Optimizing your Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) with APIs

Table of contents

Device showing API and SDLC

Executing on your API strategy requires agile, iterative software development life cycles (SDLC) that are both responsive and provide a degree of structure and predictability to the way in which technology is deployed. Mature organizations that have mastered digital transformation have done so by leveraging the power of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) within SDLC concepts to connect back-end data sources with front-end applications. In this article we’ll look at how the SDLC method works, and how APIs can influence successful project delivery.

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example MySQL database provided to you as part of the trial!

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Design and prototyping
Software development
Operations and maintenance

The seven phases of SDLC

1. Planning

The planning phase is where the team leaders involved in the project will come together and make an initial evaluation of the enterprise, and sketch out a plan for how the software will be developed, who the key business users are and how the solution will be deployed and tested. Under consideration would be issues such as cost estimation, capacity planning, provisioning, project scheduling and resource procurement and allocation.

All management teams should work together at this point, to ensure that they represent the various viewpoints and concerns of each group at the earliest opportunity. It is at this stage that a 'Business Case' type document is developed that articulates the costs, benefits and risks associated with the product in question. Ultimately, a decision, ideally made through an organisational governance forum, will be made on whether to proceed with the project.

2. Requirements

It is at this stage that the business teams - Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and relevant stakeholders - relate to the software development teams the needs and requirements of the application being built. This phase results in the development of a set of 'functional' and 'non-functional' requirements that will be used during later stages, particularly the testing phase, to ensure that any product is fit for purpose and will meet the needs of those within the organisation that will use the product.

3. Design and prototyping

As soon as the requirements for the product have been communicated and agreed upon, the Design and Prototyping phase can begin. Many development teams will create a prototype of the application to see how the product looks and works. SMEs and stakeholders can give their feedback at this point, allowing any substantial changes to be made early on, saving costs on expensive alterations later in the process.

The Design phase will touch upon the following aspects of development: 

  • Programming: Decisions pertaining to programming language and methods can be made
  • Architecture: Industry best practices can be agreed upon here
  • Platforms: Will the software run on a single operating system, and if not, what needs to be decided at this stage to incorporate the application across multiple platforms?
  • User interface: How will users specifically interact with the application, and how will the application be hosted?
  • Security: Considerations as to how the application will be secured using encryption and passwords, and how to secure the storage of sensitive data are assessed here
  • Communications: How will the application interface with other products in the specific ecosystem in which it will be applied

4. Software development

This phase involves actual coding and writing of the software by the programming team and the 'build' of the product consistent with the requirements developed during the previous phase. It is during this stage that the product begins to 'take shape' and resemble the software that will eventually be deployed within the business. As in the Requirements phase, stakeholders are regularly consulted to make sure that the application is being built to match the expectations of the end-users.

How the software development phase proceeds will depend on several factors, including the overall size of the project, and the specific method being used. An Agile approach might use timed sprints to break the workload into several components. Regardless of the method however, it is likely that the use of APIs will be a critical feature of the development process involving collaboration between different development teams to ensure the required functionality. It is crucial therefore that careful consideration is given to the effort required to develop the APIs themselves as this can have wider impacts to the project timeline.

5. Testing

The testing phase is one of the most important junctures in the SDLC. It is here that flaws and glitches in the product can be identified, and it is a fundamental checkpoint for quality assurance. Testing can take several forms, including integration testing, security testing, code quality, functional (unit) testing, and performance testing. Ensuring that any APIs developed during the previous SDLC phases are functioning in the correct manner will be imperative here as it is likely that many test cases will be dependent on a working API.

Testing can occur in a simulated environment for certain complex applications, but one way to ensure that all testing is performed efficiently is to use automation. For instance, DreamFactory’s automated no-code API solutions can seamlessly integrate all your enterprise data into any on-premise testing scenario. 

6. Deployment

It is in the Deployment phase that the application is made available to the end-user and often culminates in a 'Go-Live' event in which the solution is formally switched-on within the production environment. Close monitoring of the performance of the newly deployed solution will occur - the performance of any APIs underpinning the solution will also need to be monitored to ensure that there is as little disruption to end-user services as possible.

The aim of the Deployment stage is to have the finished product in the field and readily accessible to those who will use it. It will be essential that the product is carefully transitioned from the project team to the end-users and that any residual risks are known and accepted by operational users. Understanding the APIs that are being called on to support the deployment of product will need to be known by various members of the organisation, particularly those in the IT team who will be required to maintain the software on an ongoing basis.

7. Operations and maintenance

The main body of the SDLC cycle is over, but the work doesn’t stop here, even from an API standpoint. Issues with the programming and code might only now become apparent, and specific user-related problems will come to light once it is out there in the real world. Monitoring by the development team is still ongoing, and further refinement of the product can still take place.

It is here where Iterative development models will also come into play, with additional features being developed for future product releases. New features may leverage new APIs to pull data from a new database or connect to a new web application - how these APIs perform will need to be monitored in a similar way to the monitoring of the overall solution with which the APIs support.

Agile SDLC and APIs

The Agile method was developed in 2001 to address the problems with the then current model of software delivery. Agile approaches seek to generate greater flexibility in the working framework, allow for scalability on expanding projects through the Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFE) protocol, enable a change of direction in design modelling through feedback loops, and emphasize teamwork within the entire process.

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example MySQL database provided to you as part of the trial!

Start Your Digital Transformation Now

API management tools can assist in the Agile process by utilizing their production-ready REST APIs to help speed up an otherwise lengthy SDLC process and shorten lead times by weeks and months. At DreamFactory, we produce the tools you need to make that idea a reality. We design our products with the needs of your Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) in mind, and our auto-generated APIs will ensure your applications build faster and smoother.