A guide to software development: definition, types, processes, and methodologies

Radhika Madhavan

Director of Marketing

Table of Contents

In our digital age, software development affects all critical components of our lives. Individuals, entrepreneurs, and large corporations often rely on different types of software to do their everyday activities. Enterprise software development, without a doubt, has the fastest growth rate of any other IT business.

Thanks to some AI-augmented software development and technology innovations, businesses are seeing significant boosts in their growth. As a result, the global software business is predicted to reach $1.4 trillion by 2025, representing an 11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) as reported by Statista.

This is because software development is critical for growing a business, improving sales and services, analyzing data, and bringing innovative, customer-centric products and services to market. So, we’ve got you covered whether you’re looking for technical or business insights into software development.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is software development?

The process of creating, designing, developing, documenting, testing, and maintaining software applications, frameworks, and other components is known as software development. Software development, at its most basic level, is the act of creating and maintaining source code. As a result, software development might include tasks like research, new development, prototyping, revisions, software engineering, and maintenance, as well as any other software product or application.

Software developers, programmers, and engineers most commonly work on software. They oversee the whole Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), which includes working with cross-functional teams, converting requirements into features, managing development processes and teams, and performing software testing and maintenance.

Software and its types

A unit of software informs a computer what to do. In technical terms, “software” refers to a set of instructions, data, or programs that are used to run machines and execute certain tasks. Hardware, on the other hand, refers to the computer’s physical components. Software refers to the applications, scripts, and programs that execute on a device.

Google Chrome, Gmail, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, and a slew of other apps that we use daily are just a few instances of software that we can’t live without.

There are four main types of software. They are:

Application software

An end-user application that helps you complete tasks and get desired outcomes. It might be a single program or a group of applications that run software on behalf of the user.  Eg: Chrome, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Word

System software

Enables the computer, mobile device, application, and users to operate together smoothly, allowing hardware and software operations and providing a platform for all sorts of applications.  Eg: Apple’s iOS, Microsoft Windows 

Programming software

It’s the software that computer programmers and software developers use to write codes to create, test, and debug other software programs. Eg: C, C++, Javascript, Python, Java, etc. 

Driver software

Operates and controls the peripherals and devices connected to a computer, allowing them to interact and execute required activities. Eg: Game Controllers, USB drives, memory sticks.

There are five further subcategories of software in addition to these primary kinds: Freeware, Shareware, Open Source Software, Closed Source Software, and Utility Software.

Types of software development processes

System software development

Operating System (OS) software necessitates a thorough understanding of numerous complicated areas of computer science. You’ll need to know how hardware works and be able to read and write a higher-level language as well as the difficult assembly language.

The hardware is subsequently used by applications by submitting requests for certain services, such as processing or visual representation, to the OS, which is communicated through API.

Apart from OS, system software development also takes care of producing Utility Software such as your Anti-Virus programs, drivers that are used to communicate between hardware and software, and Middleware which acts as the connective tissue between applications, users, and data. 

Programming software development

Any software that a programmer uses to build new programs or which can serve as a tool in the software development process would fall under this category which includes simple text editors to large integrated development environments (IDEs). The majority of programmers choose more advanced programming software such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio, for example, which enhances the development process. 

This form of software is not used by consumers, but it is critical for the software development industry. It creates testing and coding tools for other software developers. In addition to development and testing, this software assists developers in adhering to industry standards.

Application software development

Application development is the process of creating a computer program or a series of programs to let individuals, businesses, or organizations exploit the functionalities of available systems and devices. These are typical applications that run on operating systems and perform both conventional and complex tasks.

This category also includes cloud software such as Google Office Suite, iCloud, and Twitter. Is there anything more that the software requires? Spotify, or even a game like Wordle, require a system to work, implying that they are application software.

Embedded software development

Embedded software is a system that is integrated into a device that is not a computer. It is the brain of a gadget, without which it would be nothing more than a piece of worthless machinery. 

Embedded Systems Development is focused on the exact operating system that your machine or gadget uses. This sort of software development is concerned with the coding abilities required by embedded systems such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. These programs are used to operate gadgets and machinery that are mostly connected via Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities. 

Some other prominent examples of embedded system technologies are Arduino, Embedded C, Assembler, Python, and Java. 

AI-based software development

Building new software with AI capabilities or expanding existing software to output AI analytics results to users and/or trigger specified actions based on them is called AI Software Development.

An application powered by AI can automate business operations, customize service delivery, and provide company-specific insights. AI can also help to speed up the software development lifecycle and improve software workflow at every level of the process.

The length and order of the development phases will be determined by the scope and specificity of the fundamental software functionality as well as the artificial intelligence you wish to add.

Software development life cycle

The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), often known as the Software Development Process, is a series of actions followed by software development companies to design, build, and test high-quality software.

The SDLC’s primary purpose is to produce high-quality software through effective project management that meets business goals and customer expectations, and is delivered on time and on budget while maintaining project flexibility.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that there are some differences in the number of SDLC stages and their titles. Some phases, such as development and testing, are combined. Sometimes, a single stage is split into two, such as planning becoming planning, and analysis.

There is, however, an ISO/IEC/IEEE 12207 international standard in software engineering for the software life cycle process.

Step 1: Planning

The most crucial and fundamental stage of the SDLC is planning. It is carried out by the most senior team members with the assistance and involvement of consumers, the sales and marketing department, and industry domain specialists. This data is utilized to do feasibility assessments in the areas of economics, law, operations, technology, and timeline.

In a corporate context, programmers will have less participation during this phase. The technical aspects at this stage revolve around ensuring the software’s technological viability. Finding the finest tech stack to construct the concept on and assembling the greatest team of professional software developers, QA specialists, and deployment engineers are all part of the process.

This stage allows product owners, business analysts, and other stakeholders to express their demands. 

Some project planning software that can help you along the way: Jira, Miro, Mavenlink, Monday.com

Step 2: Feasibility analysis and requirements

The procedure advances to the next level only if both the non-tech and tech teams have given their approval to the concept and the outcome of the feasibility study. 

The Feasibility Phase is the initial inquiry, or brief study, of the problem to see if the systems project should go further. A feasibility study establishes the framework in which the project responds to the needs of the business concept and evaluates the viability of a proposed solution. 

The feasibility study will create a project plan and budget estimates for the project’s future phases of development if it is approved.

If the go-ahead is given, the requirements are established to a degree of depth that allows systems design to proceed. They must be quantifiable, testable, and related to the business need or opportunity identified during the Planning Phase.

Step 3: Design & prototyping

This phase of the SDLC begins with the conversion of user requirements, also known as Software Requirement Specifications (SRS), into a design plan.

Wireframing is the initial stage. The stage entails the establishment of a design system that considers the software’s overall functionality and user experience while also considering the user path. The skeleton of the product is constructed at this point.

The creation of a prototype is the next task. It’s an interactive version of the wireframe that shows stakeholders how a user moves around the app. One of the most successful software development strategies is to create a prototype similar to the version that the business has in mind for the brand.

Step 4: Development & coding

Following the completion of the prototype, the software application development process begins. The developers work here to turn the prototype into usable software. This is the stage at which the program is actually developed.

During this phase, software engineers begin developing code to create the whole software product or application. In order to make the application immersive, robust, and scalable, many programming languages are utilized to produce code in the software development process.

Depending on the sort of software required, development can be done in a variety of ways. Typically, the procedure follows a milestone model. The development project is broken down into phases, with developers and designers working together to accomplish each step one by one.

The development/coding process of software is separated into two parts: frontend and backend. A small project may just require a few developers, but a huge project may necessitate the entire software development team. The longest step of the Software Development Life Cycle is coding.

Step 5: Testing

The program is deployed in the testing environment once it has been developed and coded. During the quick development process, testing is done to ensure the product’s functionality, usability, and stability.

Every piece of code developed by the software development team is tested by a team of professional QA testers to find any flaws or problems. To dig down to the sections of code that may end up destroying the software, this is done both manually and using automated techniques.

Testers consult the SRS document to ensure that the program meets the customer’s requirements. Changes or additions to the original code are used to fix the discovered issues.

Step 6: Deployment and maintenance

Depending on the client’s needs, the product is deployed in the production environment once it has been tested, or the first UAT (User Acceptance testing) is performed.

The required platform is used to deliver the program. It may be used as a stand-alone solution or integrated into an existing legacy system. A staging environment is used by the development team for practice deployment. The staging environment should be identical to the one used in production. The greater the similarity between the two settings, the greater the usefulness of the practice deployment.

At this point, the deployment engineers ensure that the program functions well on the platforms with no problems or difficulties. The product is frequently given an Alpha release. A limited number of people utilize the product and provide feedback. After reviewing the input, changes to the program are made and subsequently published as a Beta version. The software package is now available to a larger number of people.

Following the deployment of software into the production environment, the product is maintained and updated. It is a software development technique that is iterative. The initial development cost is 25% of the total cost of the business. The maintenance phase will account for around 75% of the total cost of ownership.

You must keep a constant eye on software development and make modifications as needed. This is done because technology is always changing, and software products must be updated to stay up with these developments.

Software Development Methodologies and Frameworks

Agile development methodology

Agile approaches shifted the industry’s focus back to people. Before this, the emphasis was on the product, namely the software. Agile posed a challenge to this by focusing on the people who were carrying out the process. Instead of relying on inflexible processes and paperwork, Agile prioritizes people.

Small incremental builds are used to partition the complete software development effort. The method allows software engineers to work on all aspects of software development at the same time and in total harmony. When done correctly, the outcome may be achieved with a degree of flexibility. 

Agile is not only a framework, it’s a framework for frameworks. It’s all about concentrating on people and iterating quickly. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: agile. As a result, Agile is often regarded as the best development strategy. In fact, this strategy is used in more than 61% of projects.

Waterfall development methodology

The Waterfall Model is among the most well-known and widely used SDLC models. Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model is another name for it. It is one of the most basic and straightforward models to utilize. It’s a rather easy linear strategy in which the phases of development are addressed in order.

The output of one phase is used as the input for the following step in this model. Only once the preceding phase has been completed can the following step be developed. Stakeholders must first establish a list of requirements. This isn’t only just a couple of features. No, business stakeholders scope out the entire project at once, then developers write all of the code without iterating until the project is finished.

To use this software development methodology, you must be certain of every element of your software project, as well as the delivery timeline and deadlines.

Lean development

By applying very strategic planning, the Lean Methodology or Lean Model focuses on optimizing time and resources, as well as generating readily modifiable software. It may seem similar to Agile since it is based on Toyota’s Lean manufacturing principles, but the two are not the same. Agile prioritizes “individuals and relationships above procedures and tools,” whereas Lean is more concerned with the software than with the people who produce it.

The objective of lean software development principles is to build and deliver software in half the time, with little to no process, and on a small budget. Experienced software engineers who can take ownership of software development are required for Lean.

An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is introduced to the market, and further features are added depending on customer input. We obtain vital information on how to improve whether our initial product is a failure or a success.


DevOps is a software development technique that integrates the approaches of software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) as part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). DevOps is a technique for software development and a collection of activities that complement an organization’s culture.

Observability has become critical for modern software development as microservice architecture and cloud-native programming have grown in popularity. DevOps is a set of strategies and technologies aimed at improving an organization’s capacity to provide applications and services more quickly to better serve consumers and compete in the market.

Development and operations teams collaborate across the whole software application life cycle, from development and testing to deployment and operations, under a DevOps paradigm. DevOps’ ultimate objective is to shorten the SDLC while providing features, upgrades, and fixes more often.

Rapid application development

Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a four-step SDLC paradigm that includes obtaining project requirements, prototyping, testing, and feedback implementation. It focuses on providing high-quality software at a cheap cost of entry. Low investment costs derive from the capacity to respond in a continually changing market.

Unlike linear approaches, the RAD paradigm enables software engineers to swiftly adapt to project needs by focusing on prototyping with current requirements and testing them with real consumers. Customer input then determines whether the product should go to the production stage or whether it has to be redesigned in terms of features.

When there are a sufficient number of designers on the team to engage in modeling, RAD should be used. It should also be evaluated whether a sufficient budget for tool purchases is available. The distinction between agile and RAD models is that agile focuses on incremental development and delivery, whereas a RAD model’s primary strategy is to code normally at first and then enhance it over time.

Feature-driven development

Feature Driven Development (FDD) is an agile methodology that organizes software development around achieving progress on features, as the name indicates. However, features in the FDD context are not necessarily product features in the traditional sense. It connects the dots between classic waterfall methodologies and agile processes like behavior-driven development, extreme programming, and scrum. FDD is a development method that is client-centric, architecture-centric, and pragmatic.

Features are a significant component of FDD, as the name indicates. A feature is a short, client-valued function like “Calculate the sum of a sale,” “Validate a user’s password,” or “Authorize a customer’s sales transaction.” The major source of needs and the key input into your planning efforts are features.

FDD may be appropriate for your project if you work for a major firm or are working on a large-scale software project. However, this technique places a heavy emphasis on chief developers and uses a top-down decision-making style, as opposed to other agile frameworks that place a greater emphasis on communal project ownership.

Scrum development

Scrum Methodology is a framework that keeps the team productive while increasing the odds of project success. Scrum is a prominent Agile strategy that allows a team to produce successfully and quickly by allowing several iterations in a single sprint and breaking the software development project down into smaller modules.

It is especially appealing to businesses since it focuses on getting more work done in less time. In Scrum, each iteration is referred to as a “sprint,” reinforcing the concept of speed. Each sprint might last from two to three weeks. After a Scrum team has planned a sprint, no one should change it, and additional work should only be done in the next sprint. This Scrum guideline is frequently broken in reality, which is why many teams report using a Scrum hybrid.

The Scrum Master is another feature of Scrum. This is a squad member who has been designated to keep the sprint on track. The Scrum Master is frequently a member of the development team. A scrum master is needed to help the team with the scrum procedures and guarantee that the work is transformed into higher values. He also ensures that the outcomes are up to par, working with the team to make changes if they are not.

Costs involved in software development

How can we come up with a budget estimate for a software project when we haven’t even started? Limiting your product vision to a vague concept description is never a good idea. The easiest method to generate a precise estimate is to fully define the project by creating detailed project specs, user flows, and UX/UI design.

The cost of developing software applications is determined by a variety of factors surrounding the complexity and size of the software, and the team members involved. Here we have broken down the pivotal factors that can help you break down Software Development costs. 

Type of software project

This factor looks into whether you’re creating new software, modifying or enhancing existing software, web development, etc. Each of these projects has a distinct team makeup and necessitates a different length of development time. The first step in producing a cost estimate is to determine the type of project.

Scope of software project

A software’s size is generally classified as small, medium, or enterprise. This factor will determine how many developers you’ll need and how much time and work they’ll require to complete your project. A small project can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks for software modifications to 4 – 8 weeks to build something from scratch, whereas, an enterprise-grade project might take more than 4 months for software modifications and 8 months or more to build novel products. 

Team size

A Project Manager, a Developer, and a QA Tester are required for every project. The ultimate cost will be determined not only by the size of the team but also by the seniority of the software engineers that make up the team. Hiring more experienced senior developers, for example, will be more expensive but will speed up development and save time (and money). Some resources can play many roles, but in bigger, more complicated projects, only one role is assigned to successfully drive the project forward.

UI/UX design

The cost of UX/UI design is determined by factors such as staffing alternatives and overall design complexity. Whether you choose ready-made templates, basic patterns, or a complicated design with animations, creative artwork, and transitions, the price might vary significantly.

Technology stack

When estimating a project, the development firm will advise you on the necessary technologies and tell you if they are open-source or need a charge. The infrastructure required is another technological issue to consider. Is the technology on-premise or cloud-based? Cloud infrastructure is typically more cost-effective than on-premise infrastructure since providers provide customizable pricing options, but on-premise infrastructure involves additional maintenance fees in addition to hardware expenditures.

Key roles in software development

To build a successful software development team, you’ll need more than just developers and engineers. In the software development lifecycle, several distinct responsibilities are required, and the ideal team would include the following members (in no particular order):

  • Product owner: Must have a thorough understanding of business needs and be responsible for all aspects of the product, including briefs, designs, and client requirements.
  • Project manager: The person in charge of a project’s conceptualization, organization, and delivery. Distributes assignments to the team and is in charge of contracts, budgets, and deadlines.
  • UX/UI designers: Wireframes are used by UX/UI designers to build ideas based on the customer and product brief. They collaborate closely with programmers to ensure that their designs can be translated into code.
  • Business analyst: They pay attention to the client’s company objectives and assist them in defining clear targets. They’re involved from the beginning of the process, helping to include these goals as parts or features of the project.
  • Software developers: They code in a variety of computer languages to generate the final output. Software developers collaborate with other core teams to translate requirements into features, manage development processes and teams, and maintain the software.

The importance of software development

Software development is crucial because it highlights a company’s individuality and encourages competition, which leads to new or revitalized ideas. It enhances the consumer experience, allows businesses to produce feature-rich products faster, and makes company operations more effective, safe, and productive.

Software development is especially significant since it is everywhere and utilized in every industry. It is software that saves, combines, and centralizes data in the digital age so that we can access it, and from there arises the responsibility of software development to secure and safeguard your information. 

Here are the top 4 reasons why software development is critical to your company’s success:

Promote businesses

With over 4.66 billion users actively on the web, Software application development shines a spotlight on your business and its capabilities through a digital presence that helps spread the news around the business by making it visible to everyone who uses a laptop or a smartphone.

Example: Puma, the world-known sportswear firm, Chief Executive stated that the company has opted to spend more on the online store after seeing e-commerce sales increase by roughly 40% in the first quarter and by 77% in the second.

Marketing & customer engagement

Without investing additional time, money, or effort, software development is the best and most effective approach to doing on-the-go marketing. The introduction of web applications has resulted in a significant rise in customer loyalty and improved consumer engagement. For brand recall and client retention, businesses must have a clever and quirky digital marketing plan.

Greater accessibility

Software apps provide businesses access to new platforms. What starts as a website might become a smartphone app, an extension to a home assistant, and a presence on whatever device their clients use.

Example: IKEA has developed an ERP system that allows consumers to browse the store’s product catalogs using a tablet screen. The two-fold solution gives clients an in-store catalog solution, while on the other hand, it utilizes their personal information as a promotional asset. It is now an important part of the company’s marketing operations.

Improved sales & services

Customer accessibility is critical to a company’s success. In today’s environment, this is only feasible if you are online. By having a digital presence, businesses can open themselves up to their customers all day long, and collect data on how customers use their brand, goods, and services, as well as what they think about them.

Example: Domino’s, the world’s most popular pizza chain, recently worked on its mobile application after understanding the financial potential it offered over a website. And this little revision resulted in a 23% boost in conversion rate.

Software development benefits

Software development is essential for any firm in today’s world, regardless of industry. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or how large or little your company is. In one way or another, it may profit from software development.

Software developers, programmers, and development teams aren’t the only ones who work on it. Scientists, hardware designers, device fabricators, testers, and a variety of other professionals can code and are involved in many aspects of software development.

The software development market is growing at a staggering CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 5%. This is indicative of the number that’s joining the global workforce – Around 26.4 million software developers in the world in 2019, a number that in 2023 is expected to grow to 27.7 million and 28.7 million in 2024. 

Businesses that specialize in software development focus on creating solutions that are suited to the demands of their clientele. They service every industry, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, hotels, education (edTech), finance (FinTech), catering, pharmaceuticals, and more. As a consequence, we can say that no industry is immune to software development’s advantages.

How High Peak Software can help your business

Before beginning to develop any software, it is critical to grasp the principles of software development. 

This book explains in simple words how anyone working on a software product may understand its core components and determine which development process to use in the future.

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