The terms software development process and software development life cycle are often used interchangeably. Even if you go onto the Google search engine and enter both terms, you’ll be served very similar content.
But there is a clear difference between a life cycle and a process and the two terms should not be confused or treated as similies. Using the terms in the context of software development is no exception.
So let’s clear up the distinction.
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The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition of a process is:
“A series of actions or operations conducing to an end
especially : a continuous operation or treatment especially in manufacture.”
A process, then, is a series of actions executed in a particular order. A software development process consists of steps that ultimately lead to a deployed product. For example, Openxcell details the following components of the process of documentation development, done in the design phase of the SDLC.
These steps represent the process of developing the software’s documentation. That, in turn, is part of the design phase process together with, among other steps, high-level software system design and a decision on the core tech stack to be used.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a life cycle is:
“A series of stages through which something (such as an individual, culture, or manufactured product) passes during its lifetime.”
A life cycle, then, consists of stages or phases. A software development life cycle’s phases vary with the methodology used by the software development team but the most common defined SDLC phases are:
Software moving through those phases is a process but on a macro level.
As distinct from the SDLC, the software development process details each step that should be completed as part of the deliverables that form each phase. It is a series of steps at a more micro level.
For example, the Sprint Planning meeting, Daily Scrum meetings, keeping the Impediment Log, consulting the Burndown Chart and the Sprint Retrospective meeting are all parts of the process of the Implement and Review and Retrospect phases of the Scrum development life cycle.
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