DevOps Dashboard featuring number of builds, work in progress, successful deploys

What are SDLC Methodologies?

SDLC methodologies are the practices and principles that software developers use to navigate and manage the industry standard SDLC framework.

SDLC stands for software development life cycle, which is how engineers and developers track and manage the phases of a software project. Some developers like to think of SDLC as software development’s version of the scientific method—SDLC helps ensure that engineers are taking the right steps and asking the right questions in order to release a product or update. SDLC is also sometimes referred to as an example of a value stream – i.e. the complete end-to-end process to deliver a valuable software product.

There are about seven basic phases in the SDLC framework that look something like this:

  • Analysis (customer needs and software requirements)
  • Create a plan
  • Prepare a design
  • Start coding/software development
  • Conduct tests
  • Deploy
  • Maintain

The goal of following this flow during software development projects is to maintain the quality of software while keeping costs low and shortening production time. While these steps are relatively standard across different companies and industries, the techniques and strategies used to complete these steps can differ, which is where SDLC methodologies enter the conversation. This article will discuss the different methodologies and techniques used to successfully implement SDLC in modern software development settings.

Generally speaking, the waterfall methodology is the oldest and most direct approach to SDLC, where one phase is finished before moving on to the next. Each phase has its own outline and sub-steps that “waterfalls” or naturally flow into the next phase. The development team takes time to complete each phase fully before moving on to the next.

The main concept of this methodology is that once one phase is finished there is no going back—each stage relies on the success and information of the previous one. Each phase has a separate plan, but that plan was built upon the phase before it. For some, the waterfall methodology is too hypothetical or ideal, meaning they believe this methodology was never meant to be used in actual execution for real projects, which are complex and dynamic in practice.

The waterfall model works best for projects that are just as straightforward as the techniques used, such as for software that is not going to have constant customer feedback or changing requirements. Some experts may even argue that, because of its inflexibility, the waterfall methodology has become obsolete; however, the waterfall technique has served as a foundation for newer and more adjustable SDLC methodologies.

Service Management DevOps Insights

See what DevOps can do for you

Speed up software development by reducing time spent on administrative tasks. Scale and minimize risk with DevOps by ServiceNow.

The lean SDLC methodology uses the same practices and principles of lean manufacturing practices, which are centered around eliminating waste and focusing on the whole rather than the parts. More specifically, the manufacturing principles that the lean methodology adopts in software development include:

  • Eliminating waste
    What is essential? Don’t multitask or bog down the team with unnecessary documentation, meetings, or excessive planning.
  • Amplifying learning
    Be present in each stage of the process and encourage constant improvement.
  • Making decisions as late as possible
    Optimize your time and give plenty of thought and effort to a task to ensure the customer is getting the best value.
  • Delivering outcomes as fast as possible
    Cutting out time and energy wasters to release products or updates faster is key.
  • Empowering the team and building integrity
    Cutting out waste also means cutting out micromanagement and trusting teams to communicate and commit themselves to the work.
  • Focusing on the big picture
    Details are important, but not at the cost of progress or meeting goals.

Lean methodology asks the question, can we do more with less? The goal here is to boost the speed of product development while driving down the cost (and of course without losing the caliber of the product). It seeks to optimize effort and resources toward creating more value for the customer through continual improvement and respect.

While the waterfall approach came first, the agile methodology is the industry-wide favorite for developers. It builds upon those waterfall practices while helping teams be more flexible and dynamic. Because the agile methodology is more adaptable, it also gives way to innovation, high-quality production, and complex development projects.

One of the core principles of the agile approach is embracing fast failure to achieve a better result. To do so, this methodology uses ongoing release cycles where each iteration has small, incremental changes from the previous one. This is done to thoroughly test the product and continuously adjust to identify small hiccups on a project to avoid big expensive problems. Stakeholders must be kept in the loop throughout these cycles, too.

One drawback of the agile framework is how much time it may take to “perfect” your product or feature—when is the work ever done? An extension of agile methodology is “scaled agile” practices, which help teams focus on creating high-quality deliverables faster. Some of these practices include the following sub methods:

Extreme programming

Extreme programming (XP) is used to build flexible but high-standard code that is well-tested and well-written. This is done with methods like pair programming, unit and functional testing, and continuous communication. The primary values of extreme programming are:

  • Communication
  • Simplicity
  • Feedback
  • Respect
  • Courage


This framework focuses on time management and scheduling that is compatible with the agile methodology. “Kanban” means “signboard” in Japanese, and the basic principle here is to track and support the production process with visual cards, outlining the needed steps and timeframes using those cards. This scheduling technique is all about continuous flow and cycle time, moving tasks from stages like, To-Do, In Progress, Reviewing, and Complete.


Scrum is another agile-friendly framework that helps with time management but also focuses on roles and team collaboration to foster frequent deliveries during production. The main concept in scrum is the sprint cycle, which is all about velocity. The steps/collaborations for scrum-based development include:

  • Planning meetings where teams identify sprint priorities
  • Commitment meetings where the team reviews the requirements and resources needed for their upcoming sprint
  • Daily standup meetings, which are short syncs where the team aligns for daily workloads, potential roadblocks, etc.
  • Demo meetings where, post-sprint, the team discusses the new functionality that was implemented
  • Retrospective meetings, also post-sprint, when the team reflects on the lessons learned, what worked and what fell short, etc.

When it comes to the iterative model, software development is centered around repetition. Instead of using a thorough and detailed outline of all the requirements, these development teams try a set of software requirements and jump into the testing phase to fully evaluate and pinpoint the necessities for that project. Building software piece-by-piece like this keeps the project refined and polished until the system is completely developed and ready for launch.

These iterations are created quickly and cheaply—which is what makes this method sustainable. One of the most important aspects to consider with iterative SDLC methodologies is carefully tracking resources so that your time, money, and energy are not being wasted. Because of how quickly these tests move, it is not uncommon for teams to have several phases running simultaneously.

DevOps is one of the newer SDLC methodologies, which is influenced by both agile and lean methods while maximizing software project success through greater collaboration between development and operations teams. Because these two teams work so closely together (or are sometimes even combined into one team), the DevOps practices include greater discipline, constant feedback, process improvement, and automation.

Ideally, this methodology moves past traditional mindsets to meet the demands of high velocity and production paces using innovative technology and infrastructure management processes. The goal is to save time and boost communication so that everyone understands the roadblocks and priorities of the project so that neither development nor operations hinder the other.

Then we have the spiral methodology, which is all about flexibility and customization. Like the iterative model, spiral techniques use repetition to solidify the project’s objectives. To do so, teams run through four phases repeatedly until the project is deemed finished: planning, risk management, engineering, and evaluation. This allows developers to find issues quickly and refine the product until they are satisfied with the result. The spiral approach argues that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to SDLC, and each project should be customized to its needs.

Finally, we have the V-shape model, which is an extension of the waterfall methodology with a modern twist. This technique is all about testing, where tests are conducted at each stage of the development process. It is called the “V-model” because it uses two concepts: validation and verification.

In the validation phases, teams create the requirements and overall design of the project. Each of those validation phases correlates with a verification phase, which conducts testing and user acceptance practices. Like the waterfall model, each stage begins only after the previous stage has been completed. This is most helpful when you have a lot of unknown requirements, though its linear structure can also be limiting.

These SDLC methodologies are at the core of a development team’s success—such repeatable processes help cut back on spending, produce faster products, and release high-end software. Methods like the agile or lean approaches are increasingly popular in SDLC spaces, but their adaptability can overwhelm development teams.

To increase communication, streamline workflows, track testing, and monitor progress, ServiceNow offers innovative platforms to manage your SDLC methodologies, no matter how flexible your software development process is. It’s easy to integrate at the planning stages with existing agile tools like Jira and Azure DevOps Boards using Strategic Portfolio Management. We also provide comprehensive integration with DevOps pipelines using the DevOps capabilities of ServiceNow’s ITSM Pro platform.

You can continue to optimize your data with this level of integration while also gaining high-end applications and services with ServiceNow, helping you prioritize value stream management (VSM) for better creation, maintenance, and governance of your software development projects. Learn more about what ServiceNow can do to streamline your SDLC methodology.

Capabilities that expand with your business

Expand DevOps success across the enterprise. Take the risk out of going fast and minimize friction between IT operations and development.
Loading spinner