Any software development project, either big or small, requires a great deal of planning and steps that divide the entire development process into several smaller tasks that can be assigned to specific people, completed, measured, and evaluated. Agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), is the process for doing exactly that – planning, developing, testing, and deploying information systems. The benefit of agile SDLC is that project managers can omit, split, or mix certain steps depending on the project’s scope while maintaining the efficiency of the development process and the integrity of the development life cycle.
Today, we are going to examine a software development life cycle case study from one of Intersog’s previous projects to show how agility plays a crucial role in the successful delivery of the final product. Several years back, we worked with Mitsubishi Motors helping one of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers to develop a new supply chain management system. With the large scope of the project, its complex features, and many stakeholders relying on the outcomes of the project, we had to employ an agile approach to ensure a secure software development life cycle.
Mitsubishi Motors involves many stakeholders and suppliers around the world, which makes its supply chain rather complex and data-heavy. That is why timely improvements are crucial for the proper functioning of this huge system and a corporation as a whole. Over the years of functioning, the old supply chain has been accumulating some noticeable frictions that resulted in the efficiency bottlenecks, and Intersog offered came ups with just the right set of solutions to make sufficient solutions that would help Mitsubishi ensure a coherent line of communication and cooperation with all the involved suppliers.
Previously, Mitsubishi used an outdated supply chain management system that involved a large number of spreadsheets that required a lot of manual input. Considering a large number of stakeholders, the problem of synchronization has been a pressing one as well – different stakeholders would input the data at different speeds and at different times of day, which created a degree of confusion among suppliers. Though the system has been sufficient for a long time, the time has come to eliminate all the redundancies and streamline data input.
The legacy system has been partially automated and ran on the IBM AS400 server, which allows for impressive flexibility, but it no longer sufficed for Mitsubishi’s growing needs. The main requirement, thus, was to create a robust online supply chain solution that would encompass the entire logistics process starting with auto parts and steel suppliers and ending with subcontractors and car dealerships around the world. That being said, Mitsubishi did not want to completely change the system, they opted for overhaul, and we came up with the idea of an integrated web application that was meant to function in conjunction with a DB2 base that was already used on the IBM AS400 server.
IT Architecture and Agile SDLC
Mitsubishi employs a series of guidelines and rules on how to build, modify, and acquire new IT resources, which is why Intersog had to be truly agile to adapt to the client’s long-established IT architecture. Adapting to the requirements of the client, and especially to the strict regulations of the IT architecture of large corporations like Mitsubishi requires knowledge, flexibility, and strong industry expertise. Each software development company has its own architecture standards and frameworks for building new systems but many face difficulties when working with the existing systems and modifying them to the new requirements.
Intersog has no such problems. We approached Mitsubishi’s case with strong industry expertise and flexibility to account for all the client’s needs and specifications of the existing system. Obviously, following the client’s architecture regulations requires a profound understanding of said regulations, which is why information gathering is an integral phase of the software development life cycle.
The requirements gathering phase can take anywhere from just a couple of days to several weeks. Working with complex and multi-layered legacy systems like the one used by Mitsubishi requires serious analysis and information gathering. In the case of Mitsubishi, our dedicated team had to gain a clear understanding of how the legacy system functions, create new software specifications, map out the development process, gather and create all the necessary documentation, track all the issues related to the functioning of the legacy system, outline the necessary solutions, and allocate all the resources to achieve the project’s goals in the most efficient manner.
Working on the Mitsubishi project, our team has been gathering all the required information for up to 4 weeks. This included a profound examination of the legacy system, mapping out all of its flaws and specifications, bridging the gaps between the current state of the system and the requirements of the client, and outlining the development process.
The design stage includes all the integral decisions regarding the software architecture, its makeover, the tech frameworks that would be used in the system’s rework. During this stage, developers discuss the coding guidelines, the tools, practices, and runtimes that will help the team meet the client’s requirements. Working with large corporations like Mitsubishi, a custom software development team has to work closely with the company’s own developers to better understand the specifics of the architecture and create a design that reflects all the requirements.
After all the requirements are gathered, we initiated the design stage based on all of the client’s specifications and came up with a number of solutions that matched Mitsubishi’s specs:
- Convenient data model meant to optimize data duplication;
- Permission system that differentiated the users by their access levels;
- Appealing user interface mockup to improve the comfortability of user-system interaction;
- Integration with the legacy RPG system;
- Notifications for the partners to keep them up with the important activities.
This set of essential solutions has been discussed and approved in the course of the design stage that lasted for 2 months. During this stage, Intersog and Mitsubishi development teams worked closely to come up with the solutions that matched the client’s requirements to the tee. Proper functioning of the supply chain is vital for the entire corporation, which is why it was critical to do everything flawlessly. 2 months might seem like quite a timeline, but for this case study on software development life cycle, it was not that long considering how complex Mitsubishi’s legacy system was.
After approving the solution design, the team can move to develop those solutions. That’s the core of the entire project, a stage at which the teams meet the goals and achieve the outcomes set during previous stages. The success of the development stage depends heavily on how good a job the teams did during the design stage – if everything was designed with laser precision, the team can expect few if any, surprises during the development stage.
What happens during the development stage is the teams coding their way towards the final product based on decisions that have been made earlier. With Mitsubishi, we followed the guidelines we came up with earlier and implemented a set of essential solutions:
- We built a convenient data model that minimizes the risk of human error by reducing redundant and repetitive data entry and duplication.
- Improved Mitsubishi’s security system to differentiate the users by their level of access and give them the respective level of control over the data.
- Added the notifications for the users so that they could react to the relevant changes faster.
- Designed an appealing and comfortable user interface using the AJAX framework to make the user-system interaction more comfortable and time-efficient.
- Deployed the platform running on the IBM AS400 server with the integration of DB2 databases.
- Integrated the existing RPG software into the new system.
- Migrated the existing spreadsheets and all the essential data into the new system.
All of these solutions took us 6 months to implement, which is rather fast for a project of such scale. Such a time-efficiency was possible only thanks to the huge amount of work we’ve done throughout the research and design stages. The lesson to learn from these software development life cycle phases for the example case study is that the speed of development would depend heavily on how well you prepare.
Depending on the scale of the project, you might be looking at different timelines for the development stage. Small scale projects can be finished in a matter of weeks while some of the most complicated solutions might take more than a year to finish. In the case of the Mitsubishi project, it was essential for the client to get things done faster. Rushing things up is never a good idea, but you can always cut your development timeline by doing all the preparation work properly and having a clear understanding of what needs to be done and in which order.
Quality assurance is as vital for your project’s success as any other stage; this is where you test your code, assess the quality of solutions, and make sure everything runs smoothly and according to plan. Testing helps you identify all the bugs and defects in your code and eliminate those in a timely manner. Here at Intersog, we prefer testing our software on a regular basis throughout the development process. This approach helps us to identify the issues on the go and fix them before they snowball into serious problems.
That’s it, quality assurance is a set of procedures aimed at eliminating bugs and optimizing the functioning of the software solutions. Here at Intersog, we run both manual and automated tests so that we can be truly sure of the quality of solutions we develop for our clients. With Mitsubishi, we ran tests throughout the development process and after the development stage was over. It took us an additional month to test all the solutions we’ve developed, after which we were ready for the implementation stage.
Integration and Support
Following the testing, and once we are sure all the solutions work flawlessly, the development team gets to the implementation stage. Also known as the integration stage, this is where we integrate the new solution into the client’s pre-existing ecosystem. Basically, you are putting new gears into a complex mechanism that has been functioning for many years, and it is essential to make sure all of those gears fit perfectly.
With such a complex system as the one employed by Mitsubishi and a vast amount of accumulated data, our developers had to be incredibly precise not to lose anything. We are talking about surgical precision because Mitsubishi’s suppliers amassed thousands upon thousands of spreadsheets full of critical data on supplies, material and product deliveries, accounting data, and more. All of that had to be carefully integrated with the new automated solution.
After 2 months, the solutions have been fully integrated with Mitsubishi’s existing ecosystem. Intersog usually backs the clients up by offering support and maintenance services to ensure flawless functioning of the system over time, but this time, our client was fully capable of maintaining the new system on their own. As said, Mitsubishi has its own development team that is able to take care of the system maintenance, so that our cooperation was finished after the integration stage.
Final Thoughts and Outtakes
A software development life cycle depends on many factors that are unique for each company. In the case of Mitsubishi, we’ve managed to get things done in just under a year, which is rather fast for a project of such an immense scale. Different projects have different life cycles, and it depends on the scale, the client’s ability to explain their needs, and the development team’s ability to understand those needs, gather all the necessary information, design the appropriate set of solutions, develop said solutions, ensure their quality, and implement them fast.