Systems-Development Life Cycle
The first development methodology we are going to review is the systems-development life cycle (SDLC). This methodology was first developed in the 1960s to manage the large software projects associated with corporate systems running on mainframes. It is a very structured and risk-averse methodology designed to manage large projects that included multiple programmers and systems that would have a large impact on the organization.
SDLC waterfall (click to enlarge)
Various definitions of the SDLC methodology exist, but most contain the following phases.
- Preliminary Analysis. In this phase, a review is done of the request. Is creating a solution possible? What alternatives exist? What is currently being done about it? Is this project a good fit for our organization? A key part of this step is a feasibility analysis, which includes an analysis of the technical feasibility (is it possible to create this?), the economic feasibility (can we afford to do this?), and the legal feasibility (are we allowed to do this?). This step is important in determining if the project should even get started.
- System Analysis. In this phase, one or more system analysts work with different stakeholder groups to determine the specific requirements for the new system. No programming is done in this step. Instead, procedures are documented, key players are interviewed, and data requirements are developed in order to get an overall picture of exactly what the system is supposed to do. The result of this phase is a system-requirements document.
- System Design. In this phase, a designer takes the system-requirements document created in the previous phase and develops the specific technical details required for the system. It is in this phase that the business requirements are translated into specific technical requirements. The design for the user interface, database, data inputs and outputs, and reporting are developed here. The result of this phase is a system-design document. This document will have everything a programmer will need to actually create the system.
- Programming. The code finally gets written in the programming phase. Using the system-design document as a guide, a programmer (or team of programmers) develop the program. The result of this phase is an initial working program that meets the requirements laid out in the system-analysis phase and the design developed in the system-design phase.
- Testing. In the testing phase, the software program developed in the previous phase is put through a series of structured tests. The first is a unit test, which tests individual parts of the code for errors or bugs. Next is a system test, where the different components of the system are tested to ensure that they work together properly. Finally, the user-acceptance test allows those that will be using the software to test the system to ensure that it meets their standards. Any bugs, errors, or problems found during testing are addressed and then tested again.
- Implementation. Once the new system is developed and tested, it has to be implemented in the organization. This phase includes training the users, providing documentation, and conversion from any previous system to the new system. Implementation can take many forms, depending on the type of system, the number and type of users, and how urgent it is that the system become operational. These different forms of implementation are covered later in the chapter.
- Maintenance. This final phase takes place once the implementation phase is complete. In this phase, the system has a structured support process in place: reported bugs are fixed and requests for new features are evaluated and implemented; system updates and backups are performed on a regular basis.
The SDLC methodology is sometimes referred to as the waterfall methodology to represent how each step is a separate part of the process; only when one step is completed can another step begin. After each step, an organization must decide whether to move to the next step or not. This methodology has been criticized for being quite rigid. For example, changes to the requirements are not allowed once the process has begun. No software is available until after the programming phase.
Again, SDLC was developed for large, structured projects. Projects using SDLC can sometimes take months or years to complete. Because of its inflexibility and the availability of new programming techniques and tools, many other software-development methodologies have been developed. Many of these retain some of the underlying concepts of SDLC but are not as rigid.