Diving Into Dev: The Software Development Life Cycle

More About Agile SDLC

Agile software development is an interesting process to describe. It changes according to the company's goals and preferences. There's a lot of room for customization.

However, at its most basic level, agile is the untethering of those strictly linear individual processes into one kind of “big ball of yarn.”

One key characteristic of agile process is “sprints” – short process time frames in which developer teams decide what goes into each step. That's not preordained for them, like it is with the waterfall method.

Then there are key phases you can use to describe agile:

  • Concept
  • Inception
  • Iteration/construction
  • Release
  • Production
  • Retirement

You'll see that some of the stages sound kind of like the stages in the traditional SDLC process. However, they are different, according to the philosophy of agile design.

For example, calling the fourth stage “release” instead of “testing” is a giveaway that the process involves continual and orchestrated improvement. As mentioned before, there's no strict beta phase – instead, testing takes place around the release. You can also see the changing of the word “maintenance” to “production,” signifying that teams are working on new features, testing software products, and contemplating security issues, all at the same time. That would be right up until the end of life stage, where teams get ready to actively throw a retirement party for a software version.

In addition, there are various strategic models that agile development uses. There's scrum, a sort of decision-making process that applies to many sprints. There's kanban, a concept pioneered by Japanese engineers that has become a mainstay of the information technology field. These frameworks inform and guide the agile process in important ways, since the agile process is not governed by the waterfall or traditional linear project management guidelines.

Agile development has brought innovation and enhanced many projects – but the key is that it does require that iterative master planning – at various stages, as opposed to one individual plan that's fully formed before the actual work starts.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.