6 Software Development Life Cycle models

Software development is a complex process that requires a clear goal, plan, strategy, and team to be successful. Usually, software products that turn into consumers’ favourite follow a clear software development life cycle (SDLC) where all stages are interconnected and together lead to a satisfactory result.

6 Software Development Life Cycle models

And there is more than one way to do it. Over the decades, the art of tech project management evolved and multiple SDLC models came out. Some of them turned out to be more popular than others, but each is applicable in some cases. If you look at a software development company in California, as an example, you’ll likely find that they utilise more than one model. At Emphasoft, the tech team chooses the SDLC model based on a number of criteria, such as the client's industry and the project itself. 

Today we will introduce you to the six popular software development life cycle models that each have become an industry standard, helping you make the right choice for your future MVP development. 

#1 Agile 

Agile is a relatively new yet highly praised development model. Today, Agile methodology went beyond the software world and is applied in many non-tech projects. 

The Agile process breaks down the development into smaller cycles (often called “sprints”), and each of them follows 5 development stages:

  • Ideation 
  • Inception
  • Iteration
  • Release
  • Retirement 

The stages’ order is respected but last-minute changes and new ideas are welcome if they lead to better end results. The cycles typically last 1-4 weeks, and because they include every development stage, the team is able to release new solutions and updates faster. 

The key values of this SDLC model include flexibility, respect, and continuous learning, also through failure. Agile teams are kept rather small and there is no strict hierarchy or micromanagement. Every team member is trusted to be the expert and to have enough accountability to not let the rest of the team down.  

#2 Waterfall

The Waterfall development model is, in many ways, the opposite of Agile. 

It includes 5 key phases:

  • Requirement analysis 
  • Design
  • Development 
  • Verification 
  • Maintenance 

Unlike Agile, Waterfall is not flexible at all and follows a linear approach. The process symbolises the waterfall where everything flows in one direction and the next stage can’t start before the previous one is completed. 

Waterfall is off-putting to many startups and enterprises that encourage creativity and flexibility, but it works great for certain scenarios, such as in production, where the sequence plays an important role and change is rare. A popular example of creating a digital product with Waterfall is building a website where everything needs to follow a strict order for the web pages to be working properly. 

If you’re choosing to go with Waterfall, note that because there is a clear sequence and the verification stage is almost at the end, the risk of ending up with bugs or services that the market doesn’t really want is higher. Make sure you follow meticulous research and requirements analysis before starting any work. 

#3 Big Bang 

The Big Bang model is the epitome of the phrase “go with the flow”. The developers using this SDLC model spend virtually no time on planning and jump right into coding. The requirements are identified in the process, and changes are made to the solution sporadically. 

The Big Bang model is a good fit for smaller projects or as an exercise where the business needs to test out the hypothesis and has little time for development. This way of creating software is much less appealing if you have a comprehensive solution that involves many people and large budget spending. 

The risks of failing or creating low-quality products are much higher with Big Bang, so if you attempt it, make sure to hire a tech team with vast experience and skill set. Ideally, they should know many technologies and tools, and more than one programming language. A professional software development company would probably be a better choice for such an initiative. 

#4 V-Shaped 

The V-shaped SDLC model is also known as Verification and Validation. 

This model grew out of the Waterfall methodology. It is also very inflexible and each new phase is only started when the previous one is finished. Yet unlike in Waterfall, with V-shaped there is a testing phase built into every project phase. This helps reduce the chances of bugs, errors, poor design, and other risks that traditional Waterfall would only learn about at the very end when making changes is nearly impossible. 

With V-Shaped SDLC, turning back and adjusting plans is nearly impossible, so this model can work if your company has mature products that only need updates or upgrades. Choosing this route for a brand-new solution or using experimental technologies in the process is not recommended because the risk is likely to be higher than the potential benefit. 

#5 Iterative 

The next model is called Iterative and it’s all about doing small batches of work for a set number of requirements, testing it out, and releasing a version of the software. Once it’s out, you then figure out the next set of requirements and the cycle repeats until the final version of the software is ready. 

The Iterative SDLC model reminds Agile in a sense because you have smaller releases that you can deliver to customers more often and get real-life feedback from them. It is also generally cheaper and easier to make changes that way, so if new technologies are introduced or market preferences shift to something new, you are able to implement these changes into your solution at a relatively low cost. 

The downside of this model is that it can get inefficient and expensive if you don’t have a clear goal and an advanced tech team that works well together and is fully in sync. But if you are confident in your developers or have access to a professional software development company, the Iterative model can work very well. Especially if you only have the key features of the product defined but not all the details. 

#6 Spiral 

The final SDLC model that we will talk about today is the Spiral model. 

It is very flexible and resembles Lean and Agile models a lot. The main idea is that you have the 4 key phases (requirement gathering, design, implementation, testing) and you repeat them over and over again until the final product is ready. 

Spiral is a good fit for the development of highly customised software because your team works in small cycles and releases the solution to users more often. Users then share their feedback which is incorporated into the next cycle and so on. 

While working with the Spiral model, it is critical to know when to stop, otherwise, your project will “spiral” out of control and budget. 

Final thoughts 

The 6 SDLC models we talked about today all share the same goal – helping the business deliver high-quality solutions to the clients faster and more cost-efficiently. Yet each model achieves that with a different approach, and some of these approaches might work better for your solution than others. So, before you employ Agile, Waterfall, Spiral, or any other methodology, take the time to do the research and decide if it will elevate your development process or drag you down.