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5 Stages of the Agile Development Lifecycle Explained by an Expert

Dawid Pacholczyk 3622ceab56

13/01/2022 |

8 min read

Dawid Pacholczyk

Agile software development has become a de facto standard for teams worldwide. When implemented properly, agile helps developers to deliver projects smoothly, always within the set timeframe and budget. 

How does agile connect with the software development lifecycle (SDLC)? As you may already know, agile is one of the models for structuring the development process. It’s critical that every team member has a clear idea about what the agile development cycle looks like and what the goal of each stage is. 

Keep on reading this article to learn everything you need to know about the agile lifecycle model, get expert tips for improving your process, and deliver some killer software.


Table of contents:

  1. Software development lifecycle (SDLC) & agile – what do you need to know?
  2. The 5 stages of the agile development lifecycle
  3. Agile development lifecycle – wrap up

Software development lifecycle (SDLC) & agile – what do you need to know?

What exactly is agile, and how does it relate to SDLC? 

Agile is an approach to software development where teams deliver the working parts of the product in smaller timeframes and increments. 

Agile is based on dividing work into short sprints where the team collaborates on a small chunk of the project and quickly gets feedback on the work in progress. 

The agile process allows teams to be more flexible and adaptable to the changing business, user, or market needs. Ultimately, by adopting agile teams deliver working software products of higher quality.


How does agile connect to the software development lifecycle? 

It’s simple – agile is one of the models that teams can use to structure the process of developing new software. Other examples include lean, waterfall, and spiral. Each of these approaches differs in some ways from the rest, but they all have a shared mission – to help teams deliver quality software quickly and cost-effectively. 

Agile-powered SDLC is based on ongoing release cycles where each cycle delivers a small incremental change from the previous release. It also includes testing to help teams identify all the issues that may crop up in the project before they snowball into bigger problems. 

The idea here is to also engage all the project stakeholders on a regular basis to receive their feedback throughout the development process, not at its very end. 


Scrum: an agile framework of choice for many teams today

Many teams apply an agile framework called Scrum to structure more complex and larger development projects. In Scrum, developers work in sprints that last from two to four weeks. All the selected tasks need to be completed within that time. 

Scrum comes with a number of ceremonies (also called events):

  • Sprint Planning – the entire team collaborates and discusses the high-priority work for the sprint and establishes the sprint goal.
  • Daily Scrum – a daily meeting to help the team stay in sync throughout the project, share any blockers, and easily identify bottlenecks.
  • Sprint Review – this event is focused on presenting the effects delivered during the sprint to all interested stakeholders.
  • Sprint Retrospective – the focus here is on the process as the team discusses what went right and what the areas for improvement are.

The 5 stages of the agile lifecycle

Stage 1: Ideation

Every software development project should start with an ideation stage engaging all the project stakeholders (product team, investors, project managers, founders, and anyone else who has domain knowledge about the product). 

Naturally, this stage includes software developers as well because they’re the ones who know how to build the product and which technologies to use. 

For example, in Scrum the team is expected to carry out the following tasks at this stage (among others):

  • identifying and documenting all the business and user requirements,
  • mapping these requirements onto product features,
  • establishing the goal of the new software,
  • breaking work items down and prioritizing tasks,
  • allocating team members to tasks,
  • estimating the time and cost of the project.

Starting with the ideation stage is important because it determines the initial scope of the project. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss the key requirements with project stakeholders and outline them all in a structured document. 

This kind of detailed analysis is also important because it builds a sense of transparency and helps to understand whether the idea is viable in its current form or not.

Since the process adopts an iterative approach, teams should keep the requirements to the minimum as more features can be added in later development stages. 


Stage 2: Development

When the ideation stage is completed, the team gets a document that identifies the entire project scope. Developers can now start organizing their work into sprints, working on their backlog of tasks, and building the first iteration of the software. 

The development phase will look differently depending on what type of product we’re talking about. It may include tasks like infrastructure architecture, UX/UI design, writing code, testing it, and more. As you can imagine, this is the longest stage in the entire agile software development methodology. It’s when the bulk of the work is carried out. 

The core objective of the software development team at this stage is to build some part of the product’s functionality by the end of each sprint. Developers build working software quickly in an iterative model, applying changes and improvements to match the stakeholders’ expectations. 

One best practice to implement at this stage is to have developers work closely with UX designers – that way, they bring together all the product requirements and customer feedback and transform designs into code. 


Stage 3: Testing and Quality Assurance (QA)

Testing happens throughout the development process, so you could argue that it’s actually part of the previous stage. 

However, before releasing the application to the world, it’s essential that it goes through some more Quality Assurance tests. Testers and QA specialists test the app to ensure that it’s fully functional. They identify errors and have developers address them immediately. They also check whether the code is clean and use a combination of testing methods from manual to automated. 

This stage of agile software development is also where user training takes place. This might require more documentation – and writing it is one of the goals here as well. When everything is ready, the product’s final iteration can be released to production and deployed. 


Stage 4: Deployment

During the development process in agile, the team takes the next step: deployment. This step relies heavily on what the team came up with during the previous stages – especially the ideation stage. 

After all, a cloud-native application built for and within the cloud will require a completely different development process than an app running on an on-premises server, integrated with the client’s legacy infrastructure. 

By this stage, the team should have clarity about where the application will be deployed and how. In an ideal scenario, the DevOps engineer has already figured out the deployment model enabling a smoother future product development and maintenance tasks/upgrades. 

An automated Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery pipeline is essential for modern software development teams that want to speed up the work, ship often, and improve the product once it’s released to the market. 


Stage 5: Maintenance 

In the last stage of agile software development, the team focuses on ongoing maintenance to address any problems and keep a high level of functionality and performance.

Many things are going to happen once users start engaging with the product – the team might have to deal with some bugs or performance issues. But this also gives you an opportunity to collect feedback and apply improvements to be released in the future iterations of the application. 

The team provides ongoing support to keep the system running smoothly and delivers additional training to users to make sure everyone knows how to use the product. Over time, new iterations can be rolled out to refresh the product with new features and upgrades.

Agile software cycle – wrap up

The agile methodology has served as a go-to method for many years now, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. 

The agile process accommodates requirement changes and allows the team to easily address the needs of rapidly changing business, user, or market needs. The agile model makes space for adopting modern DevOps tools and practices that help teams thrive and ship faster. 

That’s why agile is going to remain a key part of the tech industry and get fine-tuned by teams looking to improve their agile processes.

Do you have any questions about the agile software development lifecycle or agile model? Are you planning to use agile SDLC in your next project? Share your doubts, experiences, and thoughts in the comments section!

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Dawid Pacholczyk 3622ceab56

Dawid Pacholczyk

Consulting Manager at Codete with over 15 years of experience in the IT sector and a strong technical background. Seasoned in working with multinational companies. Ph.D. student and lecturer at Polish-Japanese Academy of IT, focused on software architecture, software development and management.

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