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SDLC Compareing the options, choosing a model

September 8, 2008

Comparison of Lifecycle Model Features

The table belowdepicts the various features of the lifecycle models to help you compare and select a model to use on future projects. In selecting a lifecycle approach or when creating your own, you will need to do the following:

Characterize your project, and see how well it matches one or more of the lifecycles discussed.

  • For the lifecycle models that are most appropriate, focus on the shortcomings of the lifecycle and determine whether those are serious enough to rule out use of that model.
  • As much as possible (it is not possible to get everyone to agree in all cases), gain the concurrence of your development team on which model to use.
  • Get commitment from the leadership team—if problems occur, the surest way for the project to fail is to have the leadership of the company panic and abandon the process.
  • Gain concurrence or at least tacit approval from your stakeholders. Identify what, if anything, must be altered in the best candidate lifecycle for Fit to work on your new project.
  • Be innovative.
  • Be flexible during the project and ready to alter the lifecycle depending on the circumstances.
  • Take into account the level of experience and maturity of your software development team.

Lifecycle Model



Most Applicable To


Controllable results; consistent with engineering practice

Forestalls delivering results until late in the development cycle

All project sizes

Slam dunk

Gets something going right away

Not truly a lifecycle; results generally unsatisfactory

Not recommended


Reflects reality of software development in the large; reports of use quite positive

Complex and intricate; requires extensive management infrastructure

Major multimillion-dollar efforts; ill suited to small efforts


Begin controlled, working software early on; longer testing period than otherwise possible

Nothing stable for long; high change level without much maturity occurring in software

Small to medium projects

Stage gate

Practically guarantees adherence to some discipline

Requires an infrastructure, maturity, and process some firms might not have

Medium to large

Rapid prototyping

Get something going early on; lots of review time

Often results in runaway coding

Small to large


Puts discipline into the prototyping approach

Requires a mature, disciplined team; strict adherence to process

Small to medium

Synchronization and stabilization

Controls changes; long testing cycle to improve quality

Based on premise that quality can be tested into a system

Small to very large

The message here is that success in managing projects results from many factors. The lifecycle is only one of them, but a necessary one. If you have had success with one lifecycle more than with another, before adopting it on your next project, ask yourself whether those previous experiences with this lifecycle were similar enough to the new project to make this choice a good one. If you are new to software project management and have not had the experience of employing one lifecycle model or another, try going with what you understand and what you and your team feel comfortable with, bearing in mind some that alterations might be necessary.

It is tempting to think that because any chosen lifecycle will have to be altered anyway, it is a waste of time to adopt such a model in the first place. The problem with such a position is that both the customer and the development team need to know what lies ahead, commit to achieving the milestones laid out before them, and apply a sanity check to what is being proposed. Without a lifecycle plan, you are asking for a greater leap of faith than either of these groups can tolerate.

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