Seven Phases of the SDLC and Step-by-Step Implementation Guide

Editorial Team

phases of SDLC

The Systems Development Life Cycle, more commonly referred to as the SDLC, is the process of developing a system to deliver to a business.  

Successful implementation of the SDLC will help ensure that businesses receive a system that is suitable for their operational needs.

The SDLC helps guide engineers as they develop systems according to complex rules as outlined by the development team.

The SDLC process is very involved and includes a number of specific steps that must be followed in order for a project to be completed well.

Our comprehensive guide below breaks down each step of the SDLC and provides step-by-step information on how to implement this process in your own systems development plan.

1. Planning

Planning is the first step of the SDLC. Successful planning involves considering a number of factors, including:

  1. Determining Scope—At this stage, the development team determines just what the project will cover.
  2. Determining Resources Required—In order for the planning stage to be successful, the development team must determine just what resources are required for the project to be completed as planned.
  3. Estimate Costs—With this information in mind, the development team must then estimate the total costs for the project. This is extremely important, as it allows for the project to have a working budget. This can help ensure the project is completed under appropriate conditions.
  4. Develop Project Schedule—It’s at this stage of the SDLC that developers work to set a timeline of events. All intended work is mapped out and timed so that developers can have a standard to refer to as they work through the project.
  5. Develop Project Plan—The project plan goes into the nitty-gritty of how the project in question will be completed. The project plan provides a detailed overview of the tasks to be accomplished and just how developers plan to complete them.

The information used and the plans made at this stage serve to guide the project through its development, so it’s important that developers take care to make a plan that is suitable for everyone involved.

2. Requirements

The first step to gathering the requirements necessary for the SDLC to be successful is conducting a system study.

In this study, a system development company communicates with its client to understand just what type of system is needed.

During this phase, workshops and interviews are conducted, and questionnaires are passed out to members of the client business so that the development team can get a better understanding of the system that needs to be developed.

Throughout all this, the Business Analyst serves as the primary liaison between he development company and its client, communicating the needs of the business back to the development team.

The Business Analyst’s role is important in making sure that all necessary information is gathered so that the development team can move ahead with the process.

Additionally, it is usually the Business Analyst that helps ensure the deliverables throughout the entire process.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) also play an important role in the requirements process. These are individuals who have an expert knowledge of the situation at hand and can help the development team understand the current situation and how the upgraded system will affect the client business.

In order to get the information required to determine the particulars of the project, a feasibility study is conducted. This study helps developers assess whether a new system is needed in the first place and, if one is, in what areas the upgraded system should be improved.

The planning stage of the SDLC cannot be conducted without the information provided from the feasibility study—and not just because most developers won’t proceed without it.

Without this crucial information, the SDLC would not be a worthwhile venture for the development team.

It is at this point that the Software Requirements Specification (SRS) document is produced. Now that the development team has a clear understanding of the needs and wants of their clients, the Business Analyst will draft an SRS that details the development team’s understanding of the situation at hand.

The document is also an important bit of communication between Business Analysts and the development team, as it makes sure that everyone is on the same page with the project. Because the Business Analyst bests understands the needs of the client, it is up to them to make sure that the software development team understands the requirements of the project.

A good SRS contains the necessary information needed to proceed with the project at a developmental level.

Finally, a Requirements Traceability Matrix is produced to list and track the requirements of the project throughout the SDLC.

3. Design

It is at the design stage that the System Analyst begins to play a large role. The System Analyst has professional and expert knowledge in the designing of information systems and can assist the team in creating a design that is suitable to the customers’ needs.

The System Analyst will lead a system analysis to ascertain how to best meet the functional requirements of the project. This analysis provides the company with a solid understanding of the necessary specifications and features needed for the final system to work properly.

At this point, a design is created using detailed information regarding the intended functionality of the project.

Before the design phase of the SDLC can be concluded, however, a System Design Document (SDD) must be created. This important document provides an overview of the entire design of the process and includes information such as:

  1. Product Design
  2. System Architecture
  3. Database Design
  4. Data Structure
  5. System Interface
  6. User Interface

This critical information is key to both the functionality and the look of the final system.

4. Development

Once an SDD has been created and a design agreed upon, the project enters the next phase of the SDLC.

At this point, the system comes under development, and production has begun on the project.

Programmers become indispensable during this stage, as they work to develop the system according to the SDD.

Programmers will use their expert coding knowledge to help develop a rough prototype of the project while attempting to follow the agreed-upon design and stay within the budget.

The project is carefully developed to meet the requirements of the SDD. In order to do this, programmers follow a specific five-step process that includes:

  1. Installing and Configuring Hardware
  2. Installing and Configuring the Database
  3. Allocating Tasks
  4. Coding
  5. Testing Units

It’s through this process that programmers write the script for the future system. Hardware and databases are configured and installed before tasks are allocated and coding begins.

During this phase, unit testing is employed to make sure that the process is proceeding as intended. In this case, programming may proceed slowly. Unit tests are continually conducted to ensure the system’s individual units are operating as designed based on the requirements as established by the SRS and the SDD. This unit test is completed before the commencement of the System Testing Phase.

5. Testing

Testing is conducted following the development phase as a way of ensuring the system’s quality. It’s important that at this stage, the system is fixed to meet the requirements as set out by the SDD.

There are six steps to the System Testing Phase, including:

  1. Developing a Test Plan—A Test Plan is important to ensuring the quality of your final system. The Test Plan lays out a strategy for testing the system to make sure that it meets the buyers’ requirements. The scope of the testing, as well as the methods and resources used, should all be included in the test plan to ensure accuracy. By following a test plan, Testers can ensure that all necessary testing is complete and that the system is ready for deployment.
  2. Developing a Test Script—Testers develop a test script that is used to verify the system’s functionality. This script will check whether or not the project meets the requirements as laid out in the SDD.
  3. Functional Testing—Functional testing is performed to make sure that the system is performing as expected. It’s at this point that errors in the system’s functionality are diagnosed and repaired so that the final product meets the buyer’s standards.
  4. Integration Testing—Integration testing is performed to make sure that the various components within the system are behaving as expected with one another. Defects in the interaction of differing components can impede the system’s utility and functionality.
  5. Performance Testing—Performance testing measures the performance of a system. Several aspects of the product are examined here, as developers work to ensure the system is as fast, reliable, and accurate as possible.
  6. Security Testing—At this point, the system is tested to ensure maximum security.

6. Deployment

At this stage, the source code is deployed to production.

Most of the coding for the system is done now, as the system is put together and developed before being launched live.

Once live, the system will reach the clients and any other end user. It’s critical that the system is designed and produced as required, as clients will have access to the product at this point.

By following the above steps of the SDLC, it’s possible to ensure that the system is designed according to the client’s needs and wishes.

Ideally, at this stage, there should be no other problems, and the end user should be happy with the system.

7. Operation and Maintenance

There are five steps to the final phase of the SDLC:

  1. Prepare User Documentation
  2. Prepare System Documentation
  3. Prepare Standard Operating Procedure
  4. Provide Training to Business Users
  5. Handover to the Operation and Support Team

As you may notice, many of these steps require the preparation of the system to be handed off to the end users, as well as developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and conducting training to help new users familiarize themselves with the system.

Once this is done, the project will be handed off to the Operation and Support team, as those in development look toward other projects.

Additionally, if end users would like to tweak the system, they may do so during the Operation and Maintenance Phase of the SDLC. It’s here that end users can provide their own input and upgrades, as they customize the system to fit their exact needs.

It may be that this step isn’t necessary in all cases; however, it remains common that end users may need to update the system to meet their changing conditions.

Still, these are minor changes, and may reflect updates that clients need since signing off on the details.

Because this is the last stage of the SDLC, it’s important that end users of a system are satisfied with their products.

With proper planning, development, and testing, a company can ensure that end users will be pleased with their overall product.

The Bottom Line

The SDLC is a multi-step process that involves the planning, designing, implementing, developing, testing, and maintenance of a system.

The system in question is produced according to the requirements collected throughout the SDLC process.

The final system is designed in compliance with the end users’ needs, and performance standards are judged based on the product’s adherence to the SDD.

The SDLC helps developers better assess and meet the needs of their clients. Though the process is strict and requires a set number of steps to be done in a particular order, it ensures that the final system delivered is one of quality.

By using the SDLC and meeting their clients’ expectations, developers can get a better name and reputation in the market.

If you’re looking to implement the steps of the SDLC in your workplace, be sure to follow the tips as listed above. These seven steps include every phase of the SDLC process in detail so that you can start incorporating it into your own business practices.