Software has become an integral part of the human experience. From computers, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and even cars, to powering the scientific and medical fields, it’s clear that software is a mainstay in our lives. But software is nothing without software developers and the software product development step-by-step processes that they follow. This software development lifecycle includes definite steps that set the foundation for successful software development.
There’s a lot to unpack about software product development, such as what it is, what it needs to be successful, and the entire process and methodologies surrounding it.
So, let’s take a closer look.
What Is Software Product Development?
Software product development is the process of designing, building, and managing new or old software to meet an audience’s specific needs. It involves creating a product from scratch, updating an existing complex product to add value and features, or upgrading existing digital products to improve and update the technique and development practices.
A software product development cycle is a set of development tools that helps individual users and product teams manage the product development process from start to finish and even beyond. Various individuals and cross-functional teams use software product development, including product managers, designers, engineers, and more.
Software product development can be used in a variety of settings, including:
- User stories
- Customer feedback
- Customer surveys
- Key performance indicators
- Product strategy and road mapping
- Project management
- SaaS application development
- Scrum workflows
- User experience testing
- User onboarding
Why is Software Product Development Needed?
Software product development allows your company to take innovative ideas and turn them into unique products, giving you a competitive edge over your competition. As complicated as software product development can be, implementing an effective software product development strategy can streamline the entire business process. Here are several benefits to software product development.
Allows businesses to grow
Having a software product development strategy to follow allows your company to work smoothly within your internal processes. It enables you to develop effective strategies and adhere to system requirements, thus optimizing business procedures.
You can also use software product development services to stay ahead of your competition. By using software product development, your team can create innovative ideas to increase revenue and impress clients.
Other ways that software product development helps businesses grow include:
- Enhanced accessibility: Worldwide software product accessibility allows you to reach new audiences and new markets, increase revenue, and grow your brand name.
- Improved customer relations: Create products that provide better service and support to your clients, building customer satisfaction and brand loyalty while increasing sales and revenue.
- Increased efficiency: Automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks to free up time and resources so your team has extra time to be productive in other work areas. While increasing efficiency, automation saves time, resources, and costs.
It’s customized to your specific needs
Software addresses the needs of a specific audience. No two businesses are the same — what works for one business may not work for yours. No matter your company’s vision, software can help you realize that vision.
A customized approach to software product development allows you to create a software solution to manage your unique practices and activities. While it may be fine to use standardized, prepackaged software that meets some or even most of your needs, customized software can give you the advantage you need to shine among your competitors.
The benefits of having customized software include the following:
- Improved process efficiency
- Focused solutions
- Faster results
Software product development can also help you streamline efficiency in several ways. Aside from automating time-consuming tasks, software product development can:
- Improve teamwork by using collaboration tools
- Allow continuous integration and delivery to help build, test, and deploy software
- Follow industry standards and best practices, ensuring that all software is high quality, dependable, and easy to maintain
- Streamline efficiency using methodologies such as DevOps and Agile to increase productivity and promote customer satisfaction
What is the Software Product Development Process?
The software product development process isn’t black and white, and a lot of thought goes into creating a step-by-step process specific to your company’s needs. Although it can vary, a typical software product development process includes the following stages.
The planning stage
The planning stage begins with a vision. Typically, the vision will be goal-oriented and aimed toward a common goal or solution. The vision must consider the target audience and what it does for them. The vision must also include ground rules and primary goals for future development. These rules and goals can be vague in the beginning but will help in figuring out the product’s end goal and what features and capabilities it brings to the table.
Before pitching an idea, consider the following in your product roadmap:
- Outlining the project’s scope
- Determining how the software will meet business objectives
- Resourcing challenges, including expenses and time restraints
Detailed analysis of requirements and objectives
Once you’ve developed a plan and have it approved, create a detailed analysis and outline the requirements and objectives of your idea. Examine the project and think about its lifecycle. Consider your company’s objectives and how they will be met. Also, think about:
- Your product’s needs, design, and codes
- What languages and frameworks will be used
- Resources you’ll need
- Any other specifics
Outline all technical and financial components in your detailed analysis. This detailed analysis will help you identify issues early on and will help in developing a risk mitigation strategy.
The design stage
The product design stage is one of the most significant parts of the entire software architecture development process. During this stage, you will outline the specific project criteria and requirements. Project stakeholders usually collaborate on this step to create a mockup using the MVP prototype with the target audience in mind. The mockup needs to include complementary key functions that your product will have.
The design process usually takes several iterations before you or your team decide on the best one. Expect to receive feedback from the senior management and project stakeholders. Take this feedback into consideration and use it to revise and adjust the product design as necessary.
The development stage
Once you have a coherent design in place, it’s time to move on to development. The development stage includes both backend and frontend development and is critical in the software product development process. During this phase, you'll see your product start to come to life. Your product development software engineering teams and developer teams will carefully follow the outlines from the above steps to create your software and implement the necessary features.
This stage takes the longest, as it is the most complicated to enact. Not only must the software developers follow the guidelines you set up in the previous steps, but they must also adhere to software best practices and stakeholder demands.
Tests are run by quality assurance
After product development, you might think it's over — but it's not. You must test your product using various QA testing tools to assess continuous integration and functionality, system, user acceptance, and interoperability. This is all done by the software testing team, which thoroughly examines and tests the software product and all of its features. Testing helps identify and eliminate any potential bugs before the product is released to the public.
The software testing development team also ensures that the product meets expectations and adheres to the guidelines you created during the planning and designing phases. Remember, quality is the key to a successful product, so take your time with the testing phase. Once the testing phase is over, you'll have a product that is ready for implementation.
The implementation plan is carried out
With your quality-assessed product at hand, it's time to implement and deploy your software. This is the last step in your software product's development lifecycle. If your product is an existing one, implementing it simply means merging your new code and features into the production environment, thus enabling users to enjoy added functionality. However, if your product is new, you will launch it for the first time and deploy it across whatever systems you created it for.
The implementation plan is more than just deploying your ready-to-launch product. It also means you need to create and enact a marketing strategy or a product promotion plan so that your product reaches its target audience. You can do a minor product launch — releasing your product with only a few core features to test the market — or you can do a full product launch and release the product with all its wonderful features. There are advantages and drawbacks to both launches, and the one you choose will depend on your vision and goals.
Ensuring maintenance is always up to date
While the implementation and deployment of your product is the last step in the actual lifecycle, don’t forget to update regularly. No matter the product, ongoing maintenance is important. With software, upgrades to features and services are essential. Maintenance is usually handed off to a specialized resource team who makes sure the product receives proper updates and bug fixes —should any issues arise — and handle process and software upgrades.
Software Product Development Methodologies
In software product development, there are certain methodologies that software developers follow.
DevOps is both a development methodology and a set of practices that ensure organization for improved collaboration between teams and departments, for example, between software developers and quality assurance.
The advantages of using the DevOps methodology include:
- Less time to market
- Lower failure rate in new releases
- Shortened lead time between fixes
- Decreased disruption while improving reliability
The drawbacks include:
- Undetected issues can slip past testing
- Decreased security measures
- Management can be difficult
Scrum is an agile development methodology. In this practice, you will make decisions based on observation, experience, and experimentation. Scrum works on three pillars: adaption, inspection, and transparency.
There are many advantages to using the Scrum methodology, including:
- Complete project deliverables quickly and effectively
- Good in fast-moving environments
- Valuable feedback from customers and stakeholders
- Code and test developments during sprint reviews
The drawbacks include:
- Scope creep
- Increased risk of project failure if individuals aren't committed to a project
- Difficult adoption of the Scrum framework possible
The agile methodology allows teams to mitigate risks, such as potential bugs, changing requirements, and cost issues. With agile, teams work in iterations to develop software products. Each iteration or increment adds something new to the functionality, allowing teams to assess each function as it's released.
The advantages of using the agile methodology include:
- Release software in increments
- Find and fix defects easily
- Realize software benefits early on
- Give early feedback on specific features
The drawbacks include:
- Relies on real-time communication, resulting in a lack of documentation for new users
- Labor-intensive with a considerable time commitment
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