[Guide] What Are The System Development Life Cycle Phases?

By Joshua Gross, 23 July, 2022

If you don't have any order to the madness when you're building a piece of software, you'll likely run into a lot of issues along the way that create delays and use vital resources unnecessarily.

To help combat this reality, the systems development life cycle (SDLC) has become the de-facto process for software development and building information systems from the ground up.

The reason that the SDLC has become standard is that it allows teams to balance quality, costs, and time to meet the demands of the modern world.

So, what are the systems development life cycle phases, and what should you know about them? What are the different SDLC methodologies used by developers? Let's take a look at the answers to these questions and more.

What Is the Software System Development Life Cycle?

Creating high-quality information systems is no simple feat, and it is usually a drawn-out and tedious process to develop software from start to finish. Using system development life cycles can help system analysts and project managers deploy software products or information systems in a manner that is more efficient and predictable.

In the most basic sense, a system development life cycle (also known as an SDLC) is a project management model. The SDLC outlines the various essential stages of the development process to turn a project from an idea into a reality.

The Phases of the System Development Life Cycle

The SDLC framework outlines an order of operations for system developers and designers. Different methodologies have varying numbers of phases, but they all adhere to essential phases that are a necessary part of the development process.

1. The Planning Stage

Also referred to as the feasibility stage, the planning stage is when developers map out their plan for their project. This is where teams can pin down the specific problem they are trying to solve and identify any systems that already exist to solve this problem. Developers will also clearly outline the primary objectives for the project during this stage.

This stage is important because it will help developers plan for potential issues, create an overarching plan for the project, and find resources and funding to make their project a reality.

The project schedule is also set during the planning stage, which is a vital part of the process if the product has a set release deadline.

Some companies choose to outline the planning stage in three specific steps, which are:

  • Initial analysis: Working to define the objectives of the client and precisely pinpointing the problems that are being studied
  • Brainstorming: This is where you can work to develop your ideas using the research you conducted during the initial analysis
  • Cost-benefit analysis: Now it's time to dig into the benefits and costs of the solutions you are proposing and determine whether you should leave the system the way it is, make improvements to an existing system, or build a new system

2. The Analysis Stage

Now that the project is planned out in the broadest sense, it's time to move on to the analysis stage. This is when you gather all of the necessary details that will be needed to create the new system.

During this stage, developers will also come up with some of the first ideas for prototypes.

An SRS document (software requirement specification document) is often also created at this time. This is what describes the hardware, software, and network requirements for their intended system.

Developers might also evaluate existing prototype alternatives, define the system requirements of prototypes, and perform research and analysis to better understand what the end-user will need from the product.

3. The Design Stage

After the analysis phase, development teams can describe the system's desired features and operations in detail. At this point, the design of user interfaces, system interfaces, databases, network, and applications are mapped out.

The SRS document will also be transformed into a logical structure. Then, using the specifications outlined in the SRS document, this structure can be implemented using a programming language.

During this stage, plans will be created for operation, training, and maintenance. This lets developers get a sense of what will need to be done at each stage of the cycle.

4. The Development Stage

Finally, it's time for developers to actually write code and build the digital product or system. They will use all of the specifications and design documents created during the previous stages.

If the previous steps went smoothly and the team accomplished what they expected to, the development phase can actually be pretty straightforward.

A number of different tools will be used, including debuggers, compilers, and interpreters by developers, and they will stick to the organization's defined coding guidelines during the process.

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5. The Testing Stage

Once the software has been built, the process of extensively testing the system will begin. It's important that the product offers the intended user experience and that there aren't any bugs or errors that need to be handled.

Software developers will grow through every square inch of their software during the testing phase. They will note any defects or bugs that need to be corrected and retested.

Sometimes this is a very fast phase, while others can stretch on for an extended period. How long the testing stage goes on depends on how complex the software is, the developers' skills, and the requirements for the end-user.

6. The Implementation Stage

Also known as the deployment stage, this is when the product is made available to its intended users.

Depending on the type of software that was created, this can be a fairly simple and automated process, or it can be quite complex. For example, if the project involves upgrading a database to a new application for an entire company, this can be a fairly involved process.

7. The Maintenance Stage

The hard work isn't over once your intended users have the ability to use the product. Developers instead shift their attention to the maintenance of the project.

During this phase, the team can take care of any issues that users report with the software. If developers find that changes need to be made after the software is deployed, this is also their responsibility.

Some tasks developers might undertake during this time include resolving new issues and taking care of bugs that couldn't be fixed before the product launch.

How involved the maintenance stage is depends on the system's size. A larger system will probably involve a more extensive maintenance stage than a smaller one.

Do you have a great concept for an app, but you just aren't sure what the heck to do next? Check out our guide to turning an app idea into reality.

What Are the Benefits of Using the System Development Life Cycle?

It goes without saying that you want your project to be successful. Following the system development life cycle can help the whole process stay on track and ensure that the products you create fit the needs of the end user.

Using a well-defined SDLC allows you to have better management control over the development project from start to finish. It also offers clarity on what the requirements are, meaning that time and resources aren't spent heading in the wrong direction before being corrected.

All of the processes also benefit from transparency and visibility, which keeps the project on track. Everyone involved in the process is also able to share a single vision, rather than dealing with an unfortunate reality where everyone pictures a slightly different end result.

One of the major benefits of following the SDLC is that it can help keep the results you receive in terms of costs, time, and deliverables predictable.

Finally, there is less wasted effort when an entire team follows a well-defined SDLC. The team is more oriented in the same direction and is much less likely to get side-tracked. You'll likely find that your team is able to feel more confident at each step along the way because the phases are so clearly outlined.

It's worth noting that there are some disadvantages to using an SDLC during your development process. For example, development teams can be slowed down when the testing is performed at the end of the development process, and some of these SDLC approaches are flexible enough for the needs of development teams.

System Development Life Cycle Methodologies

Depending on your goals, you can utilize more specific methodologies to create the desired results. Let's take a look at some basic SDLC methodologies.

Waterfall Model

The oldest system development life cycle methodology, the waterfall model, dictates that development teams never move on to the next phase of the project until the previous step is complete. In this simple and linear model, teams can use what they learned in one stage to help avoid issues in the following stages.

The downside of this method is that delays are more common early in the process.


Short for verification and validation, the V-model isn't that different from the waterfall model. However, it builds off the oldest model by including a testing phase in each stage to catch any defects or bugs that could pop up.

Spiral Model

If you're looking for a more flexible methodology, the spiral model might appeal to you. Instead of operating linearly, projects flow through four primary phases over and over again in a circular way.

This can be useful for large projects because it allows teams to incorporate feedback into the project early on in the process.

Iterative Model

Repeat testing and repetition are the main focuses of the iterative model. At the end of each phase, new iterations of the software project are created in order to spot potential bugs and errors. This means that teams can constantly be working to improve the final software product by launch time.

Agile Model

One of the better-known methodologies in the software development industry for SDLC is the agile model. In this model, the name of the game is a quick and continuous release cycle. Between each release, developers make small and incremental tweaks to the product.

This means that the agile model typically incorporates a lot more tests and iterations of the product than some of the other models listed here.

Big Bang Model

The big bang model is most commonly used when a customer isn't exactly sure what they want and needs help developing a fairly broad idea. The reason for this is that this model doesn't follow a strict or rigorous process and is very flexible.

How to Choose the Right SDLC Methodology For Your Product

It is ideal for the client and the development team to work together to choose an SDLC model.

When you're deciding which methodology to use, you'll want to ask a number of questions, including:

  • What are the needs and concerns of the stakeholders?
  • How large is the team, and what skills do they possess?
  • What are the specifications of the project?

If your client is focused on launching ASAP, you might find that an agile SDLC model is a good option. On the other hand, if solid documentation is one of their primary concerns, you'll likely find that a V-shape or waterfall model best suits their needs.

From Discovery to Support: Let Planetary Create a Custom Plan For Your Needs

At Planetary, we love helping clients with every software development life cycle phase. Whether you're trying to clarify your idea for a digital product or need help with the development phase, we'd love to work with you.

Our team of global experts is here to help you turn your idea into a reality. Whether you need help with just a few things or you're looking for end-to-end services, we're always happy to create a custom plan that fits the needs of our clients.

Are you looking for the right team to work with for your next app or digital product? Drop us a line and tell us about your project.