Creating applications that meet your businesses needs and help you make processes more efficient can be a complicated process to understand. Application development involves many steps, a great deal of information, and time. To help you understand this process a little more, the following is an overview of the steps in the application development cycle and how your knowledge of your business fits into the development cycle.
The classic “waterfall” application development cycle proceeds step by step, with each step completed before proceeding to the next in the process. Variations on the application development cycle overlap some steps, but by the time agile development or extreme programming has released the application, all of these steps will have been taken at least once, although probably many times.
When initially embarking on the process of application development, you will need to know where to start. Your input at this stage is critical, as you are the best individual to define the business need for new applications. You are the one with insight related to your business and the factors that affect development.
Questions you might consider are: How big is your budget? When do you have to release it to the users? What is unsatisfactory and what is good about your current applications? What will the new application do for you?
Once you have assessed your business needs and what you can afford to undertake, you will want to write “use cases” – scenarios that describe what each type of user will do with the application, or what the application will do with input it acquires. You will also want to create detailed specifications and keep them up to date. Specifications are written definitions of what your new application must do, what it must not do, how the users will interact with it, and how the application will interact with other applications. It does for application development what blueprints and elevation drawings do for house builders and interior designers. It’s the one place where all the details can be found.
After you have analyzed your needs and what requirements you are expecting of your new application, the team or service developing the application will use the specifications you have outlined to develop internal structure and testing protocols.
Application architecture defines the internal structure of the application, how it will store its data, and other technical aspects. Test design is a written definition of what tests will be run to verify that the application is working correctly and that it is not allowing unintended uses or impossible data. Good tests will check to ensure that a user’s error will not crash the system or corrupt the data.
From application design, the development process moves to actually creating the application. Producing the application has separate but interrelated processes. If you did your part in the planning and design stages, you can relax and listen to the sound of keyboards clicking.
Applications will are developed using coding language. Code writing and compiling includes writing code that does the work and code that creates the screens that the users will see. Testing can be informal, done by the programmer as they work on a bit of code, or formal testing done by someone who has a plan to make sure the application is behaving as expected, and that it meets the specification.
As applications are being developed, the development team or programmers should record information about their processes and design to be used when application maintenance and updates need to be made.
Deployment, also called roll-out or release, is everything that happens between approving the final build from the production team to the potentially apprehensive moment when your employees or customers click the icon and start using the new application.
Maintenance is the part no one likes, but bugs must be fixed and business needs inevitably change. A maintenance cycle is the same as a development cycle, with planning, design, production, and release steps.
Application development can be very useful to your company. In a technology driven world, having applications designed to suit your business’s and your customers’ needs can be critical to your maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace. Having background information about the application development process can help you assess your needs and determine how application development can work for your business.