In software product development, to manage and fulfill the project efficiently, the development team manager has to apply the proper software engineering methodology that will work best for the project. So what is software development methodology? What is SDLC? And how do these notions differ from each other? Let’s jump into this topic and figure out how the right software development planning is crucial for the success of your tech product.
What is software product development process or software development life cycle?
A software development process or aka a software development life cycle (SDLC) implies an iterative logical process divided into smaller stages to transform an initial idea into a software solution by connecting non-tech and tech team members and improving their efforts. By that said, we mean that in order to make an efficient software development life cycle, development teams need to adhere to best practices, meet project requirements, deadlines, thereby, staying within the budget. For this purpose, it is crucial to choose the best model of software development whether it is Agile methodology, Waterfall, DevOps, rapid application development. Read on to know why Agile methodology is supposed to be the best one. More on that in the sections below.
A well-elaborated software development strategy encompasses a step-by-step plan of action from idea validation to product launch. But first, let’s take a look at what benefits your business can reap from the software development process strategy.
- Easy and efficient cross-functional interaction between teams
- Clear roles and responsibilities for each team member
- You get feedback at every stage of your project journey
- Your tasks are prioritized which improves efficiency
- Business processes are streamlined
What is custom software development for product companies?
Custom software development covers the process of designing, deploying, and maintaining a software product according to specific needs and requirements of the client’s business goal. That means that with a narrowly defined set of requirements, software development is carried out with a particular idea and with tailored solutions. To better comprehend the difference between generic software (or off-the-shelf software) and customized software solutions let’s say generic software development encompassed a packaged commercial products with a broad set of requirements that can be applied across a variety of industries which means off-the-shelf software meet generalized needs of the client. In contrast, with custom software development, your company can get functionalities that meet your business requirements precisely, so that they correspond with your company language and culture.
Unlike commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS), the custom software product is purposed at unique efforts toward application customization, modernization, and management. Let’s take Microsoft Office, for example, which is a ready-made commercial service that meets the generalized needs of office productivity and website creation.
For instance, custom software development can bring value to the finance sector where the bank and its customers can benefit from an online banking application. If you are a manufacturer your business can benefit from a custom software product to maintain your equipment tailored to your specific requirements. Let’s dive deeper into a comparison of custom software and off-the-shelf one.
Custom software vs. off-the-shelf
We prepared a comparison table to show the difference between custom and off-the-shelf software development cohesively and concisely.
|Function||Custom software||Ready-made platform|
|Scalability||Is scalable enough to incorporate current and future business requirements||New features and functionalities are hard to add, it is possible in some way to add new features for additional price for subscription|
|Integration||Seamless integration with legacy and other enterprise-level systems||It is difficult to integrate a ready-made platform with the current IT ecosystem|
|Cost||At the initial stage, it can be more expensive, however, in the long run, it will compensate for the expenditures||Initially, the purchasing of a ready-made solution will be cheaper but when a business grows, new requirements occur that expand the software/application and lead to extra costs|
|Flexible updates||Allows you to make whatever changes whenever you want||You need to wait for platform upgrades and new releases to renew your software|
|Implementation||Requires skilled and experienced resources; time-consuming||Easy implementation thanks to the platform’s support team|
Why does your business need a software product development strategy?
To keep up with both, the demand and growth, the creation of a product development strategy is a crucial part. Let’s see what benefits your company can gain.
- The custom software product is targeted at meeting specific requirements. When it comes to software, it is difficult to find a one-size-fits-all solution. If you select custom software development – then your product will address exact business needs. Moreover, custom software development is adaptable to any shifts in market trends. Since business processes change permanently, it is essential to adopt new technologies. Therefore, custom software can facilitate these processes.
- You can add extra features when your product needs them. If you are a small company or a startup, off-the-shelf platforms can be a good solution for you since your business just starts going to the market and you do not need super complicated features so far. However, talking about long-term perspectives and the purpose of your business (for example, if you are looking for more options available), custom software will be the best for you. Why? Because once your business scales up, extra features may be needed to pave the competitive path. With custom software development, you can add additional functions and make them flexible as much as you want.
- Much more space for business growth and scaling. Custom software can grow in accordance with your business. Instead of purchasing additional licenses of off-the-shelf packaged applications, software developers can gather all the requirements in advance and incorporate all the necessary shifts into the software/application. Sometimes it may seem that developing the custom solution from scratch requires much bigger costs, but it is not always the truth. The thing is when you buy a subscription, for example, for a certain platform, it encompasses only those features or functions your business needs right now. You will need more options for your application in the long run, and purchasing additional subscriptions may turn out to cost you a fortune.
- Easy integration with existing and legacy applications. To stay on the competitive edge, seamless integration with existing and legacy systems is a must-do. With ready-made platforms, companies need more investments to communicate with existing infrastructure. Despite extra costs and time, custom software can be worthwhile since you will benefit from error-free integration which will mitigate the chance of integration issues.
- Your business can earn more money. Here we mean profitability. By investing in a custom development software strategy your business can be able to sell subscriptions to the software. Yes, software development planning requires a diligent approach but it can compensate for investments in the long run.
- Your data is ensured with high-level security. Due to the increase of cybersecurity attacks, companies tend to entrust their business in the hands of professionals who can care about the configuration of the security measures for the specific needs of their business. Custom software development is a solution offering enhanced reliability. But it doesn’t mean that custom solutions are always secure. In this case, you need to involve an experienced and proven software development partner who will prioritize security at the organization level within an end-to-end framework covering training, testing, risk modeling, vulnerability and remediation policies, etc.
When does your business need/does not need custom software development?
You need a custom software product if your business:
- Relates to a specific industry that is not common and is looking for tailored solutions
- Deals with complicated data
- Needs extra features
- Has data that needs an additional layer of security
- Aims to scale up in the future
- Wants to optimize internal processes.
You DO NOT need a custom software product if:
- You have limited time for product launch
- Off-the-shelf platforms can totally satisfy your business needs
- You have a limited budget (creating the software from scratch requires much more investment).
What are the 7 stages of new product development?
Now, after we’ve covered all the major definitions and comparisons, let’s jump into the software product development process. It encompasses several stages worth paying attention to. According to the global survey of project management practitioners, conducted by the Project Management Institute in 2017, inaccurate requirements gathering and inadequate vision or goal for the project were among the primary causes of projects’ failures. Let’s dive deep.
1. Brainstorming and planning
This is a step to form the initial idea and to plan the basic project approach. This stage is fundamental since it presupposes exploring the product feasibility in the economical, operational, and technical aspects. The main goal is to define the technical best approaches that will be leveraged into the software development strategy with minimum risks. Therefore, the organization of brainstorming sessions with your team and the development team you are going to work with is an effective way to analyze the market demand, competitors, potential users’ needs and then validate the idea. As per PWC, poor estimation during the planning phase is the key reason why projects fail.
Collecting all the information that can be useful for your software product development team is a core requirement. With that said, we offer the questions worth considering before stepping on the path of your product development:
- What business problem are you going to solve?
- What ways are you going to apply to meet your business goals?
- What is the scope of your project?
- Do you have enough resources (professionals and tools) to proceed with the project?
- How does your project fit with your business culture and objectives?
- Is it possible to integrate the product software with your existing systems? How much time will it take to implement?
- What risks can occur while implementing?
- How potential clients will consume the product? Is the product necessary for them?
- How will the product differentiate you from the competition?
Key takeaway: Your product success depends on a clear project management plan with product specifications, roadmap, and implementation plan.
2. Requirements gathering and analysis
At this stage, the teams have to conduct the feasibility research of your project. Many businesses make mistakes proceeding with the project moving to design and coding. Consequently, a big percentage of them fail. Approximately 85% of IT projects fail according to Gartner. It is essential to estimate technical requirements and understand them properly. Your SOW (scope of work) has to be determined in the first phase of your software product planning and, in the second phase (during the gathering and analyzing the requirements) it requires expanding. During the second stage, team members need to analyze the following business and technical factors impacting the overall product’s outcome:
- Expected deadlines for product launch and implementation
- Key project milestones
- Involved resources
- Estimated ROI
All these requirements are documented in SRS (software requirement specification). According to IBM, effective defining and management of requirements before software development is an activity that can ensure the potential to deliver a high and fast return on investment.
Key takeaway: To meet customers’ needs, address compliance, and adhere to schedule/budget, analyze and define clear requirements and comply with them.
3. Designing the product architecture
Once the requirements are formulated, it’s time to start prototyping the functionality and the flow. This step is also crucial since prototyping wireframes determine users’ interactions with the product and help get users’ feedback once the design is tested by them. Often there is a mistake that many companies make: without a well-elaborated design they rush into the development which leads to poor and not user-friendly UI/UX. Furthermore, inefficient communication of designers with developers’ teams also affects the product quality and value.
Product design architecture is documented in the DDS (design document specification). Among the deliverables there are:
- Initial wireframes
- High-fidelity prototypes
- Tech architecture
- Users’ flow and stories
Key takeaway: Draft a software product design prior to the development stage. To ensure seamless interaction between design and functionality communication between teams is a must-do.
4. Product development
With clear product specifications and SRS documents executed beforehand, entrusting the product requirements to the developers will be much smoother. The goal of developers is to build clean software avoiding scope creep and adhering to SOW. Basically, the type of methodology developers’ team is following is also a determinant criteria for making progress and mitigating risks of issues. Agile is the most popular methodology used among programmers since it covers iterative meetings with team members to fine-tune the product. Read on to know what methodologies exist and which one will be the best fit for your business.
Key takeaway: Software product development is the most decisive phase, however, without well-drafted and robust preliminary design and requirements specifications, your project is doomed to fail.
From the lens of our expertise, we claim that testing software products is a vital process that can affect the entire software development lifecycle and overall product outcomes. To ensure error-free application, quality assurance engineers are appointed to conduct testing of software functionality, users’ acceptance, system integration, compatibility on different devices, and vulnerabilities existence.
The primary goal of software testing is to be sure that the code is clear and the users’ needs are satisfied.
Key takeaway: Do not underestimate testing of your product because omission of one bug can cause much more deteriorating outcomes.
Once tested, the software moves to production. Product deployment can be done in stages; for example, first, it can be released to a limited segment, then it is pushed to the real business environment. It all depends on the projects’ complexity: if it is simple – then it might be a straightforward release.
There are two options for software deployment: on-premise or cloud-based. On-premise deployment implies that the software is located on the local servers; cloud-based deployment provides a scalable virtual computing environment. You can use such cloud-based platforms as AWS, Google, Microsoft. Our team can help you develop cloud software and choose the best cloud architecture model to ensure your organization gains real business value from cloud investment.
Key takeaway: You can choose on-premise (located on internal servers) or cloud-based (with flexible virtual computing resources) software deployment.
So finally, we are on the last stage of the SDLC which includes maintenance and regular updates and upgrades. Based on users’ feedback the software may need some more additional functionalities or some bugs can be identified. Therefore, to perform effectively and satisfy customers’ needs, maintenance by the software development providers is a big advantage. Maintenance of your software can foster your product, increase speed and innovation, and ensure customer satisfaction.
Key takeaway: To upgrade the performance of software and modify it according to the real-time needs of the end-users, pay attention to software development companies that can support and maintain your product after its release permanently.
What software development methodology is best for your project?
Before starting the project, a manager of the development team has to select the methodology for software development that will best suit your product. There is no best option: each methodology has its pros and cons depending on the demands and objectives. According to GoodFirms, Agile is the #1 methodology used by developers nowadays (61,5%). Let’s take a look at the most commonly used methodologies.
Agile development methodology
In contrast to the conventional, linear approach, Agile methodology differs due to its specifics to satisfy users instead of focusing on documentation. Therefore, this method is one of the most usable methods among developers. Using an iterative model, Agile methodology provides for tasks divided into short sprints and multiple tests during software development. Sprints work well for long-term projects (one sprint lasts 1-4 weeks).
The main goal is to get feedback from customers and make necessary shifts correspondingly. Splitting huge tasks into smaller sprints helps developers make releases more often and get more precise feedback reducing the risks of not meeting users’ needs. The summary of the pros and cons of the Agile methodology in the form of the following table:
|Frequent releases||Development has no end date|
|Iterative model help minimize defects||Requires experienced team members|
|The client’s requirements are met thanks to frequent engagement in the development process||Time-consuming due to frequent discussions and feedback|
|Transparent communication between team members gives more clarity of responsibilities||Lacks documentation efficiency|
Scrum is an Agile-adapted methodology and is positioned as one of the most flexible ones. Its aim is to improve the association and involve clients. Its incremental and iterative approaches help developers control the team, define blockers, and build better communication with the client.
The same as the Agile method, Scrum encompasses splitting the work into sprints which start with planning and end with a stable product. The summary of the pros and cons of the Scrum methodology in the form of the following table:
|Flexible, easy to make changes||Requires client’s often involvement|
|Frequent meetings with the team members||Unsuitable for developers with no discipline in their workload|
|Viable client involvement (can be considered as a drawback; it depends on the client’s requirements and needs)||Every team member has to contribute to the development|
Waterfall development methodology
In comparison with the Agile methodology, Waterfall is strict and linear with its defined set of deliverables. The straightforward approach means that the next task can be started only if the previous is completed. A developer cannot return to the previous task and modify the product design.
It consists of sequential stages:
The summary of the pros and cons of the Waterfall development methodology in the form of the following table:
|The linear approach makes it easy to understand tasks for developers, especially new ones||Requires exact and distinct requirements|
|A good option for fixed-priced projects||Testing at end of the development makes it hard for developers to identify bugs and problems and fix them|
|Requires less client's involvement||The possibility that the product will not meet exact client’s expectations|
|Information is clearly defined at each stage||Unsuitable for complex projects|
|Easy to estimate the final budget|
Rapid application development methodology
Introduced in 1991, RAD is supposed to be the pioneer of iterative frameworks. It aims to fasten the product development without compromising the quality and with low investment costs. RAD consists of 4 steps:
- Project requirements planning
- User prototyping/design
With RAD methodology, dev teams can release products in a short time using automation tools to simplify the development process. The summary of the pros and cons of the Rapid application development methodology in the form of the following table:
|Regular customer feedback facilitates risk elimination||Requires skilled and knowledgeable developers|
|Fast-moving in the market||Not a good option for projects with a limited budget|
|Works well for small and medium businesses||Highly depends on a responsive customer|
The software development process requires a lot of expertise and effort to achieve the product your customers want. There is no all-in-one solution that will cover all your needs and requirements. Whether you select an off-the-shelf platform to develop your product or custom development, – all have their pros and cons. You need to thoroughly analyze the market and your users, adhere to software product development planning and strategy to not omit something that will ruin your whole project. Also, the methodology your dev team selects determines the way and speed of your software development process.
Contact us if you have any questions or want to hire experienced software product developers for your projects.