Understanding the software development lifecycle

If you are new to software development, there are probably a lot of issues and terms that are unfamiliar. That’s understandable, given how fond the technology and business sectors are of using buzzwords and even creating solutions for problems that don’t yet exist. It’s the result of industries that evolve at an ever-increasing rate.

One of the terms all businesses and developers need to understand is the Software Development Lifecycle. This could be easily explained as the stages that developers follow for any given software project. Yet, even what that is true, it doesn’t quite explore the finer points of the process.

To really understand this concept, you must know the stages of software development, of which there are 6. Once you can recognize these stages (and apply them to your work), you’ll find development can be done more efficiently and effectively.

Let’s layout those stages following the same process we use at BairesDev, so you can get a better idea of how the lifecycle of a software project begins and ends. It won’t matter if you’re a Python, Java, JavaScript, .NET, C, C++, developer or if you work for a company that does PHP development services, if you’re a developer, the Software Development Lifecycle applies to you.

Stage One: Requirement analysis

The first stage of the cycle is all about gathering information from the client. A client can be an internal department of your business, or a third-party looking to have you develop software for them.

During this stage, the senior members of the development team meet with the client to collect all of the relevant information for the project. This information will include what the customer wants to actually build, who the users will be, where the market is, what’s the purpose of the software, what platform the software will be distributed on, and if the software will be monetized.

Once this information is collected, an analysis is then done to ensure the project is feasible (based on the data) and a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) is created. The SRS is a description of a software system to be developed.

Stage Two: Design

In the Design stage, the SRS is used as a guide to help create a plan called the Design Specification. Once the plan is created, all stakeholders review it and offer feedback, which is absolutely crucial to avoid issues like cost overruns or even the total failure of the project.

Stage Three: Building

This is the portion of the lifecycle that usually takes the longest. Once developers are given the completed Design Specification (which includes all stakeholder input), they can translate it into source code to build the project.

During this phase of the lifecycle, it’s important that the developers ensure their work follows the guidance within the Design Specification and implement the best possible software stack for the project.

This stage encompasses the entire build of the software.

Stage Four: Testing

Once the code is complete, and the software is capable of running, the project is tested for bugs, flaws, UI issues, and vulnerabilities. This is an incredibly important stage, as without it you’d release incomplete, insecure software.

The testing phase must be completed fully before deployment. What’s more –  a new testing round should begin with each iteration and bug fix. If the project uses more than one language, stack, or framework, it’s important to make sure everything works in harmony.

Although it is possible (and, in some cases, preferable) to use automation for software testing, this phase shouldn’t be completed without actual human intervention. You’ll need testers to use the software to not only make sure it works as expected, but the user interface is well designed and can be used with ease.

The testing phase will probably begin within a testing environment, but should also be tested within production, to make sure it is capable of working under a real-world load. Continue this process until all involved agree the software is ready to continue on to the next phase.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of development teams don’t see testing as a phase but rather as an ongoing process throughout the whole development lifecycle. If we’re explaining it like this is just out of educational purposes, as it’s not necessarily a separate stage.

Stage Five: Deploying

This is the exciting part of the lifecycle, where people start to use the software. The software might go through a staging environment first, which is a step above a testing environment on its way to production. But eventually, the software must make it to the actual production environment, where it will be used by the clients.

How this is deployed will depend on the client. You might have to deliver the software and deploy it for the client (especially if the installation of the software is complex). Of, you could hand the software over to the client and allow their IT staff to deploy the software to their production environment.

Stage Six: Maintenance

You might think that the software lifecycle ends at deployment. It doesn’t. With the software deployed, the client is either going to find problems with the software or discover a need for new features. It’s also possible that security flaws might have been discovered in one of the software stacks your project was based upon.

No matter the discovery, you’ll be charged with updating, fixing, and maintaining the software. You built it, so you can’t depend on the client IT department to fix it. This is especially so when the fix involves the actual code.

It’s important that you build maintenance into the charge for the project. Otherwise, you’ll either wind up losing a client or having to bill them for work that should have been included with the original quote. Either way, you must not overlook the Maintenance phase of the software lifecycle.


You now know every step of the Software Development Lifecycle. You might think your company can start and complete a project without following this roadmap, but you’d be mistaken. This is especially true as projects grow in size and frequency. Make sure you apply the 6 phases of the Software Development Lifecycle to all of your projects, and your development services will be able to grow beyond your wildest dreams.

Usman Sabir