of architecture and system core are defined via Waterfall, followed by incremental implementation, which culminates in installing the final version, a working system.

Rapid application development

Rapid Application Development (RAD) Model RADModel.JPG
Rapid Application Development (RAD) Model

Rapid application development (RAD) is a software development methodology, which favors iterative development and the rapid construction of prototypes instead of large amounts of up-front planning. The "planning" of software developed using RAD is interleaved with writing the software itself. The lack of extensive pre-planning generally allows software to be written much faster, and makes it easier to change requirements.

The rapid development process starts with the development of preliminary data models and business process models using structured techniques. In the next stage, requirements are verified using prototyping, eventually to refine the data and process models. These stages are repeated iteratively; further development results in "a combined business requirements and technical design statement to be used for constructing new systems". [7]

The term was first used to describe a software development process introduced by James Martin in 1991. According to Whitten (2003), it is a merger of various structured techniques, especially data-driven information technology engineering, with prototyping techniques to accelerate software systems development. [7]

The basic principles of rapid application development are: [1]


Agile development

"Agile software development" refers to a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve via collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams. The term was coined in the year 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was formulated.

Agile software development uses iterative development as a basis but advocates a lighter and more people-centric viewpoint than traditional approaches. Agile processes fundamentally incorporate iteration and the continuous feedback that it provides to successively refine and deliver a software system.

There are many agile methodologies, including:

Waterfall development

The activities of the software development process represented in the waterfall model. There are several other models to represent this process. Waterfall model.svg
The activities of the software development process represented in the waterfall model. There are several other models to represent this process.

The waterfall model is a sequential development approach, in which development is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through several phases, typically:

The first formal description of the method is often cited as an article published by Winston W. Royce [8] in 1970 although Royce did not use the term "waterfall" in this article. Royce presented this model as an example of a flawed, non-working model. [9]

The basic principles are: [1]

The waterfall model is a traditional engineering approach applied to software engineering. A strict waterfall approach discourages revisiting and revising any prior phase once it is complete. This "inflexibility" in a pure waterfall model has been a source of criticism by supporters of other more "flexible" models. It has been widely blamed for several large-scale government projects running over budget, over time and sometimes failing to deliver on requirements due to the Big Design Up Front approach. Except when contractually required, the waterfall model has been largely superseded by more flexible and versatile methodologies developed specifically for software development. See Criticism of Waterfall model.

Spiral development

Spiral model (Boehm, 1988) Spiral model (Boehm, 1988).svg
Spiral model (Boehm, 1988)

In 1988, Barry Boehm published a formal software system development "spiral model," which combines some key aspect of the waterfall model and rapid prototyping methodologies, in an effort to combine advantages of top-down and bottom-up concepts. It provided emphasis in a key area many felt had been neglected by other methodologies: deliberate iterative risk analysis, particularly suited to large-scale complex systems.

The basic principles are: [1]

Offshore development

Offshore custom software development aims at dispatching the software development process over various geographical areas to optimize project spending by capitalizing on countries with lower salaries and operating costs. Geographically distributed teams can be integrated at any point of the software development process through custom hybrid models. [13]


Other high-level software project methodologies include:

Process meta-models

Some "process models" are abstract descriptions for evaluating, comparing, and improving the specific process adopted by an organization.

In practice

The three basic approaches applied to software development methodology frameworks. Three software development patterns mashed together.svg
The three basic approaches applied to software development methodology frameworks.

A variety of such frameworks have evolved over the years, each with its own recognized strengths and weaknesses. One software development methodology framework is not necessarily suitable for use by all projects. Each of the available methodology frameworks are best suited to specific kinds of projects, based on various technical, organizational, project and team considerations. [1]

Software development organizations implement process methodologies to ease the process of development. Sometimes, contractors may require methodologies employed, an example is the U.S. defense industry, which requires a rating based on process models to obtain contracts. The international standard for describing the method of selecting, implementing and monitoring the life cycle for software is ISO/IEC 12207.

A decades-long goal has been to find repeatable, predictable processes that improve productivity and quality. Some try to systematize or formalize the seemingly unruly task of designing software. Others apply project management techniques to designing software. Large numbers of software projects do not meet their expectations in terms of functionality, cost, or delivery schedule - see List of failed and overbudget custom software projects for some notable examples.

Organizations may create a Software Engineering Process Group (SEPG), which is the focal point for process improvement. Composed of line practitioners who have varied skills, the group is at the center of the collaborative effort of everyone in the organization who is involved with software engineering process improvement.

A particular development team may also agree to programming environment details, such as which integrated development environment is used, and one or more dominant programming paradigms, programming style rules, or choice of specific software libraries or software frameworks. These details are generally not dictated by the choice of model or general methodology.

Software development life cycle (SDLC) SLDC.jpg
Software development life cycle (SDLC)

See also

Related Research Articles

Iterative and incremental development

Iterative and Incremental development is any combination of both iterative design or iterative method and incremental build model for development.

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is an iterative software development process framework created by the Rational Software Corporation, a division of IBM since 2003. RUP is not a single concrete prescriptive process, but rather an adaptable process framework, intended to be tailored by the development organizations and software project teams that will select the elements of the process that are appropriate for their needs. RUP is a specific implementation of the Unified Process.

Rapid-application development (RAD), also called Rapid-application building (RAB), is both a general term, used to refer to adaptive software development approaches, as well as the name for James Martin's approach to rapid development. In general, RAD approaches to software development put less emphasis on planning and more emphasis on an adaptive process. Prototypes are often used in addition to or sometimes even in place of design specifications.

Dynamic systems development method

Dynamic systems development method (DSDM) is an agile project delivery framework, initially used as a software development method. First released in 1994, DSDM originally sought to provide some discipline to the rapid application development (RAD) method. In later versions the DSDM Agile Project Framework was revised and became a generic approach to project management and solution delivery rather than being focused specifically on software development and code creation and could be used for non-IT projects. The DSDM Agile Project Framework covers a wide range of activities across the whole project lifecycle and includes strong foundations and governance, which set it apart from some other Agile methods. The DSDM Agile Project Framework is an iterative and incremental approach that embraces principles of Agile development, including continuous user/customer involvement.

Concurrent engineering (CE) is a work methodology emphasizing the parallelisation of tasks, which is sometimes called simultaneous engineering or integrated product development (IPD) using an integrated product team approach. It refers to an approach used in product development in which functions of design engineering, manufacturing engineering, and other functions are integrated to reduce the time required to bring a new product to market.

A product software implementation method is a systematically structured approach to effectively integrate a software based service or component into the workflow of an organizational structure or an individual end-user.

Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) is a set of principles, models, disciplines, concepts, and guidelines for delivering information technology services from Microsoft. MSF is not limited to developing applications only; it is also applicable to other IT projects like deployment, networking or infrastructure projects. MSF does not force the developer to use a specific methodology.

Object-oriented analysis and design (OOAD) is a popular technical approach for analyzing and designing an application, system, or business by applying object-oriented programming, as well as using visual modeling throughout the development life cycles to foster better stakeholder communication and product quality.

The incremental build model is a method of software development where the product is designed, implemented and tested incrementally until the product is finished. It involves both development and maintenance. The product is defined as finished when it satisfies all of its requirements. This model combines the elements of the waterfall model with the iterative philosophy of prototyping.

Unified Process

The Unified Software Development Process or Unified Process is an iterative and incremental software development process framework. The best-known and extensively documented refinement of the Unified Process is the Rational Unified Process (RUP). Other examples are OpenUP and Agile Unified Process.

V-Model (software development)

In software development, the V-model represents a development process that may be considered an extension of the waterfall model, and is an example of the more general V-model. Instead of moving down in a linear way, the process steps are bent upwards after the coding phase, to form the typical V shape. The V-Model demonstrates the relationships between each phase of the development life cycle and its associated phase of testing. The horizontal and vertical axes represents time or project completeness (left-to-right) and level of abstraction, respectively.

Winston W. Royce American software engineer

Winston Walker Royce was an American computer scientist, director at Lockheed Software Technology Center in Austin, Texas. He was a pioneer in the field of software development, known for his 1970 paper from which the Waterfall model for software development was mistakenly drawn.

Agile Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the use of Agile software development for BI projects to reduce the time it takes for traditional BI to show value to the organization, and to help in quickly adapting to changing business needs. Agile BI enables the BI team and managers to make better business decisions, and to start doing this more quickly.

Evolutionary database design involves incremental improvements to the database schema so that it can be continuously updated with changes, reflecting the customer's requirements. People across the globe work on the same piece of software at the same time hence, there is a need for techniques that allow a smooth evolution of database as the design develops. Such methods utilize automated refactoring and continuous integration so that it supports agile methodologies for software development. These development techniques are applied on systems that are in pre-production stage as well on systems that have already been released. These techniques not only cover relevant changes in the database schema according to customer's changing needs, but also migration of modified data into the database and also customizing the database access code accordingly without changing the data semantics.


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