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Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

October 22, 2023


Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

In this article, we’ll look at the Software Development Life-Cycle or SDLC as it’s commonly referred to. I’ll briefly summarize the 7 phases of the SDLC so that you can gain a better understanding of the subject.

What is the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?

When searching the term “SDLC” in Google, you’ll quickly notice the search results contain many different variants of terms and interpretations of what exactly the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) entails.

Having worked in the technology industry for over a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a wide range of roles including QA Analyst, Web Designer, Product Owner, and Project Manager. As a result, I’ve developed a fair understanding of the SDLC and will attempt to present my understanding to help those less familiar with the subject.

The 7 Phases of the SDLC

I like to think of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) in terms of the following 7 phases:

  1. Discover

  2. Define

  3. Design

  4. Build

  5. Test

  6. Release

  7. Maintain

Let’s take a closer look at each phase in more detail.


Every software development project begins with discovery. At this stage, we’re looking to gather as much information as possible about the various aspects of the project. Common types of information include:

  • Requirements

  • Business case

  • Objectives

  • Budget

  • Timeline

  • Stakeholders

  • Risks

  • Assumptions

  • Constraints

  • Success Criteria

Information gathering can be performed using a combination of methods including interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, documentation review,  observation, etc.

Let’s take a look at the next phase of the SDLC.


Once the discovery phase is complete, it’s time to analyze the information and define the project requirements. Common documents produced at this stage can include:

  • Project Plan

  • User Stories

  • Statement of Work

  • Schedule

  • Budget

  • Contracts

These documents serve as baselines to help define success and measure performance over the course of the project.


Using the documentation produced in the previous phase, we proceed to designing our application. In this phase, the goal is to optimize user experience by designing the user interface and any backend or data systems. Typical outputs of this phase include:

  • Wireframes

  • Workflow diagrams

  • Style guide

  • Design mockups

  • Prototypes

  • Creative assets

During the design phase, it’s important to validate designs by soliciting feedback from users and other stakeholders.


At this stage, the development team creates the frontend and backend code of the application. The previously-defined functional and and non-functional requirements are used to build out the application.


Once the development team has implemented their code, it’s critical to validate the application against the defined specifications. There are many different types of testing that can be performed including acceptance, regression, and integration testing.

Testing can either be done using automated tests or through manual testing. Defects are typically logged into an issue-tracking system and assigned for bug fixing. Once testing is complete and signed-off, the code is ready for release.


Once the application has been validated and is ready for users, it can then be released to Production. This involves updating any databases, code, and server configurations necessary to deliver the application to users. As part of this process, it is common to have a release plan in place and may involve coordinating user training.


As with any software application, it must be maintained. Over time, an application may require security patches, software updates, data backups, bug fixes, or feature enhancements. It’s always important to have a plan in place to anticipate and address the above maintenance requirements. Without a maintenance plan and the necessary resources, it can result in a costly disaster.


Understanding the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) can seem daunting at first. However, if we break the process down into its distinct phases, it makes grasping the concept much easier.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and I encourage you to subscribe to my LinkedIn page to get my latest articles and to engage with me on LinkedIn. Following my page also helps me out immensely with growing my audience and supporting my work.

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