systems development life cycle (SDLC)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Project prioritization and portfolio management guide for CIOs

What is systems development life cycle (SDLC)?

(SDLC is also an abbreviation for Synchronous Data Link Control.)

The systems development life cycle (SDLC) is a conceptual model used in project management that describes the stages involved in an information system development project, from an initial feasibility study through maintenance of the completed application.

Various SDLC methodologies have been developed to guide the processes involved, including the waterfall model (which was the original SDLC method); rapid application development (RAD); joint application development (JAD); the fountain model; the spiral model; build and fix; and synchronize-and-stabilize. Frequently, several models are combined into some sort of hybrid methodology. Documentation is crucial regardless of the type of model chosen or devised for any application, and is usually done in parallel with the development process. Some methods work better for specific types of projects, but in the final analysis, the most important factor for the success of a project may be how closely the particular plan was followed.

In general, an SDLC methodology follows the following steps:

  1. The existing system is evaluated. Deficiencies are identified. This can be done by interviewing users of the system and consulting with support personnel.
  2. The new system requirements are defined. In particular, the deficiencies in the existing system must be addressed with specific proposals for improvement.
  3. The proposed system is designed. Plans are laid out concerning the physical construction, hardware, operating systems, programming, communications, and security issues.
  4. The new system is developed. The new components and programs must be obtained and installed. Users of the system must be trained in its use, and all aspects of performance must be tested. If necessary, adjustments must be made at this stage.
  5. The system is put into use. This can be done in various ways. The new system can phased in, according to application or location, and the old system gradually replaced. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to shut down the old system and implement the new system all at once.
  6. Once the new system is up and running for a while, it should be exhaustively evaluated. Maintenance must be kept up rigorously at all times. Users of the system should be kept up-to-date concerning the latest modifications and procedures.


Getting started with the systems development life cycle
To explore how the systems development life cycle is used in the enterprise, here are some additional resources:
Varying SDLC methodologies among development teams: Software development life cycle (SDLC) methodologies have their own advantages, tools and so forth. Expert David Christiansen explains why development groups should be allowed to embrace a variety of methodologies.
How use cases facilitate the SDLC: Why incorporate use case techniques into your software development lifecycle? Requirements expert Betty Luedke explains how use cases benefit the SDLC and how practitioners can get the most out of them
When to begin testing in the SDLC: Testing is one of the most important components of the software development lifecycle, but when to begin testing depends on a number of factors. Expert Mike Kelly discusses how certain issues affect the timing of testing in the SDLC.

This was last updated in May 2009

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I always thought the S in SDLC is Software Development Life Cycle?

@Veratax.. You are correct
SDLC as Veretax also mentioned it, I thought S is for Software, but when you look at it, it is still The System of the Software dev life cyc. So I think it still works both ways*!!!
Same thing here, I always heard software. Things change, and people may change things slightly for clarification for others. That is the case with acronyms sometimes.
Currently, it is used more for Software, but originally, it applied to the physical systems (hardware/infrastructure) and also included decommissioning/retirement of the server or machine itself. Now, many companies are using Cloud services for servers so that the company does not have to be concerned with the actual server, just with which applications are being implemented and upgraded on the cloud server farm.
Very useful Post, thank you. But i have a Question.
where, when, how and why work systems method (WSM) can contribute to the system development life cycle (SDLC).


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