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Software Process & Software Process Models [Types of Software Process Models]

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14th Feb, 2024
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Software Process & Software Process Models [Types of Software Process Models]

The term software refers to a specially formulated set of computer programs the associated documents, and the processes that elaborate software programs and their utility. A software process is another set of activities or associated outcomes of the software project. The major activities include software specifications, development, validation, and evolution.

In this article, we will explore more about software processes and software process models in depth.

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An Overview: Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) 

The Software Development Life Cycle alludes to a process utilized by the Software Development Industry for designing, developing, and testing software solutions. The objective of this process is to develop high-quality software solutions that exceed or meet user expectations within stipulated time frames. SDLC is also known as a software development process, which is a framework that defines software development tasks that are formed at every phase of the development process.

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The project follows the process which consists of a detailed plan elaborating on how to develop, maintain, alter, replace, or enhance the software solutions. A typical software process consists of multiple stages such as planning and requirement analysis, defining requirements, designing a software product architecture, developing the software solution, testing the project, deploying or maintaining the software in the market.

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An Introduction To The Software Process Model

Software processes refer to a coherent set of activities and processes required for specifying, designing, implementing, and testing the software systems. Any software process model is the abstract representation and ideation of a process that can highlight the description of a resembling process for a few specific perspectives.

There are multiple software processes that majorly involve:

  • Specification: It defines which systems would perform what job.
  • Design And Implementation: It defines the organization of the software systems and their subsequent implementation.
  • Validation: It checks what the customer wants from the required system.
  • Evolution: It involves changing the system corresponding to the user requirements.

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Types Of Software Process Models

The software processes, frameworks, and methodologies are abstractions that can be utilized directly by the organization to perform their day-to-day work. These processes can also be adapted and extended by the flexible frameworks of the organization to generate a custom set of steps to the requirements of specific software projects or groups. In a few cases, a “maintenance” or “sponsor” organization evenly distributes an official set of the needful documents for describing the software process.

One of the basic aspects of the software development process complies with software development life cycle (SDLC) models. There are various software development life cycle models specially crafted for achieving different objectives. These models are specified at various stages of the process and development module in which they are carried out. The most popular software development life cycle models are mentioned below.

1. Waterfall Model

The Waterfall model represents a breakdown of software project activities in a linear sequential phase. Each phase of this model relies on the deliverables of the previous phase, and it corresponds to the particular aspects of the tasks. The Waterfall model is the first software process model that was introduced. This model is extremely easy to understand by the developers.

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Each phase of this model is completed before the next phase to avoid the overlapping among the multiple phases. The Waterfall model illustrates the software process in a linear sequential flow, which means that any face of the whole process begins only if the previous phase is completed. The approach of this model is typical for most of the areas of software engineering design.

It goes from requirements > design > development > testing > deployment > maintenance.

Features of Waterfall Model:

  • Sequential Approach – It takes a linear path where you cannot proceed to the next phase before the completion of the preceding phase.
  • Document Driven – This model relies on documentation and is known to be document-driven. The software development team follows rigorous documentation to deliver high-quality software products.
  • Planning – It follows pre-defined planning, timelines and deliverables for the completion of the project. 

One of the key challenges of the waterfall model is that once the software progresses to the testing phase, the testing team cannot go backward and make changes to the features. This leaves the team with an end product that may or may not fit user requirements. 

2. Iterative Mode

An Iterative software development life cycle model does not directly attempt to begin with a full specification of the prerequisites. Instead, it starts by focusing on a simplified and initial set of user features and activities. These features are then progressively developed to gain complexity and a broad range of functions until the expected software system is finished. While adopting the Iterative software model approach, the philosophy of gradual incremental development is also used liberally.

In simple words, an iterative approach starts by implementing and specifying just a part of the software that can be reviewed or prioritized for identifying further requirements. This process is repeated with several new versions of the software for every iteration. In any lightweight iterative software project, the project code represents the actual source of system documentation, but in a critical iterative project, formal software projection is also required.

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Each release of The Iterative model focuses on a key set of requirements to be implemented in the subsequent phases. This particular software process model in software engineering allows for accessing previous phases. The iterative model is used alongside the Incremental model in which a particular software segment is split into smaller fragments called increments. The iterative model is used during the following instances –

  • There is clarity in understanding the requirements of the application.
  • Major requirements are defined while other functionalities evolve during the development process.
  • A new technology is introduced and studied by the development team while working on the project.

The iterative model is beneficial to the Software Development Life Cycle process. It’s necessary to know the advantages to see if it’s the ideal fit for your business needs –

  • Caters to the needs of agile organizations.
  • The developers can get end users’ feedback while presenting the sketches and blueprints of the product.
  • Parallel development can be implemented during the phases.
  • It is highly adaptable, corresponding to the changing requirements of the client.

While it has notable advantages, the Iterative model may or may not be suitable for smaller projects as it is not realistic to break down the project into further stages.

  • Surplus resources may be required for the implementation of the Iterative model.
  • In an iterative model, the end is usually unknown, which poses a risk.
  • Management needs to be attentive as design issues may arise as requirements are not entirely known during the process. 

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3. V Model

The V model for software process represents a development methodology that can be considered as an extension of the Waterfall software model. In this process, instead of moving down in a unique and linear manner, the steps of the process are bent upwards soon after the coding phase, to develop a typical V shape.

This model represents the relationship between each phase of the software development life cycle, along with the associated phases of software testing. The horizontal and vertical axis of this model represents time/project completeness and level of abstraction, respectively.

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4. Incremental Model

The Incremental model of the software development process is a method through which the software is carefully designed, implemented, and tested in an incremental manner until the final product is obtained. This process involves both the development and maintenance aspects. The final product is declared as complete when it can satisfy all of the requirements.

Each of the iterations passes through various requirements, designs, coding, and testing phases. Each subsequent release of the product adds functions to the formal release until the designed functions become fully implemented. The Incremental model conducts the amalgamation of the elements of the Waterfall model along with the iterative philosophy of prototyping.

5. Spiral Model

The Spiral model refers to a test-driven software development model that was introduced for superimposing the shortcomings present in a conventional Waterfall model. The Spiral model looks exactly like a spiral having multiple loops. The exact number of spiral loops is unknown and they can differ from project to project. The Spiral model facilitates risk handling management, and the final software project is delivered in the form of loops.

Each loop of the Spiral model is known as the phase of the whole software development process. The initial phase of the Spiral model in its early development stages of the Waterfall life cycle is required to develop the final software product. The total number of faces required to develop the software can differ from project managers and depends on associated risks.

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6. Agile Model

The Agile model refers to an umbrella term for a specific set of practices and methods based on the values expressed in the same manifesto. Agile manifesto represents a way of thinking that allows businesses and team members to quickly innovate and respond to the ever-changing demands of the industry while eliminating the risks. Organizations can use the Agile methodology with the help of various available frameworks such as Kanban, Lean, Scrum, etc.

The Agile development movement also offers alternatives to conventional project management systems. The Agile model is typically used in the software development process for helping the businesses to respond proactively, referring to a group of software process methodologies.

At this stage, the requirements and software solutions evolve alongside the collaboration between multiple self-organizing functional teams. The primary objective of this model is backed by the software development team’s ability to develop and respond to a turbulent environment.

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Irrespective of whether the individual is a business leader or project lead trying to coordinate with other departments, agile technology is a software process model in software engineering that prioritizes flexibility and continuous improvement.

Agile methodology software, primarily known for its resilience quality, is one of the well-known technologies that stand the test of time. Flexibility forms the basis of agile testing methodologies, along with adaptability, to ensure incremental improvement until deployment. Agile methodology in software engineering has five distinct steps, with each step delivering the shippable product in increments. 

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Planning is the first step in the agile process. Project leads and experienced software engineers understand that it forms the foundational pillar of the entire project. Gathering inputs from other departments, the planning stage should comprise the following parameters 

  1. i) Product Idea ii) Market research and user profiles iii) Competitor analysis iv) Seamless communication between the teams

In the planning stage, the team brainstorms ideas with key stakeholders to identify features and functionalities that are an integral part of project success.


When the project leads and coordinators are satisfied with the data and documents formulated during planning, the project proceeds to the development phase. Apart from planning, development is frequently rushed by the development teams. It is difficult to predict the time period of the project when the key stakeholders urge for faster delivery of the product. 

Agile becomes an integral tool in times like this and operates on sprints. The sprints are designed to make software life cycle models as efficient as possible, maintaining the momentum and evading project slowdown.


The testing stage is performed to check whether the software meets the requirements of the project team. Testing is one of the indispensable stages in agile methodology software and is executed throughout the development stage. As your dev teams continue to develop the software, the testers check whether there is any defect in the program. The goal of testing is to ensure your software is ready to be deployed in the market.


In the deployment stage, the product is ready for the market on display to the general public. During this stage, the project team will put the final touches to the product while designing the packaging, documenting the instructions, and providing the user manual. 


The maintenance phase makes sure that the software meets the requirements over time. The software team needs to monitor the software for any defects or problems as and when they arise. Maintenance increases the lifespan of the software, making it relevant for the users.

Agile methodology in software engineering is one of the process models that enable software development teams to move their software from conception to retirement. Each Agile phase comprises various phases to replicate the processes to improve the product and build a quality software product. 

A study conducted by Digital AI showed that over half of the respondents to a survey (52%) have adopted Agile workflow in their corporation. Another study by DeltaMatrix shows that agile teams have been reported to be 25% more effective and 50% faster in deploying products as compared to teams that are non-agile. 

 Rapid Application Development (RAD)

Rapid Application Development (RAD) model makes use of minimal planning and prioritizes rapid prototyping. This type of process model in software engineering is suitable when the user requirements are well-known. The RAD model is best when there are highly skilled engineers to finish the job and the customer is determined to complete the project in the stipulated time.

Corporations opt for the RAD approach as there is little focus on the planning phase enabling teams to focus on designing and reiterating the features and functionalities. RAD approach is however unfit for mission critical software (implants, plane controls) as they place anyone in harm’s way.

The RAD model is often compared to Agile technology. Agile is much more than a development model, it can be thought of as a philosophy rather than a methodology.

Let’s look at some of the key differences between the two software process models in software engineering.


Agile TechnologyRapid Application Development
Builds a working model of the software as fast as possible.Begins working on the application by breaking down processes into smaller sprints.
Apt for projects that require the shortest time to finish.Develops projects in timely milestones or sprints
It addresses risks by inspections.It manages risks by delivering the working prototypes.
A self-organized team works on the project.Cross–functional team works on the project.

8. Capability Maturity Model Integration 

CMMI in software engineering is designed to optimize performance levels by delivering the key requirements to businesses to develop better products and services. CMMI is known to be a process model as well as a behavioral model. Businesses and corporations can use the CMMI model to solve logistics problems, improve performance by designing good benchmarks, and create a culture of efficient, productive behavior in the corporation.

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A corporation is given a maturity level rating or capability level rating. The five CMMI maturity levels are as follows –

  • Initial – Processes are poorly managed, with unpredictable outcomes being involved. Organisations in this phase are known to have unpredictable environments. Key Process Areas are not defined. The software is of the lowest quality and prone to the highest risk.
  • Managed – Processes are planned, and projects are implemented according to their documented plans. Processes are defined and reactive. The risk involved is less than the initial stage but is known to exist.
  • Defined – Well-characterized and well-understood processes that are described using standards and procedures. The primary focus is on process standardization.
  • Quantitatively Managed – The software teams use quantitative data in implementing predictable processes for meeting organizational goals. Higher quality is achieved, and the risk factor is lowered.
  • Optimizing – The organization focuses on continuous development and improvement while it responds to the required changes. Continuous improvement has to be both incremental and innovative.

The Bottom Line

To structurally develop software, it is crucial to follow a well-defined and sought-after software process model that can meet the project development requirements. Also, at the beginning of the project development, it is difficult to work out all the project requisites. Hence, the most popular software process models are the ones that can be used to enhance software efficiency in the long run.

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Rohan Vats

Blog Author
Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1How to enhance software efficiency in the long run?

Planning your development process and using agile methodology can prove to be important to improve efficiency of the software on a long term basis. Creating a productive and effective work atmosphere will tremendously help your whole product and organisation. Choosing to devote a small amount of time each day to improving your efficiency can also help you build your work worth and attitude for your job. Having a staff that is focused, flexible, and on task can aid in the development of new, upcoming, and revolutionary software technologies.

2What are common issues in the software development process?

Bugs, optimization, new technologies, abstraction, and overlooking are all common issues in software development. Apart from that, integration issues, communication breakdowns, unrealistic or mismanaged timelines, feature overload, lack of alignment between sponsor and user needs, turn out to be major key points to be looked out for when one is in the middle of software development processes. Overlooking any of these may turn out to be an issue for the developers.

3What points are to be considered when one has to select a software process model for an individual software development project?

When developing software, a prescriptive process model must be followed. When it comes to collaborative projects, however, the stages or works might be split among the participants. However, in individual projects, no work can be shared as a single member, but practical difficulties can be overcome by effectively managing process groups. As a result, rather than group projects, the prescriptive process model should be chosen. When choosing a viewpoint process model, there are a few things to keep in mind. The scope of the project’s validity, the impact of the process, and the level of confidence, all must be considered.