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A software development process is a structure imposed on the development of a software product. This session introduces several models for such processes, each describing approaches to a variety of tasks or activities that take place during the process.

A software development process is a structure imposed on the development of a software product. Synonyms include software lifecycle and software process. There are several models for such processes, each describing approaches to a variety of tasks or activities that take place during the process.

Processes and meta-processes

A growing body of software development organizations implement process methodologies. Many of them are in the defense industry, which in the U.S. requires a rating based on 'process models' to obtain contracts. The international standard for describing the method of selecting, implementing and monitoring the life cycle for software is ISO 12207.

The Capability Maturity Model (CMM) is one of the leading models. Independent assessments grade organizations on how well they follow their defined processes, not on the quality of those processes or the software produced. CMM is gradually replaced by CMMI. ISO 9000 describes standards for formally organizing processes with documentation.

ISO 15504, also known as Software Process Improvement Capability Determination (SPICE), is a "framework for the assessment of software processes". This standard is aimed at setting out a clear model for process comparison. SPICE is used much like CMM and CMMI. It models processes to manage, control, guide and monitor software development. This model is then used to measure what a development organization or project team actually does during software development. This information is analyzed to identify weaknesses and drive improvement. It also identifies strengths that can be continued or integrated into common practice for that organization or team.

Process activities/steps

DesignOperation andMaintenanceRequirementImplementationFeasibility andPlanningTesting

1. Requirements analysis: The most important task in creating a software product is extracting the requirements. Customers typically know what they want, but not what software should do, while incomplete, ambiguous or contradictory requirements are recognized by skilled and experienced software engineers. Frequently demonstrating live code may help reduce the risk that the requirements are incorrect.

The system's services, constraints and goals are established by consultation with system users. They are then defined in a manner that is understandable by both users and development staff.

This phase can be divided into:

  • Feasibility study (often carried out separately)
  • Requirements analysis
  • Requirements definition
  • Requirements specification

2. Design

  • System design: Partition the requirements to hardware or software systems. Establishes an overall system architecture. The architecture of a software system refers to an abstract representation of that system. Architecture is concerned with making sure the software system will meet the requirements of the product, as well as ensuring that future requirements can be addressed. The architecture step also addresses interfaces between the software system and other software products, as well as the underlying hardware or the host operating system.
  • Software design: Represent the software system functions in a form that can be transformed into one or more executable programs. Specification is the task of precisely describing the software to be written, possibly in a rigorous way. In practice, most successful specifications are written to understand and fine-tune applications that were already well-developed, although safety-critical software systems are often carefully specified prior to application development. Specifications are most important for external interfaces that must remain stable.

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Source:  OpenStax, Software engineering. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10790/1.1
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