Guide to System Development Life Cycle

If you’re a developer or project manager, an understanding of the most up-to-date SDLC methodologies is a powerful tool. It empowers you to speed up the development process, cut costs, leverage the full creative capacity of your team, and more.

With that in mind, Intellectsoft’s best experts have created a complete guide to the system development life cycle. You’ll learn about its core meaning and phases, major software engineering methodologies, and the most important benefits it can provide during project development.

Special attention has been given to the characteristics of each of the seven SDLC phases because a thorough understanding of these different stages is required to implement both new and modified software systems.

Ready to maximize the efficiency of your systems development life cycle? Let’s dive in. 

What is the System Development Life Cycle?

The system development life cycle or SDLC is a project management model used to outline, design, develop, test, and deploy an information system or software product. In other words, it defines the necessary steps needed to take a project from the idea or concept stage to the actual deployment and further maintenance.

SDLC represents a multitude of complex models used in software development. On a practical level, SDLC is a general methodology that covers different step-by-step processes needed to create a high-quality software product. 

7 Stages of the System Development Life Cycle

There are seven separate SDLC stages. Each of them requires different specialists and diverse skills for successful project completion. Modern SDLC processes have become increasingly complex and interdisciplinary.

7 stages of SDLC in the form of a pie chart

That is why it’s highly recommended that project managers engage a dedicated team of professional developers. Such a team will possess enough expertise and knowledge to launch a first-class software product that perfectly corresponds to all your expectations, needs, and goals.

Let’s take a look at the core tasks associated with each of the different phases of the development life cycle.

1. Planning Stage – What Are the Existing Problems?

Planning is one of the core phases of SDLC. It acts as the foundation of the whole SDLC scheme and paves the way for the successful execution of upcoming steps and, ultimately, a successful project launch.

In this stage, the problem or pain the software targets is clearly defined. First, developers and other team members outline objectives for the system and draw a rough plan of how the system will work. Then, they may make use of predictive analysis and AI simulation tools at this stage to test the early-stage validity of an idea. This analysis helps project managers build a picture of the long-term resources required to develop a solution, potential market uptake, and which obstacles might arise. 

At its core, the planning process helps identify how a specific problem can be solved with a certain software solution. Crucially, the planning stage involves analysis of the resources and costs needed to complete the project, as well as estimating the overall price of the software developed.

Finally, the planning process clearly defines the outline of system development. The project manager will set deadlines and time frames for each phase of the software development life cycle, ensuring the product is presented to the market in time.

2. Analysis Stage – What Do We Want?

Once the planning is done, it’s time to switch to the research and analysis stage. 

In this step, you incorporate more specific data for your new system. This includes the first system prototype drafts, market research, and an evaluation of competitors. 

To successfully complete the analysis and put together all the critical information for a certain project, developers should do the following:

  • Generate the system requirements. A Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document will be created at this stage. Your DevOps team should have a high degree of input in determining the functional and network requirements of the upcoming project.
  • Evaluate existing prototypes. Different prototypes should be evaluated to identify those with the greatest potential. 
  • Conduct market research. Market research is essential to define the pains and needs of end-consumers. In recent years, automated NLP (natural language processing) research has been undertaken to glean insights from customer reviews and feedback at scale. 
  • Set concrete goals. Goals are set and allocated to the stages of the system development life cycle. Often, these will correspond to the implementation of specific features.

Most of the information generated at this stage will be contained in the SRS. This document shapes the strict regulations for the project and specifies the exact software model you will eventually implement.

3. Design Stage – What Will the Finished Project Look Like?

The next stage of a system development project is design and prototyping. 

This process is an essential precursor to development. It is often incorrectly equated with the actual development process but is rather an extensive prototyping stage. 

This step of the system development life cycle can significantly eliminate the time needed to develop the software. It involves outlining the following: 

  • The system interface
  • Databases
  • Core software features (including architecture like microservices) 
  • User interface and usability
  • Network and its requirement

As a rule, these features help to finalize the SRS document as well as create the first prototype of the software to get the overall idea of how it should look like.

Prototyping tools, which now offer extensive automation and AI features, significantly streamline this stage. They are used for the fast creation of multiple early-stage working prototypes, which can then be evaluated. AI monitoring tools ensure that best practices are rigorously adhered to.

4. Development Stage – Let’s Create the System

In the development stage of SDLC, the system creation process produces a working solution. Developers write code and build the app according to the finalized requirements and specification documents.

This stage includes both front and back-end development. DevOps engineers are essential for allocating self-service resources to developers to streamline the process of testing and rollout, for which CI/CD is typically employed. 

This phase of the system development life cycle is often split into different sub-stages, especially if a microservice or miniservice architecture, in which development is broken into separate modules, is chosen. 

Developers will typically use multiple tools, programming environments, and languages (C++, PHP, Python, and others), all of which will comply with the project specifications and requirements outlined in the SRS document. 

5. Testing Stage – Is It the Exact One We Needed?

The testing stage ensures the application’s features work correctly and coherently and fulfill user objectives and expectations. 

This process involves detecting the possible bugs, defects, and errors, searching for vulnerabilities, etc., and can sometimes take up even more time compared to the app-building stage.

There are various approaches to testing, and you will likely adopt a mix of methods during this phase. Behavior-driven development, which uses testing outcomes based on plain language to include non-developers in the process, has become increasingly popular. 

Similarly, automated and cloud-based platforms, which simulate testing environments, take a significant amount of manual time out of this stage of the system development life cycle. Selenium, a browser testing tool, is one popular example of such a platform. 

6. Integration and Implementation Stage – How Will We Use It?

Once the product is ready to go, it’s time to make it available to its end users and deploy it to the production environment. 

At this stage, the software undergoes final testing through the training or pre-production environment, after which it’s ready for presentation on the market.

It is important that you have contingencies in place when the product is first released to market should any unforeseen issues arise. Microservices architecture, for example, makes it easy to toggle features on and off. And you will likely have multiple rollback protocols. A canary release (to a limited number of users) may be utilized if necessary. 

7. Maintenance Stage – Let’s Make the Improvements

The last but not least important stage of the SDLC process is the maintenance stage, where the software is already being used by end-users.

During the first couple of months, developers might face problems that weren’t detected during initial testing, so they should immediately react to the reported issues and implement the changes needed for the software’s stable and convenient usage.

This is particularly important for large systems, which usually are more difficult to test in the debugging stage.

Automated monitoring tools, which continuously evaluate performance and uptime and detect errors, can assist developers with ongoing quality assurance. This is also known as “instrumentation.”

Basic 6 SDLC Methodologies

Now that you know the basic SDLC phases and why each of them is important, it’s time to dive into the core methodologies of the system development life cycle.

These are the approaches that can help you to deliver a specific software model with unique characteristics and features. Most developers and project managers opt for one of these 6 approaches. Hybrid models are also popular.

Let’s discuss the major differences and similarities of each.

Waterfall Model

SDLC Waterfall model illustration

This approach implies a linear type of project phase completion, where each stage has its separate project plan and is strictly related to the previous and next steps of system development.

Typically, each stage must be completed before the next one can begin, and extensive documentation is required to ensure that all tasks are completed before moving on to the next stage. This is to ensure effective communication between teams working apart at different stages. 

While a Waterfall model allows for a high degree of structure and clarity, it can be somewhat rigid. It is difficult to go back and make changes at a later stage. 

Iterative Model

SDLC Iterative model illustration


The Iterative model incorporates a series of smaller “waterfalls,” where manageable portions of code are carefully analyzed, tested, and delivered through repeating development cycles. Getting early feedback from an end user enables the elimination of issues and bugs in the early stages of software creation.

The Iterative model is often favored because it is adaptable, and changes are comparatively easier to accommodate. 

Spiral Model

Spiral model SDLC illustration

The Spiral model best fits large projects where the risk of issues arising is high. Changes are passed through the different SDLC phases again and again in a so-called “spiral” motion.

It enables regular incorporation of feedback, which significantly reduces the time and costs required to implement changes.


SDLC V-Model illustration

Verification and validation methodology requires a rigorous timeline and large amounts of resources. It is similar to the Waterfall model with the addition of comprehensive parallel testing during the early stages of the SDLC process.

The verification and validation model tends to be resource-intensive and inflexible. For projects with clear requirements where testing is important, it can be useful. 

The Big Bang Model

SDLC Big Bang model illustration

Mostly used for creating and delivering a wide range of ideas, this model perfectly fits the clients who don’t have a clear idea or vision of what their final product should look like.

A more concrete vision of project completion is gained via delivering different system variations that may more accurately define the final output. 

While it is usually too expensive for the delivery of large projects, this SDLC methodology perfectly works for small or experimental projects.

Agile Model

SDLC Agile model illustration

The Agile model prioritizes collaboration and the implementation of small changes based on regular feedback. The Agile model accounts for shifting project requirements, which may become apparent over the course of SDLC. 

The Scrum model, which is a type of time-constrained Agile model, is popular among developers. Often developers will also use a hybrid of the Agile and Waterfall model, referred to as an “Agile-Waterfall hybrid.

As you can see, different methodologies are used depending on the specific vision, characteristics, and requirements of individual projects. Knowing the structure and nuances of each model can help to pick the one that best fits your project.

Benefits of SDLC

Having covered the major SDLC methodologies offered by software development companies, let’s now review whether they are actually worth employing. 

Here are the benefits that the system development life cycle provides:

  • Comprehensive overview of system specifications, resources, timeline, and the project goals
  • Clear guidelines for developers
  • Each stage of the development process is tested and monitored
  • Control over large and complex projects
  • Detailed software testing
  • Process flexibility
  • Lower costs and strict time frames for product delivery
  • Enhanced teamwork, collaboration, and shared understanding

Possible Drawbacks of SDLC

Just like any other software development approach, each SDLC model has its drawbacks:

  • Increased time and costs for the project development if a complex model is required
  • All details need to be specified in advance
  • SDLC models can be restrictive
  • A high volume of documentation which can slow down projects
  • Requires many different specialists
  • Client involvement is usually high
  • Testing might be too complicated for certain development teams

While there are some drawbacks, SDLC has proven to be one of the most effective ways for successfully launching software products. 

Alternative development paradigms, such as rapid application development (RAD), may be suitable for some projects but typically carry limitations and should be considered carefully. 


The system development life cycle (SDLC) is a complex project management model that encompasses system or software creation from its initial idea to its finalized deployment and maintenance.

SDLC comprises seven different stages: planning, analysis, design, development, testing, implementation, and maintenance. All are necessary for delivering a high-quality and cost-effective product in the shortest time frame possible.

Learning about major methodologies of SDLC, along with their benefits and drawbacks, enables you to set up effective system development processes that deliver the best possible outcomes. 

At Intellectsoft, we know how important an effective project management strategy is. Our developers and specialists have a track record of building innovative software solutions that perfectly fit our clients’ business goals and requirements.

If you’re looking for a reliable software development company to turn your idea into a top-quality software product, contact our team today.


What are the 7 phases of SDLC?

The typical stages of the system development life cycle are planning and feasibility, requirements analysis, design and prototyping, software development, system testing, implementation, and maintenance.

Alternatively, the processes described above are sometimes split into 5 phases of the system development life cycle: planning, design, implementation, maintenance, and follow-up testing.

What is the most popular SDLC model?

The Agile approach is probably the most widely used SDLC model. Hybrid models are also common. At Intellectsoft, we are proficient with a wide range of models.

What are the latest SDLC innovations?

Automation and AI are transforming the way developers approach SDLC. DevOps processes have also had a significant impact. Intellectsoft works at the cutting edge of SDLC tech and can help you implement it in your organization.

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