Introduction to Software Engineering/Process/Life Cycle
The Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), or Software Development Life Cycle in systems engineering, information systems and software engineering, is the process of creating or altering systems, and the models and methodologies that people use to develop these systems. The concept generally refers to computer or information systems.
In software engineering the SDLC concept underpins many kinds of software development methodologies. These methodologies form the framework for planning and controlling the creation of an information system: the software development process.
Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a process used by a systems analyst to develop an information system, including requirements, validation, training, and user (stakeholder) ownership. Any SDLC should result in a high quality system that meets or exceeds customer expectations, reaches completion within time and cost estimates, works effectively and efficiently in the current and planned Information Technology infrastructure, and is inexpensive to maintain and cost-effective to enhance.
Computer systems are complex and often (especially with the recent rise of Service-Oriented Architecture) link multiple traditional systems potentially supplied by different software vendors. To manage this level of complexity, a number of SDLC models have been created: "waterfall"; "fountain"; "spiral"; "build and fix"; "rapid prototyping"; "incremental"; and "synchronize and stabilize". 
SDLC models can be described along a spectrum of agile to iterative to sequential. Agile methodologies, such as XP and Scrum, focus on light-weight processes which allow for rapid changes along the development cycle. Iterative methodologies, such as Rational Unified Process and Dynamic Systems Development Method, focus on limited project scopes and expanding or improving products by multiple iterations. Sequential or big-design-up-front (BDUF) models, such as Waterfall, focus on complete and correct planning to guide large projects and risks to successful and predictable results. Other models, such as Anamorphic Development, tend to focus on a form of development that is guided by project scope and adaptive iterations of feature development.
In project management a project can be defined both with a project life cycle (PLC) and an SDLC, during which slightly different activities occur. According to Taylor (2004) "the project life cycle encompasses all the activities of the project, while the systems development life cycle focuses on realizing the product requirements".
The Systems Life Cycle (SLC) is a type of methodology used to describe the process for building information systems, intended to develop information systems in a very deliberate, structured and methodical way, reiterating each stage of the life cycle. The systems development life cycle, according to Elliott & Strachan & Radford (2004), "originated in the 1960s,to develop large scale functional business systems in an age of large scale business conglomerates. Information systems activities revolved around heavy data processing and number crunching routines".
Several systems development frameworks have been partly based on SDLC, such as the Structured Systems Analysis and Design Method (SSADM) produced for the UK government Office of Government Commerce in the 1980s. Ever since, according to Elliott (2004), "the traditional life cycle approaches to systems development have been increasingly replaced with alternative approaches and frameworks, which attempted to overcome some of the inherent deficiencies of the traditional SDLC".
Systems development phases
The System Development Life Cycle framework provides a sequence of activities for system designers and developers to follow. It consists of a set of steps or phases in which each phase of the SDLC uses the results of the previous one.
A Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) adheres to important phases that are essential for developers, such as planning, analysis, design, and implementation, and are explained in the section below. A number of system development life cycle (SDLC) models have been created: waterfall, fountain, spiral, build and fix, rapid prototyping, incremental, and synchronize and stabilize. The oldest of these, and the best known, is the waterfall model: a sequence of stages in which the output of each stage becomes the input for the next. These stages can be characterized and divided up in different ways, including the following:
- Project planning, feasibility study: Establishes a high-level view of the intended project and determines its goals.
- Systems analysis, requirements definition: Refines project goals into defined functions and operation of the intended application. Analyzes end-user information needs.
- Systems design: Describes desired features and operations in detail, including screen layouts, business rules, process diagrams, pseudocode and other documentation.
- Implementation: The real code is written here.
- Integration and testing: Brings all the pieces together into a special testing environment, then checks for errors, bugs and interoperability.
- Acceptance, installation, deployment: The final stage of initial development, where the software is put into production and runs actual business.
- Maintenance: What happens during the rest of the software's life: changes, correction, additions, moves to a different computing platform and more. This, the least glamorous and perhaps most important step of all, goes on seemingly forever.
In the following example (see picture) these stage of the Systems Development Life Cycle are divided in ten steps from definition to creation and modification of IT work products:
Not every project will require that the phases be sequentially executed. However, the phases are interdependent. Depending upon the size and complexity of the project, phases may be combined or may overlap.
The goal of system analysis is to determine where the problem is in an attempt to fix the system. This step involves breaking down the system in different pieces to analyze the situation, analyzing project goals, breaking down what needs to be created and attempting to engage users so that definite requirements can be defined.
Requirements analysis sometimes requires individuals/teams from client as well as service provider sides to get detailed and accurate requirements; often there has to be a lot of communication to and from to understand these requirements. Requirement gathering is the most crucial aspect as many times communication gaps arise in this phase and this leads to validation errors and bugs in the software program.
In systems design the design functions and operations are described in detail, including screen layouts, business rules, process diagrams and other documentation. The output of this stage will describe the new system as a collection of modules or subsystems.
The design stage takes as its initial input the requirements identified in the approved requirements document. For each requirement, a set of one or more design elements will be produced as a result of interviews, workshops, and/or prototype efforts.
Design elements describe the desired software features in detail, and generally include functional hierarchy diagrams, screen layout diagrams, tables of business rules, business process diagrams, pseudocode, and a complete entity-relationship diagram with a full data dictionary. These design elements are intended to describe the software in sufficient detail that skilled programmers may develop the software with minimal additional input design.
Modular and subsystem programming code will be accomplished during this stage. Unit testing and module testing are done in this stage by the developers. This stage is intermingled with the next in that individual modules will need testing before integration to the main project.
The code is tested at various levels in software testing. Unit, system and user acceptance testings are often performed. This is a grey area as many different opinions exist as to what the stages of testing are and how much if any iteration occurs. Iteration is not generally part of the waterfall model, but usually some occur at this stage. In the testing the whole system is test one by one
Following are the types of testing:
- Defect testing
- Path testing
- Data set testing
- Unit testing
- System testing
- Integration testing
- Black box testing
- White box testing
- Regression testing
- Automation testing
- User acceptance testing
- Performance testing
Operations and maintenance
The deployment of the system includes changes and enhancements before the decommissioning or sunset of the system. Maintaining the system is an important aspect of SDLC. As key personnel change positions in the organization, new changes will be implemented, which will require system updates.
Systems Analysis and Design
The Systems Analysis and Design (SAD) is the process of developing Information Systems (IS) that effectively use of hardware, software, data, process, and people to support the company’s business objectives.
Systems development life cycle topics
Management and control
The Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases serve as a programmatic guide to project activity and provide a flexible but consistent way to conduct projects to a depth matching the scope of the project. Each of the SDLC phase objectives are described in this section with key deliverables, a description of recommended tasks, and a summary of related control objectives for effective management. It is critical for the project manager to establish and monitor control objectives during each SDLC phase while executing projects. Control objectives help to provide a clear statement of the desired result or purpose and should be used throughout the entire SDLC process. Control objectives can be grouped into major categories (Domains), and relate to the SDLC phases as shown in the figure.
To manage and control any SDLC initiative, each project will be required to establish some degree of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to capture and schedule the work necessary to complete the project. The WBS and all programmatic material should be kept in the “Project Description” section of the project notebook. The WBS format is mostly left to the project manager to establish in a way that best describes the project work. There are some key areas that must be defined in the WBS as part of the SDLC policy. The following diagram describes three key areas that will be addressed in the WBS in a manner established by the project manager.
Work breakdown structured organization
The upper section of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) should identify the major phases and milestones of the project in a summary fashion. In addition, the upper section should provide an overview of the full scope and timeline of the project and will be part of the initial project description effort leading to project approval. The middle section of the WBS is based on the seven Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases as a guide for WBS task development. The WBS elements should consist of milestones and “tasks” as opposed to “activities” and have a definitive period (usually two weeks or more). Each task must have a measurable output (e.x. document, decision, or analysis). A WBS task may rely on one or more activities (e.g. software engineering, systems engineering) and may require close coordination with other tasks, either internal or external to the project. Any part of the project needing support from contractors should have a Statement of work (SOW) written to include the appropriate tasks from the SDLC phases. The development of a SOW does not occur during a specific phase of SDLC but is developed to include the work from the SDLC process that may be conducted by external resources such as contractors and struct.
Baselines in the SDLC
Baselines are an important part of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC). These baselines are established after four of the five phases of the SDLC and are critical to the iterative nature of the model . Each baseline is considered as a milestone in the SDLC.
- Functional Baseline: established after the conceptual design phase.
- Allocated Baseline: established after the preliminary design phase.
- Product Baseline: established after the detail design and development phase.
- Updated Product Baseline: established after the production construction phase.
Complementary to SDLC
Complementary Software development methods to Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) are:
- Software Prototyping
- Joint Applications Design (JAD)
- Rapid Application Development (RAD)
- Extreme Programming (XP); extension of earlier work in Prototyping and RAD.
- Open Source Development
- End-user development
- Object Oriented Programming
|SDLC||RAD||Open Source||Objects||JAD||Prototyping||End User|
|Users||Many||Few||Few||Varies||Few||One or Two||One|
|MIS staff||Many||Few||Hundreds||Split||Few||One or Two||None|
|Documentation and training||Vital||Limited||Internal||In Objects||Limited||Weak||None|
|Integrity and security||Vital||Vital||Unknown||In Objects||Limited||Weak||Weak|
Strengths and weaknesses
Few people in the modern computing world would use a strict waterfall model for their Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC)  as many modern methodologies have superseded this thinking. Some will argue that the SDLC no longer applies to models like Agile computing, but it is still a term widely in use in Technology circles. The SDLC practice has advantages in traditional models of software development, that lends itself more to a structured environment. The disadvantages to using the SDLC methodology is when there is need for iterative development or (i.e. web development or e-commerce) where stakeholders need to review on a regular basis the software being designed. Instead of viewing SDLC from a strength or weakness perspective, it is far more important to take the best practices from the SDLC model and apply it to whatever may be most appropriate for the software being designed.
A comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of SDLC:
|Control.||Increased development time.|
|Monitor Large projects.||Increased development cost.|
|Detailed steps.||Systems must be defined up front.|
|Evaluate costs and completion targets.||Rigidity.|
|Documentation.||Hard to estimate costs, project overruns.|
|Well defined user input.||User input is sometimes limited.|
|Ease of maintenance.|
|Development and design standards.|
|Tolerates changes in MIS staffing.|
An alternative to the SDLC is Rapid Application Development, which combines prototyping, Joint Application Development and implementation of CASE tools. The advantages of RAD are speed, reduced development cost, and active user involvement in the development process.
- SELECTING A DEVELOPMENT APPROACH. Retrieved 27 October 2008.
- "Systems Development Life Cycle". In: Foldoc(2000-12-24)
- James Taylor (2004). Managing Information Technology Projects. p.39..
- Geoffrey Elliott & Josh Strachan (2004) Global Business Information Technology. p.87.
- US Department of Justice (2003). INFORMATION RESOURCES MANAGEMENT Chapter 1. Introduction.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1999). Systems Development Life-Cycle Policy. p.13.
- Blanchard, B. S., & Fabrycky, W. J.(2006) Systems engineering and analysis (4th ed.) New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p.31
- Post, G., & Anderson, D., (2006). Management information systems: Solving business problems with information technology. (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
- Blanchard, B. S., & Fabrycky, W. J.(2006) Systems engineering and analysis (4th ed.) New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
- Cummings, Haag (2006). Management Information Systems for the Information Age. Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson
- Beynon-Davies P. (2009). Business Information Systems. Palgrave, Basingstoke. ISBN 978-0-230-20368-6
- Computer World, 2002, Retrieved on June 22, 2006 from the World Wide Web:
- Management Information Systems, 2005, Retrieved on June 22, 2006 from the World Wide Web: