Practical Application for Software Engineering: Process Models

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

The success of a software development project is largely dependent on the development model used to guide the process. Not every development model is a great fit in every circumstance, so it's important to choose wisely.

Choosing a Development Model

Imagine that you are a software developer for a company with more than 100,000 employees nationwide. You've been given primary responsibility for the development of a customized, in-house payroll application. The buck stops with you. If you don't get this right, there isn't any backup. Hopefully, you're one of those people that thrives on an appropriately-elevated level of pressure!

Your ability to achieve your deliverable is contingent upon choosing the right framework for your development process. There are a few things to consider, so you decide to jump right in to your evaluation of the models.

Listing the Options

The models that you can choose from all represent a form of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Six choices are in front of you and you'll be exclusively responsible for selecting the best one. Your options are:

  1. The Waterfall model
  2. V-Shape Model
  3. Evolutionary Prototyping
  4. The Spiral Method
  5. Iterations and Increments
  6. Agile Software Development

To make your selection easier, you took a moment to jot down a quick list of the options and their relative pros and cons. Your notes look something like this:

SDLC Notes

Evaluating the Present and Future State

Now that you've got a good list of the advantages and disadvantages of each choice, you can apply what you know to your specific situation. As you contemplate which model is best for your situation, it's likely you've decided to jot down a few more notes about your project in particular. After some thought, your reflection has led to a realization that:

  • As a large company, resources like time and money are in adequate supply, so your choices are not resource-limited
  • It's clear that the company values quality over quantity, so you can use your adequate resources to achieve excellence
  • Employees are widely spread geographically, so customer testing and feedback might have some logistical hurdles
  • As a large company, there are other highly customized enterprise application projects in the hopper, so it would be nice to use an SDLC model that could be used for future projects
  • In the future, the company may spin-off or acquire business units of significant size, so a model that is salable is desirable

With these notes in mind, you're ready to compare and select the best model for your project. Do you already have some ideas? Which models can be quickly ruled out? Which models remain viable?

Applying the Options and Making a Selection

You've probably already identified some of the least desirable options, so let's compare your thoughts to those of others on your team. Here's what they have to say:

Raj (your finance expert): ''This is an investment. We won't always have resources like this so we need a model that can be scaled and re-used. I recommend a waterfall or v-shaped model.''

Tina (the corporate trainer): ''Since we're spread so far apart, I'd like to see us use a prototyping model. This will help us make sure that the people who are going to use this system help us get all the bugs worked out before going live.''

Tyrell (a user representative): ''Payroll is a function that not too many people are familiar with. We should use agile methodology because it's the only way to make sure that the final product is perfect.''

Julio (a developer): ''As an engineer, I've always been partial to the spiral model because it gets me involved in the project early. That saves a lot of work on my part since I know what the customer wants before I build it rather than constantly having to rebuild it afterward.''

Now that your team has weighed in, how will you respond? It's the moment of SDLC truth. Which model do you want to use?

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