Buying off-the-shelf software and developing bespoke solutions from scratch differ in many aspects. The two most important ones are the wait time and the costs, which are the vital factors for many companies. Organisations prefer to use a commercial product because they can start using it right away, however, there is a reason why bespoke software solution development takes both time and money.
Today, I would like to explain to you 6 basic phases of the bespoke software development process which is usually described as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
By definition, SDLC is a process practised in software development companies, which helps them to improve their workflow and thus develop solutions of the highest quality. The methodology works by removing the typical pitfalls and guiding the development team, which results in lowering the production costs while shortening the development time.
In order to ensure the quality of the software, a company starts with gathering requirements, which are analysed in the next phase in order to build a foundation for the product. Software is then created through the stages of design, development and testing, and after that the product can be released. The maintenance is the last phase, during which the software development company makes sure their solution works flawlessly.
There are many software development models, with the Waterfall model, the Spiral model and the Agile model being the most popular ones. Each process model follows a particular approach in order to ensure the product is delivered successfully. The approaches differ, however, there are certain phases all of the models include. Basic steps which help software development companies to achieve success are:
1. Initial requirements gathering
This is the very first phase when you ask a bespoke software development company for a consultation. During this initial stage, several meetings are held for the development company to gather all of your requirements. This is a chance for the specialists to learn what are your specifications, what are the goals you plan to achieve with the software, who will be using it and why, and how do you want the product to work. That way you and the software development company can get a sense if you can be a good match.
By discovering your expectations, a software development company can choose the right approach that will help them to implement the project successfully with minimum risks. This is also the stage when the initial costs and time can be estimated.
2. Requirements analysis and planning
After the requirements are gathered, the development company can start analysing them in order to build a strong foundation for the product. This is why the second stage is probably the most important phase of the entire process. A careful analysis is necessary for the development company to meet all of your needs. The organisation translates your goals into their plan so that the two visions can meet.
Before going to the next step, all of your demands need to be documented and approved by both sides. This is done through a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document, on which the product development will be based. That way you can be sure there will be no misunderstandings.
3. Technical design
Once the development company knows what they are about to create, they need to decide how to do it. Each software solution demands a different approach, this is why the third phase is dedicated to designing the architecture of your system. The development company bases the internal design of all the modules of the product on the SRS document. The most important parameters that are taken into consideration are budget and time constraints, design modularity and risk assessment as the developers want to be sure your solution is robust.
During this stage, the external design may be created as well. Depending on the complexity of your order, it may be easier for your company to understand how the solution will work if the development company provides you with mock-up screens and interfaces. Basic demonstrations will explain how the user will access the software
4. Development & Implementation
This phase is definitely the longest one as the actual product is finally being built. Developers start coding your solution, carefully following the Software Requirement Specification document, as well as the internal design instructions. If the previous stages have been followed with a close attention to details, coding should be accomplished without any further problems.
Depending on the software development model, each development team approaches this stage from a different angle. Many companies follow the Agile methodology, which means they hold brief, iterative meetings called daily Scrum meetings during which each member of the team reports any issues and progress on their tasks. This approach improves their workflow and productivity.
After the solution is developed but before it is ready to be released, it is tested for any deficiencies and defects. During this phase, test engineers perform various types of functional and non-functional testing, either manually or automatically. The most important features that have to be checked are the core application functions, text input, installation on localized machines, as well as aspects that are not related to any specific function such as scalability and security. If any bug is detected, it is fixed and tested again. The process lasts until the quality of your solution meets the original requirements.
The very important thing is that you and your team test the software as well. The development company provides you with a beta test environment to make sure you understand the solution and you are comfortable with the way it works. They wait to hear any feedback from you as they are ready to fix any issue you report.
6. Deployment & maintenance
After successful testing, your software solution is ready to be released. However, it is a mistake to call the project done. This is the time for you and your actual users to get familiar with the system. Once you start using it, many unexpected problems may come up. Depending on the level of their priority, they may be fixed right away or gathered together and improved later.
Maintenance is a great advantage of bespoke software solutions as the development company takes care of your system not only during the development process but also after the release. They make sure your product works flawlessly.
There is a great difference introduced to the bespoke software development process when the development company uses the Agile methodology. The last three phases become a separate cycle that is regularly repeated. As software is being built, your team is provided with a test environment where you can get to know your system and see how it evolves. You then give feedback to the development company so that they can fix anything you report and only after that they continue coding.
You hopefully can now see why the costs and the wait time of bespoke software may differ from the ones of off-the-shelf solutions. The development company carefully designs and develops, both internally and externally, a system that will meet all of your needs. Not only that, they make sure it is flawless by running various tests and take care of it after the software is released.