Life cycle model

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Life cycle model

A software life cycle model (also called process model) is a descriptive and diagrammatic representation of the software life cycle. A life cycle model represents all the activities required to make a software product transit through its life cycle phases. It also captures the order in which these activities are to be undertaken. In other words, a life cycle model maps the different activities performed on a software product from its inception to retirement. Different life cycle models may map the basic development activities to phases in different ways. Thus, no matter which life cycle model is followed, the basic activities are included in all life cycle models though the activities may be carried out in different orders in different life cycle models. During any life cycle phase, more than one activity may also be carried out. For example, the design phase might consist of the structured analysis activity followed by the structured design activity.

The need for a software life cycle model

The development team must identify a suitable life cycle model for the particular project and then adhere to it. Without using of a particular life cycle model the development of a software product would not be in a systematic and disciplined manner. When a software product is being developed by a team there must be a clear understanding among team members about when and what to do. Otherwise it would lead to chaos and project failure. This problem can be illustrated by using an example. Suppose a software development problem is divided into several parts and the parts are assigned to the team members. From then on, suppose the team members are allowed the freedom to develop the parts assigned to them in whatever way they like. It is possible that one member might start writing the code for his part, another might decide to prepare the test documents first, and some other engineer might begin with the design phase of the parts assigned to him. This would be one of the perfect recipes for project failure.

A software life cycle model defines entry and exit criteria for every phase. A phase can start only if its phase-entry criteria have been satisfied. So without software life cycle model the entry and exit criteria for a phase cannot be recognized. Without software life cycle models (such as classical waterfall model, iterative waterfall model, prototyping model, evolutionary model, spiral model etc.) it becomes difficult for software project managers to monitor the progress of the project.

Different software life cycle models

Many life cycle models have been proposed so far. Each of them has some advantages as well as some disadvantages. A few important and commonly used life cycle models are as follows:

  • Classical Waterfall Model
  • Iterative Waterfall Model
  • Prototyping Model
  • Evolutionary Model
  • Spiral Model

Different phases of the classical waterfall model

The classical waterfall model is intuitively the most obvious way to develop software. Though the classical waterfall model is elegant and intuitively obvious, it is not a practical model in the sense that it can not be used in actual software development projects. Thus, this model can be considered to be a theoretical way of developing software. But all other life cycle models are essentially derived from the classical waterfall model. So, in order to be able to appreciate other life cycle models it is necessary to learn the classical waterfall model.

Classical waterfall model divides the life cycle into the following phases as shown in fig.2.1:

  • Feasibility Study
  • Requirements Analysis and Specification
  • Design
  • Coding and Unit Testing
  • Integration and System Testing
  • Maintenance

Activities in each phase of the life cycle

Activities undertaken during feasibility study: - The main aim of feasibility study is to determine whether it would be financially and technically feasible to develop the product.

  • At first project managers or team leaders try to have a rough understanding of what is required to be done by visiting the client side. They study different input data to the system and output data to be produced by the system. They study what kind of processing is needed to be done on these data and they look at the various constraints on the behavior of the system.
  • After they have an overall understanding of the problem they investigate the different solutions that are possible. Then they examine each of the solutions in terms of what kind of resources required, what would be the cost of development and what would be the development time for each solution.
  • Based on this analysis they pick the best solution and determine whether the solution is feasible financially and technically. They check whether the customer budget would meet the cost of the

 

Product and whether they have sufficient technical expertise in the area of development.

The following is an example of a feasibility study undertaken by an organization. It is intended to give you a feel of the activities and issues involved in the feasibility study phase of a typical software project.

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This article was published on 2010/12/09