The systems development life cycle (SDLC), also referred to as the application development life-cycle, is a term used in systems engineering, information systems and software engineering to describe a process for planning, creating, testing, and deploying an information system. The systems development life-cycle concept applies to a range of hardware and software configurations, as a system can be composed of hardware only, software only, or a combination of both.
A systems development life cycle is composed of a number of clearly defined and distinct work phases which are used by systems engineers and systems developers to plan for, design, build, test, and deliver information systems. Like anything that is manufactured on an assembly line, an SDLC aims to produce high-quality systems that meet or exceed customer expectations, based on customer requirements, by delivering systems which move through each clearly defined phase, within scheduled time frames and cost estimates. 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 or methodologies have been created, such as "waterfall"; "spiral"; "Agile software development"; "rapid prototyping"; "incremental"; and "synchronize and stabilize".
SDLC can be described along a spectrum of agile to iterative to sequential. Agile methodologies, such as XP and Scrum, focus on lightweight processes which allow for rapid changes (without necessarily following the pattern of SDLC approach) along the development cycle. Iterative methodologies, such as Rational Unified Process and dynamic systems development method, focus on limited project scope 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".
SDLC is used during the development of an IT project, it describes the different stages involved in the project from the drawing board, through the completion of the project.
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.
The SDLC adheres to important phases that are essential for developers, such as planning, analysis, design, and implementation, and are explained in the section below. It includes evaluation of present system, information gathering, feasibility study and request approval. A number of SDLC models have been created: waterfall, fountain, spiral, build and fix, rapid prototyping, incremental, 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
The objective of phase 1 is to conduct a preliminary analysis, propose alternative solutions, describe costs and benefits and submit a preliminary plan with recommendations.
In this step, you need to find out the organization's objectives and the nature and scope of the problem under study. Even if a problem refers only to a small segment of the organization itself, you need to find out what the objectives of the organization itself are. Then you need to see how the problem being studied fits in with them.
In digging into the organization's objectives and specific problems, you may have already covered some solutions. Alternate proposals may come from interviewing employees, clients, suppliers, and/or consultants. You can also study what competitors are doing. With this data, you will have three choices: leave the system as is, improve it, or develop a new system.
Defines project goals into defined functions and operation of the intended application. It is the process of gathering and interpreting facts, diagnosing problems and recommending improvements to the system. Analyzes end-user information needs and also removes any inconsistencies and incompleteness in these requirements.
A series of steps followed by the developer are
End user Requirements are obtained through documentation, client interviews, observation and questionnaires,
Identify pros and cons of the current system in-place, so as to carry forward the pros and avoid the cons in the new system.
Solutions to the shortcomings in step two are found and any specific user proposals are used to prepare the specifications.
Describes desired features and operations in detail, including screen layouts, business rules, process diagrams, pseudocode and other documentation.
Brings all the pieces together into a special testing environment, then checks for errors, bugs and interoperability.
The final stage of initial development, where the software is put into production and runs actual business.
During the maintenance stage of the SDLC, the system is assessed to ensure it does not become obsolete. This is also where changes are made to initial software. It involves continuous evaluation of the system in terms of its performance.
Some companies do not view this as an official stage of the SDLC, while others consider it to be an extension of the maintenance stage, and may be referred to in some circles as post-implementation review. This is where the system that was developed, as well as the entire process, is evaluated. Some of the questions that need to be answered include: does the newly implemented system meet the initial business requirements and objectives? Is the system reliable and fault-tolerant? Does the system function according to the approved functional requirements? In addition to evaluating the software that was released, it is important to assess the effectiveness of the development process. If there are any aspects of the entire process, or certain stages, that management is not satisfied with, this is the time to improve. Evaluation and assessment is a difficult issue. However, the company must reflect on the process and address weaknesses.
In this phase, plans are developed for discarding system information, hardware and software in making the transition to a new system. The purpose here is to properly move, archive, discard or destroy information, hardware and software that is being replaced, in a manner that prevents any possibility of unauthorized disclosure of sensitive data. The disposal activities ensure proper migration to a new system. Particular emphasis is given to proper preservation and archival of data processed by the previous system. All of this should be done in accordance with the organization's security requirements.
The system investigates the IT proposal. During this step, we must consider all current priorities that would be affected and how they should be handled. Before any system planning is done, a feasibility study should be conducted to determine if creating a new or improved system is a viable solution. This will help to determine the costs, benefits, resource requirements, and specific user needs required for completion. The development process can only continue once management approves of the recommendations from the feasibility study.
Following are different components of the feasibility study:
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.
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 system features in detail, and generally include functional hierarchy diagrams, screen layout diagrams, tables of business rules, business process diagrams, pseudo-code, and a complete entity-relationship diagram with a full data dictionary. These design elements are intended to describe the system in sufficient detail, such that skilled developers and engineers may develop and deliver the system with minimal additional input design.
Environments are controlled areas where systems developers can build, distribute, install, configure, test, and execute systems that move through the SDLC. Each environment is aligned with different areas of the SDLC and is intended to have specific purposes. Examples of such environments include the:
where developers can work independently of each other before trying to merge their work with the work of others,
where merged work can be built, together, as a combined system,
where basic testing of a system's integration points to other upstream or downstream systems can be tested,
where business stakeholders can test against their original business requirements,
where systems finally get deployed to, for final use by their intended end users.
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 the means to rectify defects and validate fixes prior to deployment is incorporated into this phase.
The following are types of testing that may be relevant, depending on the type of system under development:
Once a system has been stabilized through adequate testing, the SDLC ensures that proper training on the system is performed or documented before transitioning the system to its support staff and end users.
Training usually covers operational training for those people who will be responsible for supporting the system as well as training for those end users who will be using the system after its delivery to a production operating environment.
After training has been successfully completed, systems engineers and developers transition the system to its final production environment, where it is intended to be used by its end users and supported by its support and operations staff.
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. There are two approaches to system development; there is the traditional approach (structured) and object oriented. Information Engineering includes the traditional system approach, which is also called the structured analysis and design technique. The object oriented approach views the information system as a collection of objects that are integrated with each other to make a full and complete information system.
The final phase of the SDLC is to measure the effectiveness of the system and evaluate potential enhancements.