Software Development: What It Is, How It Works, & Life Cycle

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Celso Crivelaro
Celso Crivelaro
Head of Engineering

Table of Contents

Learn more about software development, and how it can help move the vision for your company along.
Published on
July 3, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

Software development is a growing industry encompassing computer science activities that aim to develop, design, deploy, and support new and old software. Software developers and programmers primarily use it to build software or programs instructing a computer how to behave or act. It follows a software development life cycle (SDLC) comprised of several phases, aiding programmers in building products to meet technical requirements and user expectations.

Software development is used in many different ways, but a few of the most important ones include the following:

  • Applications
  • Websites and web software
  • Mobile applications
  • Enterprise software
  • Custom software

However you choose to use software development, it can help your business grow and stay current.

What Is Software Development?

Programmers, engineers, and other gurus use software development to build computer programs following the SDLC protocol. SDLC involves many phases for creating products that adhere to technical requirements and user expectations. The SDLC is used internationally to help organizations build and improve computer programs, applications, and software. Software development follows specific program creation steps, including designing, identifying, programming, documenting, testing, and troubleshooting.

Four basic types of software can be developed through software development:

  • Application software: Application software, or apps for short, helps users conduct specific tasks. This can include computer, web, and mobile applications. Application software includes office productivity suites, such as Microsoft Office; data management software, such as Google; media players, such as VLC; and security programs, such as Avast. It can also include online shopping platforms, like Amazon, and socializing programs, like Facebook and Instagram.
  • Embedded software: Embedded software is what you find inside telecommunication networks, industrial robots, automobiles, and more, and controls these machines. They usually connect to devices through the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • System software: System software provides core functionality regarding operating systems, disk management, utilities, and other necessities. Examples include Windows and iOS and utilities and tools within these systems.
  • Programming software: Programming software provides programmers with tools to create, modify, and maintain code and programs. Examples include text editors, like Brackets and Sublime Text, and other tools like compilers, linkers, and debuggers.

How Does Software Development Work?

Software development is generally used to design, build, and program computer software, usually following a specific set of industry or consumer needs. However, how software development works vary between industries and departments.

For example, a programmer or coder often uses software development to write source code to instruct computers on performing specific tasks, including processing online orders, performing searches, and displaying text and graphics. In contrast, engineers typically apply engineering principles when using software development and often focus more on solving problems. Software developers, meanwhile, focus more on writing code and adhering to the SDLC.

Regardless of the role, a software development workflow typically follows the steps outlined below.

Choosing a Methodology

Choosing a suitable methodology is essential to developing a viable software product. It requires selecting a framework, such as Angular or Vue.JS, and then choosing a methodology, such as Agile or Scrum. The proper framework and methodology allow for a more seamless work process and give developers and programmers a roadmap to follow.

Gathering Requirements

Requirements inform developers what users and other stakeholders expect from a piece of software. It can include documents and additional important information regarding what a program is, what it's meant to do, and how it's expected to perform. Requirements may also explain the functionality and other needs of a user or stakeholder.

Choosing an Architecture

There are several architectures you can choose from. If none of them fit the bill, you can build your own. Regardless of which one you choose, an architecture's purpose remains the same — it describes the design decisions of a system's behavior and structure. It also helps stakeholders understand how a system will achieve specific functions.

Developing a Design

Before you develop a design, you must identify the problem you're trying to solve. Once you've identified your problem, you can create a design with solutions. Requirements can help, as they tell you what the users and stakeholders expect out of the program. Designs often include process models and storyboards.

Building a Model

Building the model includes performing early validation, prototyping, and simulation. It typically requires the use of a modeling tool and modeling languages.

Examples include:

  • ER/Studio
  • Archi
  • SQL Database Modeler
  • IBM InfoSphere Data Architect

Writing Code

You must choose the programming language before the code can be written. Examples include Python, JavaScript, PHP, and Kotlin. The kind of code you choose may depend on any existing code or systems or how you want to build an app or software.

Writing code also involves collaborating with peers and teams that can help identify and eliminate issues early on.

Running Tests

Testing software is more than just identifying and troubleshooting glitches and defects. It's also about evaluating and ensuring that the software performs as expected. Running tests can help prevent bugs, decrease development costs, and improve overall performance.


Deploying software or applications means releasing them to the public. The public can then use your product and submit feedback, to which you can respond and implement updates to fix user or backend issues.

Managing the Project

Some may think deploying is the final step in software development, but software development continues infinitely. Software developers and other technical people must manage the project throughout its lifecycle, releasing updates and adjusting data sources. Project management also requires evaluating the product's performance and other important metrics.

What Is Agile Software Development?

Agile software development encompasses frameworks and practices that use the Manifesto for Agile values and principles. While it is often considered a framework, it expands beyond a simple framework. It also extends beyond common practices, such as test-driven development and sprints. Agile embodies both frameworks and practices.

Those that use Agile methodology follow 12 specific principles and require developers, programmers, and engineers to work within them to determine the best course of action for their project.

The 12 Agile methodology principles include:

  1. Early and constant delivery of valuable software
  2. Embracing and welcoming change, particularly in requirements
  3. Frequent delivery of working software, specifically within a few weeks to a few months
  4. Cooperation between business people, stakeholders, users, and developers
  5. Autonomy and motivation for all involved, trusting individuals to build projects on their own but giving support and motivation when needed
  6. Improved communication and face-to-face conversations, conveying information to and within the development 
  7. Working software, which measures success and progress
  8. Stable and sustainable working and development environments, including those for sponsors, developers, and users
  9. Quality assurance, including constant attention to technical properties and good design
  10. Simplicity, or maximizing how much work is not done
  11. Self-organizing and motivated teams which enable individuals to become the best version of themselves
  12. Regular reflection and adjustment, allowing individuals and teams to become more effective and adjust their behavior as needed

Agile software development emphasizes collaboration and community — especially amid uncertainty — enabling teams to work more efficiently with each other in cross-functional settings. It also supports individualistic learning and allows people to figure out how to approach problems independently.

What Is a Software Development Life Cycle?

SDLC refers to a specific software development process to design, develop, and test software. It can be broken down into six stages: Planning, defining, designing, building, testing, and deploying.

  1. Planning: Senior members collaborate with clients, domain experts, and sales departments and use market surveys to plan how to approach a project. Planning also includes quality assurance requirements and risk identification. This information helps devise a technical feasibility study that includes various approaches to a project. This helps minimize operational, technical, and economic risks.
  2. Defining: A software requirement specification (SRS) is drawn up to encompass all product requirements in adherence to the design and development of the project during its full life cycle. At this point, all requirements are defined, documented clearly, and sent to the customer or market analysts for approval.
  3. Designing: The SRS is used as a reference when creating and designing, specifically when designing the product architecture. Architects refer to the SRS and, depending on the requirements, usually propose several design approaches. Stakeholders review these, consider various factors, such as product durability, design modularity, risk assessment, and budget and time constraints, and choose the best approach.
  4. Building: Once the best approach is chosen, product development begins. Programmers refer to the SRS and chosen design approach to begin programming code. They also follow specific guidelines set forth by their organization and the programming tools they use.
  5. Testing: Once a viable product has been produced, testing ensues. However, testing can also be done throughout the building process and in increments to better help identify and track bugs and flaws.
  6. Deployment: After testing and finding solutions to bugs and flaws, the product is ready to be formally deployed to the appropriate market. Deployment can happen in increments or fully, depending on the organization. Feedback is gathered and used to make adjustments and updates to the product.

While this is the standard SDLC process, several models may follow unique steps. Examples of SDLC models include:

  • Big Bang
  • Waterfall
  • Iterative
  • V
  • Spiral

What Is a Software Development Methodology?

Developers, engineers, and other professionals follow software development methodologies when designing, implementing, and testing new software, programs, and applications. Methodologies help teams and individuals stay organized and present them with a roadmap to develop and write code. They also help developers think and plan and have codified communication.

Popular software development methodologies include:

  • Agile: Agile uses small iterations to test more efficiently and reduce the risk of errors. As such, it promises the deliverance of high-quality output and allows for creative improvements and adjustments while working on a software product. Agile involves development iteration, QA interaction, retrospection, and scope adjustment.
  • Scrum: Scrum is a well-known framework based on Agile and promotes daily meetings to increase productivity and improvement in team members. Scrum works to identify issues and prioritize customer-driven features quickly. The steps involve sprint planning, sprint execution, sprint review meetings, retrospection, and release.
  • Lean: Lean focuses on developing low-budget and change-tolerant software based on lean manufacturing. Lean allows teams to develop projects and release them ahead of deadlines quickly and promotes teams to develop critical decision-making skills. Steps involved in lean include identifying values, mapping the value stream, creating flow, establishing pull, and constant improvements.
  • DevOps: DevOps refers to a development methodology and a series of practices to support a business's culture and environment. It focuses primarily on organizational change and building a collaborative environment between departments. The steps of the DevOps methodology include planning, coding and building, continuous integration, testing, continuous deployment, operations, and constant monitoring.

IT Software Development

Information technology (IT) software development involves planning, designing, and creating IT-based software while considering user desires and requirements. IT software developers should be able to:

  • Develop solution-based products
  • Create, modify, and test computer applications and code
  • Write and develop computer programs that house, find, and obtain data and information
  • Create, execute, and manage computer databases

Hire a Software Development Team With Revelo

Revelo can help you with nearshore software development. We'll provide you with a list of highly vetted software talent. Once you've selected your ideal candidate, leave the rest of the hiring process up to us. We'll handle everything from payroll processing to administrating benefits and compliance and more, leaving you to focus on growing your business.

Interested in finding out more about how Revelo's services work? Contact us today for a consultation.

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