What are software development life cycle (SDLC) models?

April 16, 2024Anshita Bhasin
What are software development life cycle (SDLC) models

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SDLC Models

SDLC models are like roadmaps used in software development to guide the process from start to finish. They help software development teams work in an organized way and outline a clear path throughout the development journey. There are many types of SDLC models, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses.

In this blog, we will explore the different software development life cycle models in detail.

What is the Software Development Life Cycle?

The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is like a roadmap that guides us through the entire journey of creating software, from the very start to the finish line. Its primary aim is to craft high-quality software that meets and exceeds customer expectations, all while managing costs and keeping development time short.

The Stages of SDLC

The Stages of SDLC refer to the below phases involved in the software development process:


Think of this as the brainstorming phase. It’s where the team sits down and figures out what the software should do and how it should do it. It’s like deciding what ingredients and recipes you’ll need before cooking a meal.

Design and Development: 

Now, imagine this as the actual cooking process. Once you know what to make, you start designing and building the software. The crucial part here is to ensure that it matches what you planned during the previous step. It’s like following a recipe to cook the dish perfectly.


Just as you taste your food before serving it to guests, software needs to be tested. This phase checks if the software works correctly and if there are any hidden bugs or errors. It’s like quality control in a restaurant kitchen.


Once you’re satisfied with the taste of your dish, you serve it to your guests. Similarly, when your software is in good shape, you release it to the public for use.


Just like a restaurant continuously checks the quality of its dishes and keeps them up to standard, software needs ongoing care. You have to make sure it works well and keeps meeting the needs of its users.

SDLC Models

SDLC models are a range of approaches for developing software from start to finish. Each model has unique strengths and advantages, and the choice of model depends on the specific needs and requirements of the project. By selecting the appropriate SDLC model, software development teams can ensure efficient development, successful software delivery, and satisfied customers.

Understanding the benefits of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is crucial. It not only guarantees efficient and timely software delivery but also enhances customer satisfaction, reduces costs, and minimizes risks, making it a preferred choice in modern software development.

Now, why do we follow this structured process? Here’s why:

Enhanced Product Quality: 

The SDLC process ensures that every aspect of the software is thoroughly examined, resulting in a software product with fewer defects and higher reliability.

Better collaboration: 

SDLC models emphasize collaboration between team members, stakeholders, and customers. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the common goals.

Customer Satisfaction: 

By involving customers and stakeholders throughout the process, we align the software with their needs and expectations, ultimately leading to happier users.


SDLC encourages comprehensive documentation of each phase, which serves as a valuable reference for future maintenance and troubleshooting.

Reduced risks: 

SDLC models help reduce project risks by identifying potential issues early on in the development process. This allows teams to address these issues before they become major problems.

Improved efficiency: 

SDLC models help software development teams work more efficiently by providing a structured approach to development. This helps teams complete projects on time and within budget.

Cost Savings: 

SDLC models help reduce development costs by identifying potential issues early on in the development process. This allows teams to address these issues before they become major problems, saving time and money in the long run.

Waterfall Model

The Waterfall Model is a traditional software development methodology that is often used in software engineering. It follows a linear and sequential approach to software development, where progress flows in one direction, much like a waterfall, through several distinct phases.

The key phases of the Waterfall Model include requirements gathering, system design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance. While the Waterfall Model is known for its structured and document-driven approach, it can be limiting when dealing with projects where requirements are likely to change or evolve over time.

Benefits of using Waterfall Models are as follows:

Clear project objectives

The Waterfall Model requires a clear definition of project objectives and deliverables, which helps ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page.

Structured approach: 

The Waterfall Model follows a structured approach to software development, which makes it easier to plan, design, and develop software systems.

Document-driven approach: 

The Waterfall Model emphasizes documentation throughout the development process, which helps ensure that all stakeholders have access to the same information and can make informed decisions.

Predictable outcomes: 

The Waterfall Model provides a predictable and measurable outcome for each phase of the development process, which helps ensure that the project stays on track and meets its goals.

By following the Waterfall Model, software development teams can ensure a structured and logical progression of SDLC steps for their projects. However, it’s important to note that the model can be rigid and inflexible when dealing with projects where requirements are likely to change. Therefore, it’s essential to choose the right SDLC model based on the specific needs and requirements of the project

RAD Model

The RAD (Rapid Application Development) model is a software development methodology that emphasizes iterative development and prototyping to quickly create software applications. It is designed to be faster and more flexible than traditional software development models, making it ideal for projects where time-to-market is critical, and requirements are likely to change or evolve over time. It was first proposed by IBM in the 1980s as a response to the increasing need for faster software development cycles.

The critical feature of the RAD model is the use of powerful development tools and techniques. A software project can be implemented using this model if the project can be broken down into small modules wherein each module can be assigned independently to separate teams. These modules can finally be combined to form the final product. Development of each module involves the various basic steps as in the waterfall model i.e. analyzing, designing, coding, and then testing, etc.

Another important feature of this model is a short time span i.e. the time frame for delivery (time-box) is generally 60-90 days. This makes it ideal for projects where time-to-market is critical and requirements are likely to change or evolve over time.

The key phases of the RAD Model include requirements gathering, analysis and planning, design, development, testing, deployment.

Benefits of using RAD Model:

The RAD (Rapid Application Development) model is a software development methodology that focuses on rapid prototyping and iterative development. Some of the advantages of using the RAD model are:

Faster development:

The RAD model allows for faster development as it emphasizes iterative development and rapid prototyping.

Increased flexibility:

The RAD model is highly flexible and can accommodate changes easily during the development process.

Better user involvement: 

The RAD model involves end-users in the development process, which helps to ensure that the final product meets their needs.

Spiral Model

The Spiral model is an iterative and risk-driven software development approach that combines elements of the Waterfall model with iterative development practices. It is particularly suitable for large, complex projects where uncertainty and risks need to be carefully managed. The Spiral model resembles a coil with multiple loops, with the number of loops varying based on each project and its requirements.

Each loop of the Spiral represents a phase in the software development process. The Spiral model allows for gradual releases and refinement of a product at each phase, as well as the ability to build prototypes. This iterative approach enables the management of unknown risks that may arise after the project has commenced.

Benefits of using Spiral Model are as follow:

The Spiral model offers several benefits in software development due to its iterative and risk-driven nature:

Risk Management: 

The Spiral model places a strong emphasis on risk identification and management. It allows teams to systematically assess and address risks early in the project. By proactively addressing potential issues, the model reduces the chances of costly surprises later in the development process.


The model’s iterative nature provides flexibility in accommodating changing requirements and adapting to evolving project needs. This is particularly valuable when dealing with projects in dynamic environments where requirements may not be fully understood upfront.

Incremental Development: 

The Spiral model supports incremental development, allowing for the delivery of partial solutions or prototypes in early iterations. This can be advantageous for projects where stakeholders need to see tangible progress or where phased deployments are required.

Customer Feedback: 

With multiple iterations and opportunities for evaluation, the Spiral model encourages regular customer involvement and feedback. This helps ensure that the delivered software aligns with customer expectations and needs.

High-Quality Output: 

The iterative nature of the model promotes continuous testing and evaluation. This ongoing validation contributes to higher software quality and reliability by catching defects early in the development process.

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Efficient Resource Allocation: 

Resources are allocated more efficiently since the model focuses on the highest-priority risks and requirements in each iteration. This can lead to better resource utilization and cost control.

Phased Development: 

The model divides the project into phases, allowing for a structured approach to development. Each phase builds upon the previous one, creating a clear path for project progression.

Incremental Models

The incremental model is a widely used software development methodology that allows for efficient building of complex systems. The incremental model introduces new features or “increments” to an existing system gradually. It involves breaking down requirements into multiple standalone modules, which then pass through the requirements, design, coding, and testing phases

In the incremental model, software requirements are divided or broken down into several stand-alone modules or increments in the SDLC (software development life cycle). It is then carried out in phases once the modules have been divided, encompassing all analysis, design, implementation, necessary testing or verification, and maintenance. Each stage’s functionality is built upon the previously produced functionality, and this process is repeated until the software is finished.

The incremental model aims to deliver a working product bit by bit, with regular releases representing increments in functionality and quality. By dividing the development process into smaller, manageable parts, this model enables faster feedback and smoother adaptation to changes. One of the key benefits of the incremental model is that it provides an operational and visible product early in the process. This makes it easier to identify and resolve issues as individual components are integrated into the overall product. As a result, the incremental model is a popular choice for projects with changing requirements and tight schedules

The benefits of using the Incremental Model are as follows:

Rapid Delivery

Incremental development allows for the delivery of usable software components in a shorter time frame. This means that stakeholders can start benefiting from parts of the software sooner.

Early Feedback: 

With increments being developed and tested separately, stakeholders can provide feedback early in the process. This feedback helps in fine-tuning the software to better meet user needs and expectations.


The Incremental Model is highly adaptable to changes in project requirements. New features or modifications can be incorporated easily into subsequent increments without disrupting the entire project.

Risk Management: 

By dividing the project into smaller, manageable increments, risk management becomes more effective. It’s easier to identify and mitigate issues in smaller portions of the software compared to dealing with potential major problems in a monolithic system.


Stakeholders can witness tangible progress as each increment is completed. This transparency builds confidence in the development process and helps manage stakeholder expectations.

Agile Model

The Agile model is an iterative and incremental approach to software development that emphasizes collaboration between requirements and solutions teams. It recognizes that each project is unique, and methods should be customized to fit specific project needs. In Agile, tasks are broken down into time-bound iterations to deliver specific features for a release.

Each iteration in the Agile model is like a short “timeframe,” typically lasting from two to four weeks. Tasks are subdivided into smaller components, reducing project risks and overall delivery time. The approach is iterative, resulting in a working software build after each iteration. Each build adds incremental features, culminating in the final product that includes all customer-required features.

It combines iterative and incremental process models, focusing on adaptability and customer satisfaction through the rapid delivery of working software. Work is organized into regular iterations known as sprints. In Agile, security requirements may emerge unexpectedly during the process. 

However, when security needs are identified and added to the backlog, they are prioritized alongside other tasks. From a security standpoint, it’s important to note that Agile revolves around sprint planning. If a security requirement is not part of the backlog, it won’t be scheduled for delivery in a sprint, and consequently, it won’t be addressed.

Benefits of using Agile Model are as follows:


Agile places a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction by involving them throughout the development process. It allows for continuous feedback and changes based on evolving customer needs.


Agile is highly adaptable to changing requirements, making it suitable for projects with evolving or uncertain scopes. New features and adjustments can be easily accommodated.

Improved Quality: 

Continuous testing and quality assurance throughout the development process help identify and address issues early, leading to a higher-quality end product.

Test your code after every iteration with Continuous Testing

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Enhanced Collaboration: 

Agile encourages close collaboration between cross-functional teams, including developers, testers, and business stakeholders. This collaboration fosters better communication and understanding.

Early Detection of Issues: 

Agile’s iterative nature allows for early detection of issues, including security concerns. This proactive approach helps in addressing security requirements promptly.

Adaptation to Change: 

Agile is well-suited for projects where security requirements may evolve. Security needs can be added to the backlog and addressed as a part of regular iterations.

Iterative Model

In the Iterative Model, the development process begins with a simple implementation of a small subset of the software requirements. It then progressively improves and expands upon these initial versions until the complete system is fully implemented and ready for deployment.

Unlike other development models, an iterative life cycle model doesn’t aim to start with a comprehensive specification of all requirements. Instead, it kicks off by defining and implementing only a portion of the software. Subsequently, each part undergoes review to identify additional requirements and improvements. This iterative process repeats itself, resulting in a new version of the software at the end of each cycle within the model.

Benefits of using Iterative Model are as follows:

Adaptive Development: 

The Iterative Model offers adaptability to changing project requirements as you go along, accommodating new ideas or user requests.

User-Centric Progress: 

Users actively participate, providing valuable feedback for improvement.

Continual Software Enhancement: 

Each iteration elevates software functionality and quality, ensuring ongoing improvement to become better with each iteration.

Reduced Risk: 

Problems and errors are spotted and resolved early in the development process, reducing the chances of major issues later on.

Phased Software Releases: 

It allows for gradual, functional software releases.

Big bang model

The Big Bang Model is a unique approach to software development that does not involve well-defined processes or rigorous planning. Unlike other software development models that rely on planning and structure, the Big Bang Model relies on creativity and intuition to guide the software creation journey.

In this model, software development and coding are used to create the software incrementally, with minimal upfront planning. Any necessary changes can be made along the way, allowing for flexibility and adaptability in the development process.

This approach is best suited for smaller projects, such as academic or practical endeavors, and is particularly effective when a small team of one or two developers collaborates on the project.

Benefits of Big Bang Model:

Ease of Implementation: 

The Big Bang Model is straightforward and doesn’t demand extensive planning or documentation, simplifying the implementation process.

Cost Efficiency: 

Since there’s minimal upfront planning and no comprehensive requirements gathering, it reduces initial costs and proves to be budget-friendly.

Unleashed Creativity: 

Developers enjoy the freedom to innovate and explore novel concepts, unburdened by predefined plans.

Perfect for Compact Projects: 

The Big Bang Model is a natural fit for small-scale projects with restricted scope, including academic and practice endeavors.

Prototype Model

Prototype Model is an approach in which a prototype of a product is ready before the final product is developed. It’s about creating a working version of software—a prototype—early in the game. This model helps gather feedback and fine-tune the design before building the final software. It’s handy when project requirements are uncertain, reducing risks and saving time and money.

Prototyping means constantly refining your software based on user feedback. It’s great for projects where users play a big role. This method captures customer needs early on, making it popular in today’s software world. It keeps designers and developers on the right track, creating software that users love.

This approach comes into play when you require user input to tailor a product to their needs and when you have uncertain or likely changing project requirements.

Benefits of Prototype Model:

Prototype Model is an effective approach to software development, particularly for projects where requirements are not well-defined or may change over time.

Below are some of the benefits of the prototype model:

User-Centered Development: 

Users actively shape the final product to meet their needs, ensuring early error detection.

Streamlined Requirements: 

The prototype refines and clarifies requirements, reducing misunderstandings.

Proactive Problem Solving: 

Issues are spotted early, minimizing costly fixes down the road.

Design Visualization: 

The prototype acts as a visual guide, enhancing design communication.


In conclusion, Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) models are essential roadmaps that guide the journey of software creation from requirement gathering to deployment phase. These models provide structure, efficiency, and clarity to the development process, ensuring that the end product meets user expectations while managing costs and risks effectively.

Each SDLC model offers unique strengths that cater to specific project needs in their own way.

The benefits of using SDLC models are far-reaching. They enable efficient planning, clear design and development phases, rigorous testing, and systematic release and maintenance procedures. SDLC models reduce risks associated with software development and ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.

The choice of an SDLC model should align with project requirements, user expectations, and the dynamic nature of the software landscape. By following these structured models, software development teams can navigate the complex journey of creating high-quality software while keeping the end-user at the forefront of the process

Frequently Asked Questions

Which SDLC model is best?

The choice of the best SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) model depends on various factors, including the specific project’s requirements, goals, and constraints. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to which SDLC model is universally “best,” as different models have their strengths and weaknesses.

Which SDLC model is mostly used?

Some of the most used SDLC models in the software industry include: Agile Model and Waterfall Model.

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