What is SDLC Explained: Welcome to the Software Development Life Cycle

Author profile photo for CareerFoundry author Nicole Abramowski.

It’s hard to imagine what working as a web developer is like before you’re in the job. You might know how to code, but how do things work day-to-day? One thing that can help is understanding the Software Development Life Cycle, or SDLC, a cornerstone of this process. 

You’ve likely encountered the acronym SDLC, but what precisely does it entail? In this guide, we’ll delve deep into SDLC, demystifying its significance and unraveling the seven stages that compose its framework. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a newcomer to the software development landscape, this article will provide an in-depth insight into SDLC and its role in crafting dependable and efficient software solutions.

You can jump right to a section by clicking on its heading below.

  1. What is SDLC?
  2. What are the 7 phases of SDLC?
  3. SDLC models
  4. Benefits of the SDLC
  5. How generative AI tools can affect the SDLC

1. What is SDLC?

SDLC is a structured approach that guides the entire software development process from inception to deployment. 

It helps ensure efficiency, quality, and successful project outcomes. By breaking down the software development process into distinct phases, SDLC provides a roadmap for developers, project managers, and stakeholders to collaborate harmoniously, allowing the team to create reliable and innovative software products.

Why is the SDLC important?

Software development is always a balance between time and resources.

Without proper planning and prioritizing, it’s easy to waste a lot of both! This means a lot of money lost for the company, unhappy customers, and frustrated employees.

To put it another way, imagine setting off on a journey without a map or any idea where you’re headed. That’s where SDLC comes in—SDLC is the map

SDLC helps plan things carefully and ensures software projects stay on track. It also makes sure everyone involved knows what’s going on. When people follow the SDLC process, like developers, product managers, and clients working together, projects become more organized, risks are minimized, costs are controlled, and the end result is more likely to be reliable, high-quality software.

2. What are the 7 phases of SDLC?

Phase 1: Planning and brainstorming

The first phase in the software development life cycle is, unsurprisingly, planning. 

This phase involves determining the project scope, goals, and requirements together as a team. Planning also includes creating a timeline, allocating resources, and outlining potential risks to the project’s success.

Phase 2: Requirements

Now that you have some ideas, this phase involves really digging into the project’s requirements. By the end of this stage, you should have a clear idea of your functional and non-functional requirements. Here’s an example of some requirements:

Functional requirements

The website should allow users to browse products by category, search for specific items, and add them to their shopping cart. 

The checkout process should be streamlined and intuitive, minimizing the number of steps required for a user to complete a purchase.

Non-functional requirements

The website should be responsive and provide a consistent user experience across different devices and screen sizes. 

The website should be able to handle a minimum of 1000 concurrent users without significant performance degradation, especially during peak shopping seasons.

Phase 3: Design

Now that you know what the program or feature should do, it’s time to get visual. 

During this phase, the software’s architecture, user interface, and system components are designed. 

The goal is to create a blueprint that developers can follow to build the actual software. Here tools like Figma or Adobe InVision might be used.

Phase 4: Implementation

Only after we’ve thoroughly thought about what the software should do and how it should look, do we write any code! 

Also known as coding or development, this phase involves turning the design into working code. Developers write the actual software using programming languages and tools.

Phase 5: Testing

In this phase the software will undergo testing to make sure it’s free of errors and bugs before it reaches production and the user. 

This might be manual and/or automated testing, depending on the QA process of the team. This ensures that the software functions as intended and meets the defined requirements. 

Here we also determine how the new code will integrate into existing systems, software, and processes.

Phase 6: Deployment

After thorough testing the software is deployed to real users. The code will be merged to production and released. This phase may also involve marketing the new product or feature so people know about its existence and adding release notes.

Phase 7: Maintenance

The final phase of the SDLC involves ongoing maintenance and support for the software. 

This includes addressing any issues or bugs that arise, making updates to improve functionality, and ensuring the software remains compatible with evolving technologies.

A team of developers employing the Waterfall SDLC system in a meeting.

3. SDLC models

There are different approaches to managing the software development process, catering to varying project requirements, team dynamics, and risk tolerances.

Choosing the right model depends on factors such as project scope, customer engagement, development team size, and the ability to accommodate changes during the development process.

Here’s a breakdown of four popular SDLC models you might come across:

Waterfall Model

The Waterfall model is a linear approach where development progresses through distinct phases, from requirements gathering to maintenance, without revisiting previous stages. 

It’s suitable for projects with well-defined and stable requirements.

Agile Model

Agile is an iterative approach that emphasizes collaboration and adaptability, breaking projects into smaller sprints for incremental development and frequent customer feedback. 

Definitely one of the most popular models in the past decades, Agile is ideal for projects where requirements evolve and customer involvement is crucial.

If you want to look closer at how they differ, we’ve created a comparison of Waterfall vs Agile methods.

Spiral Model

The Spiral model combines iterative development with risk assessment, involving repeated cycles of planning, risk analysis, engineering, and evaluation.

It’s best suited for complex projects where risk management and flexibility are key priorities.

Kanban Model

Kanban is a visual and flexible approach to software development that focuses on continuous delivery and optimizing workflow. 

Work items are represented as cards on a visual board, and teams pull work from one stage to the next as capacity allows. It’s ideal for projects with changing priorities.

We’ve also created a comparison of Kanban vs Scrum, more from a product management point of view, but definitely useful for developers.

4. Benefits of the SDLC

Using the Software Development Life Cycle helps keep things organized when making software, making sure everyone knows what to do and when. 

In short, the SDLC:

  • makes projects safer
  • gets people working together better
  • ensures the software works well and does what it’s supposed to

Basically, SDLC helps make sure you’re on the right path to making awesome software that does the job right.

5. How generative AI tools can affect the SDLC

Generative AI tools have the potential to significantly impact the SDLC. 

These tools, powered by artificial intelligence, can automate various stages of the SDLC, such as coding, testing, and even generating design elements. This can speed up the development process, reduce human errors, and enhance efficiency. 

Additionally, generative AI tools can aid in creating prototypes and simulations, enabling developers to visualize the software’s behavior before implementation.

Here are the top five ways generative AI tools that are playing a role in SDLC:

Automated Coding

Generative AI can accelerate coding by suggesting code snippets and even generating complete functions, reducing manual effort, and speeding up development. 

Some examples of tools: GitHub Copilot and Tabnine.

Efficient Testing

AI-driven testing tools automatically create test cases, simulate user interactions, and detect potential bugs, resulting in faster testing cycles and improved software quality. 

Some examples: Applitools, Katalon.

Enhanced Design

Generative AI aids designers in creating prototypes, layouts, and visual elements, streamlining design iterations and fostering rapid innovation.

Some examples: RunwayML and Adobe Sensei.

Natural Language Processing

AI-powered language models enhance communication between stakeholders and developers by understanding and processing user queries accurately. 

Learn more about how they work in our full guide to NLP algorithms.

Some examples: Google’s BERT and IBM’s Watson.

Bug Detection and Resolution

AI tools can identify coding errors, security vulnerabilities, and potential issues, ensuring a more reliable and secure end product. 

Some examples: DeepCode by Synk and Amazon’s CodeGuru.

Keep in mind, while these tools are great at speeding up efficiency and finding errors, they still have errors and biases. Careful implementation and human oversight is still essential to maintain a high standard of software development!

Read more: AI Programming Tools You Should Know


The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a roadmap for designing and deploying software. 

It guides developers and teams through planning, designing, testing, and finally releasing new code. As a software engineer, knowing SDLC helps you make software that’s organized, reliable, and gets the job done right. 

As technology advances, new tools like generative AI are shaking up the SDLC process, making development even faster and more exciting. So, whether you’re coding or designing, SDLC is your key to crafting software that stands out in the digital world.

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If you’d like to read more about the world of web development, check out these articles:

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