Spot on Systems Design: Your Complete Guide to the System Development Life Cycle
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Want to understand the basics of systems design? The check out this guide to the system development life cycle.

System developers are increasingly in demand. The number of developers employed in the United States in 2010 was 528,800. This is will grow to 664,500 by 2020 which suggests system development skills continue to be a great asset.

Want to understand the basics of systems design? The check out this guide to the system development life cycle.

System Development Life Cycle Overview

The System Development Life Cycle or SDLC is a methodology for delivering a system to meet an organization's needs. It's equally useful for hardware or software systems or a combination of both.

It's different from a software development life cycle in that it includes both technical and non-technical aspects of a development project. It can, therefore, include the people aspect of a technology change. It's these people aspects that can often make or break a change project.

1. Planning

At the outset of a system development project, it's vital to confirm that the change is in fact needed. This first stage focusses on understanding the problems that the project seeks to address.

The scope of the project is identified together with resources. These resources include finances in the form of a budget, human resources and time. It's important at this stage to be clear what the expectations are for the project.

2. Analysis

By stage two it's time to set out the detailed requirements. Defining these requirements in functional terms means involving end-users.

This doesn't need to be a technical task but it certainly involves the skillful engagement of users. Some modeling of the user requirements such as screen designs can be useful at this early stage.

3. Design

Once the user requirements are understood the system is specified with details of the features and functionality needed. End users can discuss information requirements and the people and system processes.

4. Development

It's at the development phase that the technical roles of programmer and other technology specialists are deployed. Depending on the project, this may include network engineers, hardware specialists or database designers.

This phase of the project may have many inter-related elements in so needs detailed planning. With production underway, any lack of coordination might lead to significant re-working or waisted effort or cost. Scrum development methods show real benefits at this stage.

This is also an opportunity to start working on the people aspects of the project. Identifying and designing training and deployment can start.

5. Testing and Integration

Once the development has been done it must be tested. The testing includes whether the developments meet the functional specifications and also whether interfaces with other systems work. Errors and bugs are removed and retested.

Testing can be done in two phases. Technical testing is about making sure that the systems meet the design as given to the developers. User testing is about making sure that the solution meets the user requirements.

6. Deployment

Implementing the new system typically involves migration from an old system to a new system. This could include data and other system components. A low-risk time window for doing this is usually chosen with a clear route back to the old system should there be a mission-critical problem.

The best practice is to deliver documentation with the system. This should include user documentation.  

7. Maintenance

Once the deployment is complete it's vital not to regard the project as over. It's now time to check whether the system is meeting user requirements. There may be a call for fine-tuning.

A maintenance plan should include an ongoing review of the system and a future development path.


The system development life cycle demonstrates the benefits of teamwork. Users, analysts, developers, and others all work together to deliver the project.

Read more about what makes great IT teams here.


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