Understanding the Software Development Process
By Kalpesh Doshi, Director of Product Management at BrowserStack - April 13, 2023
What is Software Development Process?
The software development process is an iterative logical process that aims to create programmed software to meet unique business or personal objectives, goals, or processes. The objective is achieved by a software developer writing computer code. However, it also involves multiple steps such as research, designing a data and process flow, writing technical documentation, comprehensively testing, debugging, and pushing it iteratively to live.
This post will further explain the broader Software Development process and how Testing fits in, which should help young developers and freelancers understand how a robust engineering team functions.
The need for a Software Development Process
Software is developed for four common reasons:
- To meet the specific needs of a specific client/business (the case with custom software)
- To solve a real-world problem
- For personal use (e.g., a pharmacy owner may require inventory managing and billing software.)
- The demand for better quality management has enforced the discipline of software engineering, which focuses on applying the systematic approach of the engineering paradigm to the software development process.
Several software development methodologies are available for efficient project management like Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, Kanban, and others.
Usually, the software development process is categorized into:
- Backend Development
- Frontend Development
What is PDLC (Product Development Lifecycle)
The product development life cycle (PDLC) is the complete process of creating and launching a product into the market. It includes the following 5 steps:
- Product Conceptualization
- Product Architecture and Design
- Product Development
- Product Release
- Product Realization and Future Upgrades
1. Product Conceptualisation
Every product has to start with an idea. In some cases, this might be reasonably simple, conceptualizing a new product on something already existing. In a few cases, it may be something out of the box. Many leading tech companies have innovation departments focusing solely on coming up with ‘the next big thing.’
Once the idea is selected, significant time is spent on Market research, Functional analysis, Technical analysis, Feasibility analysis, ROI, and Prototype development.
2. Product Architecture and Design
The next phase is to design the product’s technical architecture. In this phase, the business team provides the business specification to technical teams, who then build the product’s architecture and create workflow diagrams and DB design.
- Product Development: In this phase, development teams start developing the product. Development teams may use Waterfall or Agile methodologies to develop a product. Most software companies are adopting Agile testing metrics to make product development faster. In this phase, teams develop and perform unit tests, integration tests, performance tests, and any other testing types depending on the product type. Once this phase is completed, the team creates an Alpha release which may be primarily internal and limited to a few external users.
- Product Release: Once the team is confident about the functionality, usability, and stability of the product based on the Alpha release and receives feedback, the team moves towards the Beta release phase. In the beta release, companies may choose to open it to all the customers or choose to provide access to a limited number of customers who request Beta access. In this phase, the team wants to get feedback from external customers and make any changes accordingly. Once the team is satisfied with the beta feedback and necessary changes are made to the product, a public release of the product occurs. Public release involves broad announcements, PR, and so forth to create an impact depending on the product.
- Product Realization and Future Upgrade: The next phase continuously monitors the product, its usage, and growth. Along with future enhancements, teams must prioritize the bug fixes based on the customer impact.
Most companies adopt these stages to bring a new product to the market. For example, when PayPal came up with the in-context checkout product, they went through all these stages to ensure a successful product launch.
- They did thorough market research on why In-context is essential compared to out-of-context.
- Defined the primary objective of the new product, which is the reduction in the drop-off rate
- Did a thorough analysis of tech feasibility and shoppers’ adoption
- Worked with the design teams to create a seamless in-context experience
- For a project this big, they created three delivery teams, each running its scrum managed by a central program
- They released the product MVP in a limited market and kept monitoring the metrics
- The product was refined based on the feedback before launching it to a broader market
What is SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle)
Software Development Life Cycle is a systematic approach used by the software industry to design, develop, and test high-quality software. The main goal behind SDLC is to produce high-quality software that meets or exceeds customer expectations and reaches completion within times and cost estimates.
SDLC consists of the following activities:
- Plan: The most crucial aspect of software development and requirement analysis is done by the organization’s most skilled and experienced software engineers. After gathering and analyzing requirements from the client, the scope document is generated.
- Design: Software Engineers analyze the Business Requirements and design solutions to meet those in the most efficient way.
- Implement: Here, the software engineers start writing the code as per the analyzed requirements.
- Test: It is a crucial stage that aims to discover any errors, bugs, or flaws in the software
- Document: Each activity performed in the project is documented for future reference and enhancement in the development process
- Deployment: The software is deployed once it is approved for release.
- Maintaining: This phase occurs once the product is operational. It involves the modification of a few features over some time. This phase also focuses on monitoring the system performance, bug rectification, and implementing requested changes.
Software Development Methodologies
Usually, there are 2 types of software development methodologies –
- Waterfall model
- Agile model
What is the Waterfall model?
A waterfall model represents a linear and sequential approach to software development. The following steps are carried out sequentially in a waterfall approach.
- Requirements: gather, analyze, and document
- Design: resulting in the software architecture
- Code: the development, proving, and integration of software
- Testing: the systematic discovery and debugging of defects
- Operations: the installation, support, and maintenance of complete systems
In an actual Waterfall implementation, each of the above steps represents a different stage of software development, and every stage generally terminates before the next stage begins. There exists a stage gate between each; e.g., before the designing stage can commence, it’s necessary to have the customer’s approval.
What is the Agile model?
Agile methodology evolved from different lightweight software approaches in the 1990s and is a response to some project managers’ dislike of the rigid, linear waterfall methodology. It focuses on flexibility, continuous improvement, and speed by following an incremental approach.
- Developers start with simplistic project designs and then work on small modules.
- The work on these modules is carried out in weekly or monthly sprints, and at the end of each sprint, project priorities are evaluated, and tests are executed. Thus, the equivalent stages of the waterfall model are completed at every single sprint.
- These sprints allow for exploring bugs and customer feedback to be incorporated into the design before the next sprint begins.
Benefits of Agile Development
The key advantages of Agile development Methods and Agile project management are the following:
- Better collaboration and involvement of stakeholders
- Adaptability to change
- Lesser Risk
- Better ROI
- Enhanced Quality
- Faster Release Cycles
That said, the process must be well-managed and documentation enforced, as the rapid pace of development can lend itself to disorganization. However, if done correctly, it results in a fast, low-risk, and efficient workflow.
Most of the matured companies now use Agile methodology. Most of the customers you speak with talk about Agile processes unless they mention that they are not agile. Though no companies truly follow complete agile methods, they might be using some hybrid model.
As one is familiar with the basics of the Software Development Process, the next step is to learn the different types of software testing strategies and approaches that will further streamline your learning curve as a QA, developer, tester, or SDET.