Software Development Life Cycle – Understanding the Process and Choosing a Partner

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If you’re about to embark on a software or web development project that you expect to take your business to the next level, you may be surprised to learn that the software development life cycle starts long before the project build actually occurs.

For software development companies, the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) technically begins once a customer has engaged the firm. The SDLC refers to the actual framework of tasks and milestones that will be created by the developer’s project team.

But for you, the software development process starts the day you decide that your business can benefit from an investment in technology to improve branding, streamline workflow or communications,or increase sales. At that point, you pick up the phone to contact reputable companies that can help you not only strategize, but also build your custom web, mobile or cloud computing solution.

Here are some tips for achieving the best possible project outcome via a better understanding of the software development life cycle from start to finish.

Official Phases of SDLC & The Software Development Process

Each phase of the Software Development Life Cycle has its own unique set of goals and milestones. It is critical that your chosen solutions provider has a proven SDLC process in place to ensure the delivery of predictable results. Though vendors may use slightly differing terminology to describe them, all should follow these five basic steps:

Discovery -Outline your objectives and business requirements; identify market opportunity and audience; develop a strategic plan; perform an internal resource and technology audit, and, finally, summarize the project scope of work.

Design -Outline overall project plan; design user experience; develop prototypes;perform usability focus groups; outline site content; develop test plans.

Construction -Build custom system; perform reviews throughout; execute internal QA testing;ramp up marketing efforts; develop a user acceptance test; develop launch plan;develop system training plan.

Launch -Execute a user acceptance test plan; system training; system documentation delivery.

Review -Review project success; identify new opportunities; maintain all applications;plan later phase initiatives.

The Free Consultation

Once you have an understanding of the life cycle of software development and what you will be hiring a vendor to do for you, it’s time to start the process of identifying potential solution providers.

If a company offers a free consultation, by all means take them up on it! You’d be surprised how many people don’t make use of this golden opportunity to steer the conversation away from a sales pitch and get some important questions answered. You can hear about their client successes and request client references in your RFP later on. Get right to inquiring about their technical approach and delivery methodology, and ask some specific technical questions to get an immediate sense if the company has the expertise and reliability you require.

A reputable software solutions provider that specializes in custom web development and software development should be highly qualified in several broad areas -ranging from strategic analysis, project management, and project documentation to testing and project maintenance -to help ensure up-to-date solutions and the ultimate success of your project.Having these characteristics gives a company thorough knowledge of the software development process and how it can be customized to best serve your needs.

Because of its potential complexity and the variety of technologies that may be involved, software development requires a highly 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 for details on how the company addresses each phase of the software development life cycle to help you determine the thoroughness of each provider’s process.

Every conversation you have will also contribute to the formation of an increasingly exacting set of business requirements. Even if you are pretty certain what your business requirements might be, keep an open mind and listen to the pros. You may just pick up some ideas that will create long-term efficiencies for your business.

The Request for Proposal

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

RFPs generally include the specifics of your brand positioning, all your business requirements for functionality, the vision and objectives for the project, a proposed schedule, a request for client references, and specifics on the software development methodology.

Writing an RFP is a bit of an art form, but don’t be intimidated – when you supply as much information as you can and understand each phase of the software development life cycle, it will greatly improve the accuracy of the proposal or scope of work that you receive in return.

The Scope of Work

Solution providers on your RFP distribution list will generally reply 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.

Many times, the Discovery phase must be conducted in order for the provider to better understand your business requirements and provide an accurate estimate for the entire project should you wish to move forward towards a complete software development project.

Expect to pay between $10,000-$30,000 for a detailed Discovery SOW and a clear Business Requirements Document. Note that if you contract with a custom software solutions provider for a Discovery SOW, you are under no obligation to hire them for the full project.

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

Getting the Most for Your Money Out of the Software Development Process

Since most software development projects require substantial investments of both time and hard dollars, it’s clearly to your benefit to choose a software development firm with significant experience in custom software development and solutions. In addition to their advanced technical knowledge, a more experienced firm can also help you strategize and make better project decisions – decisions that can move you closer to your long-term goals, while also simultaneously addressing multiple strategic marketing objectives.

Because application and website development is an evolution of technology, it is also important to employ a firm that stays on the cutting edge and adopts appropriate new technologies and platforms as they emerge.

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

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