Software development projects can be very complicated, and it is easy to go off track if they aren’t managed well. The way that most software developers deal with that is by using various models that are commonly known as Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) methodologies.
All SDLC methodologies have the same goal: To provide structure and help developers overcome challenges as they transition through each stage of the project. That structure can help to increase efficiency, ensure progress is smooth, and flag errors early on.
As you may have already noticed, there are numerous SDLC methodologies out there nowadays – each of which is unique. That is why it is important that you know a bit more about the popular basic SDLC methodologies so that you can choose the right one based on your project parameters, level of expertise, timeline, budget, and other factors.
Agile methodologies are focused on developing software in iterations. This model creates continuous release cycles that each add tiny incremental changes of new functionality. During each iteration the software is tested, and in some cases business stakeholders may even give feedback.
The main advantage of the Agile methodology is that it will allow you to find and fix bugs and issues early on – before they become more serious. On the flipside the disadvantage is that the fragmented development makes it difficult to predict the cost, delivery date, and resources that the overall project will require.
It should be noted that there are several unique types of Agile methodologies that are very popular such as Scrum, XP, and Kanban. Each of these models has a slightly different process, but all utilize the same iterative approach.
The Lean SDLC model draws inspiration from lean manufacturing principles. It is focused on eliminating waste, optimizing development time and resources, as well as eventually delivering the bare-minimum version of the software before iterating improvements based on feedback.
Because it is so streamlined, the Lean model can allow for more important functions to be implemented in a shorter timeline while also reducing costs. Unfortunately it does have downsides too, and depends heavily on team cohesiveness as well as strong documentation – making it difficult to scale.
Unlike other models, DevOps is more than just a SDLC methodology. Instead, it is a set of business practices that require a shift in the organizational culture to improve collaboration between development and operations teams or even merge them together.
The main goal of DevOps is to accelerate innovation and deployment of software functionality. It can automate continuous deployment and ensure the project runs smoothly.
If successfully implemented, DevOps can reduce time to market, lower failure rate of releases, and improve both customer satisfaction and product quality. However it is not suitable for all projects, and in some cases continuous updates may be detrimental – or industry regulations may require more extensive testing.
To put it simply, the Waterfall model is the traditional SDLC methodology. It is really just a rigid linear model where the project is completed in sequential phases – each with its own goals.
Needless to say the Waterfall model’s main draw is its simplicity – making it perfect for teams with less experience. But at the same time the fact that it is so rigid and inflexible often makes it slow and costly, which is why many more experienced developers prefer other models.
As its name suggests, this model involves constant repetitions – making it similar to Agile. Teams that use the Iterative model do not start with the full project requirements, and instead focus on implementing a smaller set of software requirements, testing them, and then identifying new requirements for the next iteration.
Just like Agile the main advantage of the Iterative methodology is that it can flag issues early and is cost effective. That being said it does require some management, despite being relatively straightforward.
The fact that the Iterative model does not take into account the full project requirements from the get go can also cause problems with the overall system architecture or design.
The Spiral methodology is one of the most popular SDLC models for large projects. It is structured in the form of four phases (planning, risk analysis, engineering and evaluation) that are repeated over and over in a spiral until the project is completed.
Because each new cycle goes through risk analysis early on, many issues can be mitigated or prevented entirely. Additionally the Spiral methodology is fast, versatile, and allows new functionality to be introduced even in the later stages of the project.
Despite its advantages, Spiral is often not ideal for small projects. It requires strong risk management expertise, extensive documentation, and is known to have a high risk of overrunning both budget and schedule deadlines.
As you may have noticed, the six SDLC methodologies listed above are popular for good reason and all of them have unique advantages as well as disadvantages. Based on those advantages and disadvantages, you should be able to figure out which will be the best fit for your software development company.
In some cases you may find that none of the models listed above are suitable – but that’s completely fine too. Not only can you look into the many other types of models that are out there, but you can even adapt an existing model and tailor it based on your specific requirements.