The software development life cycle (SDLC) explains the process more or less every software product goes through before it’s released to market.
Similar to any design process, the SDLC outlines in a number of stages how to design, test, and implement a new software product. Yet there’s another life cycle out there, Agile SDLC, and it presents an effective alternative for software development.
In this guide we’ll touch upon the traditional SDLC process and introduce you to Agile SDLC, and then examine how you can use the latter to supercharge your software development process.
What is Agile SDLC?
The Agile software development life cycle offers a different take on the traditional software development life cycle. It emphasizes rapid turnaround, cross-functional collaboration, and an adaptive — rather than predictive — approach.
The Agile SDLC framework is generally best for startups and small businesses that don’t have the time or resources to commit to a lengthy software development process, especially when they are tackling the very real possibility of competitors beating them to market and taking market share.
Essentially, with Agile SDLC, software teams work hard to get working versions of their product finished and ready for customer feedback as quickly as possible. From there, they can take on board suggestions and incorporate them into their iteration process.
This process is repeated, with short bursts of work — around two weeks at a time — leading to a constantly evolving product that accounts for feedback and gets the product closer to a ready state much quicker than traditional SDLC.
Here are the six stages of the Agile SDLC model that a software team would aim to complete every two to four weeks:
The software development life cycle begins with a planning phase. During this stage, you’ll map out what you expect to achieve with the software and carry out all the preliminary research necessary to bring your project to life.
One of the most important tasks is to complete requirement analysis, which is where you’ll conduct market surveys, interview industry experts, and gather feedback from customers. During this information collection process, you’ll find out everything you need to know to plan out the core aspects of your software project.
You’ll also determine how viable your idea is when you survey customers and get a feel for what the market thinks and where it’s heading. Viability extends to finances, too, so this is your opportunity to evaluate pricing and calculate a budget for the project.
It’s important to do a thorough risk assessment during the planning stage and set expectations for quality so that when you do assurance tests later in the process you already have a benchmark in place.
Be sure to keep any stakeholders involved in the project up to date as you go through your planning, just in case they have suggestions that could affect the scope. You can do this with Agile project management software such as Wrike, which promotes full task transparency.
2. Identifying requirements
In the second stage of SDLC, your main responsibility should be to make note of the product requirements and specifications. Once you’ve documented this information, you can solicit feedback from the market or customer-led focus groups to gain an idea of feasibility.
Use a software requirement specification (SRS) document to draw all the relevant information up. This is something you can then reference throughout the life cycle.
It’s important to include the resources you’ll need to complete the product at this stage, which will give you a firm grasp of the financial side of things.
Now it’s time to dive into the preliminary product design stage.
It’s here that product architects will build software architecture from the ground up, but first you’ll need to outline the processes they’ll use in a design document specification (DDS).
Once you’ve completed the DDS, it’s a good idea to pass it around so your stakeholders have a chance to add any input they may have. You can also hold a meeting to discuss the best way forward, factoring in everything from budget to the specific product features.
The DDS covers the product specifications and features, which means you’ll still need to map out data flow separately if applicable. You can use a data flow diagram to do that.
4. Software development
When it comes time for development, the first step will be to program and code the software according to the DDS. Remember, the more planning you do in prior stages, the more straightforward your software development team management will be.
Your developers will take the reins from here, and use a variety of tools to flesh out the software, such as:
They’ll also have to choose the programming languages that make the most sense for the project at hand.
After the development process, it’s important to go through several bouts of rigorous testing to make sure the software meets certain standards.
During this stage, you’ll report everything notable about the product. This may include any of the following:
- Product defects
With a series of tests that put the product through its paces, your goal is to make sure the product matches the expectations outlined in the SRS document.
6. Market deployment
Finally, it’s time to release your product to the market.
At this point, it should be a robust product that has met your quality assurance standards and effectively serves the purpose it was designed for.
The way you launch the product will depend on your go-to-market (GTM) strategy. It isn’t uncommon to put software out into the real world and invite a select number of users to solicit feedback and see if there are any last-minute changes you can make before launching to a broader market.
A development cycle wouldn’t be a cycle if there wasn’t ongoing work required. As such, even after you launch your polished final product, it’s important to keep your ears to the ground for customer feedback.
Bugs and errors are commonplace in the software development field, so it’s worth investing resources into a robust maintenance plan for the first few weeks and months after release.
What is the difference between traditional and Agile SDLC?
You could say that the traditional SDLC, often known as the Waterfall model, focuses on producing the perfect product regardless of cost.
Unlike Agile SDLC, the traditional process doesn’t necessarily place time constraints at each stage so software developers can take their time to make sure everything is as it should be.
As a result, it’s more often the case that the traditional SDLC leads to a finished product only after several months of iterative design. This makes the model best suited to large businesses and enterprises that can afford to invest a lot of time and resources into finding the best possible solutions.
It’s also an important model for companies that have strict requirements surrounding the brand, which means any software product released with any major bugs or errors could be seen as catastrophic for their reputation.
The Agile SDLC process focuses on adaptability, and as such is a great option for projects with fast turnarounds or unique requirements, and for collaboration-centered work environments.
The way it works is simple: you divide down the work into digestible chunks of time. After each chunk of time, the team should have a deliverable ready for testing, such as a new product feature.
The model works on sprints, rather than the marathon-style approach of traditional SDLC. It’s incremental, meaning that with each time chunk, the team builds on the last and layers on a new feature until you end up with a final product.
How can your team use the Agile SDLC?
If you’ve decided upon the Agile SDLC process, then there are a few things you should know to kick-start the process and set your team up for success:
Choose the right Agile framework
Within the Agile umbrella, there are various frameworks you can use to suit your team, including the following:
- Kanban: A framework that allows for quick and easy drag-and-drop task management with Kanban boards
- Scrum: An iterative framework that places emphasis on prioritization
- Scrumban: A combination of the Scrum and Kanban frameworks that offers the best of both
- SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework): An enterprise-level framework for managing more than one project or workflow at a time
Get your team on board with Agile SDLC
For Agile SDLC to work, you ideally need buy-in from all team members.
To get that, it’s important to make the process as easy to understand as possible for stakeholders, and easy to stick to for developers and other internal team members.
One way to do both is to educate internal and external stakeholders on the benefits of the Agile framework so that there’s clarity across the board.
As for implementation, using an Agile-supported solution such as Wrike can make the transition and execution straightforward. Wrike also promotes full 360-degree visibility so everyone — including external stakeholders — can stay in the loop with progress.
A daily standup meeting is a hallmark of any Agile endeavor.
Though it’s a feature of the Agile approach to project management, the evidence suggests that its effectiveness can depend on your specific team needs.
In the meeting, the primary goal is to establish everything related to the team’s progress, or lack thereof. These meetings provide opportunities for team members to reflect on what might have gone well the day prior, and how they intend to amend that today.
Outlining any obstacles that get in the way of progress can help, as you can draw up actionable meeting notes to address them and assign tasks accordingly after the meeting has ended.
The traditional SDLC is better suited to enterprise project management goals, whereas Agile SDLC works best for small teams or startups.
Provided your team understands the Agile framework they’ll use throughout the process, this model can streamline progress and get your product to market much faster than the traditional SDLC.
The success of Agile SDLC also rests on the quality of your systems and the tools your teams use day in, day out. That’s why an Agile software solution such as Wrike can be the difference between a slow and stuttering software development process and a fast, efficient one.
Here are a few ways Wrike supports Agile software development:
- Ongoing task management: Take control of your day-to-day operations and use Kanban boards to support effective task management in your teams
- Sprint tracking and communication: Streamline Agile sprints with centralized information and easy communication features for staying in touch throughout
- Adaptability: Lean into the adaptability of the Agile SDLC process with real-time workload management and resource allocation