Introduction to Software Engineering/Process

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First we need to take a brief look at the big picture. The software development process is a structure imposed on the development of a software product. It is made up of a set of activities and steps with the goal to find repeatable, predictable processes that improve productivity and quality.

Software Development Activities[edit]

Model of the Systems Development Life Cycle
Model of the Systems Development Life Cycle

The software development process consists of a set of activities and steps, which are

  • Requirements
  • Specification
  • Architecture
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance

Planning[edit]

The important task in creating a software product is extracting the requirements or requirements analysis. Customers typically have an abstract idea of what they want as an end result, but not what software should do. Incomplete, ambiguous, or even contradictory requirements are recognized by skilled and experienced software engineers at this point. Frequently demonstrating live code may help reduce the risk that the requirements are incorrect.

Once the general requirements are gathered from the client, an analysis of the scope of the development should be determined and clearly stated. This is often called a scope document.

Certain functionality may be out of scope of the project as a function of cost or as a result of unclear requirements at the start of development. If the development is done externally, this document can be considered a legal document so that if there are ever disputes, any ambiguity of what was promised to the client can be clarified.

Implementation, Testing and Documenting[edit]

Implementation is the part of the process where software engineers actually program the code for the project.

Software testing is an integral and important part of the software development process. This part of the process ensures that defects are recognized as early as possible.

Documenting the internal design of software for the purpose of future maintenance and enhancement is done throughout development. This may also include the writing of an API, be it external or internal. It is very important to document everything in the project.

Deployment and Maintenance[edit]

Deployment starts after the code is appropriately tested, is approved for release and sold or otherwise distributed into a production environment.

Software Training and Support is important and a lot of developers fail to realize that. It would not matter how much time and planning a development team puts into creating software if nobody in an organization ends up using it. People are often resistant to change and avoid venturing into an unfamiliar area, so as a part of the deployment phase, it is very important to have training classes for new clients of your software.

Maintaining and enhancing software to cope with newly discovered problems or new requirements can take far more time than the initial development of the software. It may be necessary to add code that does not fit the original design to correct an unforeseen problem or it may be that a customer is requesting more functionality and code can be added to accommodate their requests. If the labor cost of the maintenance phase exceeds 25% of the prior-phases' labor cost, then it is likely that the overall quality of at least one prior phase is poor. In that case, management should consider the option of rebuilding the system (or portions) before maintenance cost is out of control.


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