Software Development Life Cycle – Understanding the process and choosing a partner

If you’re about to start a software or web development project that you expect to take your business to the next level, you might be surprised to learn that the software development lifecycle begins long before the actual project launch.

For software development companies, the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) technically begins as soon as a customer engages the company. The SDLC refers to the actual framework of tasks and milestones created by the developer’s project team.

But for you, the software development process begins the day you decide your business can benefit from an investment in technology to improve branding, streamline workflows or communications, or increase sales. At this point, you pick up the phone to contact reputable companies who can help you not only with strategic planning, but also with building your custom web, mobile, or cloud computing solution.

Here are some tips to achieve the best possible project outcome by better understanding the software development lifecycle from start to finish.

Official stages of SDLC and the software development process

Each phase of the software development lifecycle has its own unique goals and milestones. It is critical that the solution provider you choose has a proven SDLC process in place to ensure the delivery of predictable results. Although vendors may use slightly different terminology to describe them, everyone should follow these five basic steps:

Discovery – Outline your goals and business needs; identify market opportunities and target audience; develop a strategic plan; Conduct an internal resource and technology audit and finally summarize the scope of work of the project.

Design – overview of the overall project plan; design user experience; develop prototypes; conduct usability focus groups; outline the content of the website; develop test plans.

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Construction – create a custom system; conduct continuous reviews; conduct internal QA tests; intensify marketing efforts; Development of a user acceptance test; development of a launch plan; Development of a system training plan.

Launch – run a user acceptance test plan; system training; Delivery of system documentation.

Review – check project success; identify new opportunities; Maintain all applications; Plan initiatives for later phases.

The free consultation

Once you understand the software development life cycle and what you will hire a vendor for you, it is time to start identifying potential solution providers.

If a company offers a free consultation, be sure to take it! You’d be surprised how many people don’t take advantage of this golden opportunity to steer the conversation away from a sales pitch and get some important questions answered. You can learn about their customer success stories and request customer references later in your RFP. Inquire about the technical approach and deployment methodology right away, and ask a few specific technical questions to get an instant sense of whether the company has the expertise and reliability required.

A reputable software solution provider specializing in custom web development and software development should be highly skilled in several broad areas – from strategic analysis, project management and project documentation to testing and project maintenance – to ensure up-to-date solutions and ensure the ultimate success of your project. With these qualities, a company has an extensive knowledge of the software development process and how to adapt it to your needs.

Because of its potential complexity and the variety of technologies involved, software development requires a very systematic approach. Careful planning and a step-by-step process are the foundation for creating and implementing an effective and reliable software solution. Listen carefully to learn how the company approaches each phase of the software development lifecycle so you can determine the thoroughness of each vendor’s process.

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Every conversation you have also contributes to the formation of increasingly sophisticated business needs. Even if you’re pretty sure what your business needs might be, keep an open mind and listen to the pros. You can simply pick up some ideas that will create long-term efficiencies for your business.

The request for quotation

After interviewing a handful of software solutions companies, you’ll find that one or two will have you ready to take the next step. Now is the time to provide these potential solution providers with as much information as possible in what is called a Request For Proposal (RFP).

RFPs generally include the specifics of your brand positioning, any of your business functionality requirements, the vision and goals for the project, a proposed timeline, a request for customer references, and details of the software development methodology.

Writing an RFP is something of an art form, but don’t be intimidated – providing as much information as possible and understanding each stage of the software development lifecycle will greatly improve the accuracy of the proposal or the scope of work you receive in return.

The scope of the work

Solution providers on your RFP mailing list will generally respond with a detailed scope of work (SOW) and estimate for the project. For highly complex projects, it is not uncommon to receive a SOW and estimate for just the discovery phase described above.

Oftentimes the discovery phase needs to be completed so that the vendor can better understand your business needs and provide an accurate estimate for the entire project if you want to move on to a full software development project.

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Expect to pay between $10,000 and $30,000 for a detailed discovery SOW and a clear business requirements document. Note that if you contract with a custom software solution provider for a Discovery SOW, you are not required to hire them for the entire project.

After an in-depth exploration is completed, you will receive a detailed SOW and estimate for the entire project. Of course, the prices for each individual project vary greatly.

Get the most bang for your buck from the software development process

Since most software development projects require significant investments of time and money, it is clearly to your advantage to choose a software development company with extensive experience in developing custom software and solutions. In addition to their advanced technical knowledge, a more experienced company can also help you strategize and make better project decisions—decisions that move you closer to your long-term goals while addressing multiple strategic marketing goals.

Since application and website development is an advancement in technology, it is also important to employ a company that stays current and embraces appropriate new technologies and platforms as they emerge.

With a clear understanding of the software development life cycle process – and how to use this knowledge to inform your choice of development partner – your chances of a successful project are very high.

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