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Approaches to software development and workflow philosophies

Software development styles that are described above are among the most common ones in the software engineering industry.

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Writing code is not easy, it is a laborious job, that requires the full attention of the team of software developers, constant concentration, and mental alertness. To achieve success, software engineers should be freed from nonessential work problems. This happens when the workflow in the company is well organized, roles are well-defined, communication links are well-established and feedback from the client comes as it is needed.

To organize and structure work on the software engineering project, managers, and leads of software development companies can implement a variety of approaches or methodologies. Each of them offers its benefits and strengths, and, when correctly chosen and applied, can answer almost every need that can arise during the production cycle.

The methodology in essence is a structure that describes the process happening during software product development, defines its stages, activities, and tasks. Project roles of the team members, the expectations from their input are also defined in that process, the workload is spread out and deadlines are established. Project planning and management become meaningful and efficient when certain software development methodology is applied.

There is a long list of software development styles, there exist probably one for every taste. Here are some widely implemented approaches in the IT industry:

  • Agile
  • Waterfall
  • Rapid Application Development
  • Lean Development
  • Feature-Driven Development
  • DevOps Development
  • Joint Application Development
  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Extreme Programming
  • Rational Unified Process
  • Prototype Methodology

They all are applied in practice during the software engineering cycle, and they all can prove efficient for the right type of project. Well-chosen methodology will add structure and efficiency to the project workflow and will ensure its overall success.

In this article, we will briefly outline the six most commonly used software development methodologies, with some recommendations when and why they should be implemented for the project on hand.


Agile Software Development Methodology

This method is commonly used by companies where project management is well organized. For example, this software development agency uses an agile methodology for all of them projects  The agile approach works to its fullest potential in an environment of frequent changes. This methodology deals well with altering requirements, facilitates the implementation of new requests from the client, and is flexible enough to handle changes to the concept or functionality of the final product.

Currently, the agile methodology is gaining popularity and is taken as a basic approach to product development by many software engineering companies. “Ancor”, a software development agency, for example, implements this particular software development style, as it also has proven most productive for undertaking several software engineering projects at once. Agile approach is spreading to other types of organizations as well, helping them meet changes in the market demand quickly, developing products more timely and efficiently.

The Agile method proposes a considerable level of flexibility for the software engineering teams. The work is divided into several phases of equal length called sprints. Each sprint (sometimes also called iteration) lasts for one to four weeks, the period when the team works on producing an itemized list of deliverables. As the sprint ends, the team reviews its work and outlines the next sprint.

Teams can minimize risks on projects by implementing the agile methodology. Developers can respond to unexpected changes in the requirements, update the functionality, and eliminate bugs with less effort compared to other models of software creation. Teams work on the software during short time periods, during each they add small new features to the functionality of the product, answering the user stories, and easily undertake necessary fixes.

Recommended for: A fast-changing environment and projects where product requirements are uncertain. Any size team and any size project can greatly benefit from applying this method. The development of the product can tolerate frequent changes and continues until the product owner is satisfied with the end results.

Waterfall Development

This is a linear method of development, with a straightforward flow of the application engineering processes. It is a traditional method that is good for the organizations or teams whose work is a milestone or date-focused. This model is most effective when the product definition does not evolve, the product requirements are well-known, transparent, and fixed, and the resources for the project are easily available.

Following the waterfall methodology means creating separate focus teams that will work on different sequential project stages. Gathering of requirements, product design, implementation, product deployment, and maintenance — all these stages should go in the established order, each one must be fully completed before the next one can start. This means that there is no going back to make sudden changes to the finished project phase, there is no reverse of the processes. In practice, it also means, if during the requirements gathering stage something is missed or if alterations are needed, fixes will be expensive.

Recommended for: Projects that have strict and narrow requirements and where there is little room for future changes. This approach works well for projects where the product features are well-defined and new system interfaces with known or existing products.

Rapid Application Development (RAD)

The RAD approach appeared with the goal to create high-quality software products within a short time period. The model allows teams to quickly adjust to altering requirements to meet expectations of a fast-changing market environment. Growing out of the linear waterfall model, RAD has a much higher degree of adaptability and lower production cost.

The rapid application development uses component-based construction where the process consists of four main phases: requirements planning, user design, construction, and cutover. Multiple teams are at work on different components simultaneously, the user is actively involved and gives frequent feedback. Two phases, user design, and construction can repeat until the moment when the customer confirms that the product meets all his requirements. As a result, the whole software development life cycle happens with improved workability and the product is highly adaptable to the market.

Recommended for: Project with the product creation time frame of 2 to 3 months, when the requirements are known, where the user can be involved through the whole development cycle, and where technical risks are lower.

DevOps Development Methodology

DevOps is a development philosophy with a set of practices aimed at organizational culture development. DevOps model encourages collaboration between teams in major departments of the company, that are responsible for different stages of the product life cycle process, such as development, quality assurance, and operations. It brings tighter integration between teams responsible for coding and testing, and teams responsible for the software deployment. Traditionally developers and those who deploy products have different objectives and do not intersect often. DevOps model brings those teams together for a better collaboration that yields better results. The software can be tested faster and more reliably, changes to the product can be discussed and implemented, and the product is released faster.

Recommended for: Larger projects with several teams, where the goal is set to change and improve communications and collaboration between developers and IT operations.

Feature-Driven Development

This method is well suited for the managing work processes of larger teams. It is a mixture of the best software development practices with a prime focus on the customer value of the product. The model has all the desired production benefits, such as faster development and timely product delivery.

FDD process releases deliverables in increments. Developers can prioritize client requests and then respond to client requests one at a time, focusing on the given issue. The team breaks complex tasks into smaller feature sets and then chooses which feature can be worked on at the moment. The created functionality is presented to the customer, and if approved, the team moves on to another feature or feature set.

Recommended for: Long-term, complex projects that employ lead developers. It is a suitable choice for development teams seeking a scalable method that delivers predictable results, where the software development focuses on making progress on features.

Lean Development

For those companies, that have a limited budget and a short time to develop a product, Lean methodology could be an excellent solution. The Lean model implementation reduces the cost of software development, improves quality, increases productivity, and works towards better customer satisfaction.

Lean development has less essential workflow and delivers easily manageable software. The methodology encourages software development teams to constantly gather and share information, and also requires thoroughly documenting processes, actions, ideas, and requirements. The main focus of the methodology is pointed to the customer needs, keeping only those product features that add value to the customer. The end product gets delivered to the user as fast as possible.

Recommended for: Small projects with lower budgets and a short time frame. Though such projects should employ highly qualified able to self-manage teams.

Making the right choice for your team

Every team wants its project to be a success. The method that team management chooses will, for the most part, define the final outcome. Software development styles that are described above are among the most common ones in the software engineering industry. Each approach has its own upsides and downsides and its own areas for implementation. That is why the right choice of the development method, based on the nature of the project and available resources, can make production secure and efficient. It will save time and money and will bring client satisfaction. It is vital to take time to study and compare various methodologies before making a final decision on which way your team should go.  

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