The System Development Life Cycle - What's the Best Approach?

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System Life Cycle Development

An effective project manager keeps good documentation of all the milestones in the project he or she is managing. As a guide, the project manager should have an outline of the documents that need to be produced at each milestone to accompany the deliverable for the system being built.

As a professor at University of Maryland University College, I found I had a set of these documents supplied by Roger Pressman in his text “Software Engineering Principles.” This outline of documents came in very handy when my agency did not have any standards for such life cycle documentation, at all. I was able to say that these standards were used in a University of Maryland class and as such are applicable to Maryland agencies.

Here is the list of documents that Pressman gave me:

These are a good start when you have no other way to track the system development except the project itself. That project system may be hardware or software. You can apply the documents the same way. The documents basically provide a step-by-step analysis of what lies ahead. I have found the project plan to be the best indicator of success on the project and the easier to read.

When the system is finally delivered, the project life cycle documents give a clear understanding of the functionality and intentions of the system designers. It may be that the system is very complex and large and the documents may be huge. This is often what happens on large government projects. The documents outline what the systems can do and how they achieve the goals of the designer. Without this documentation it is difficult to judge if system developers have done the right tasks on a project. The output or software prototypes follow the system life cycle documentation.

It is important to remember that any guides you have are good ones when developing systems. The way to get the functionality on paper is to divide the job up and have one person write the life cycle documents and another person write the actual source code. This has been done on many projects for the DOD. In fact, DOD agencies require you to use their standard documentation. So, as you build and follow the life cycle steps you document each phase. This is good practice and the Project Management Institute (PMI) states such as general practice among Project Managers.