RST Software
Editorial Team
Ross Krawczyk
Reviewed by a tech expert

The 7 phases of Agile software development life cycle: Agile SDLC explained

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In 2001, in Snowbird, Utah, a group of forward-thinking IT professionals gathered to discuss the complexity of software development. They defined the core values and principles that they believed could improve the quality of products and workflow standards.

They highlighted that team collaboration and interactions should take precedence over tools and sophisticated processes, and that small batches of working software are way more important than documentation. The group pointed out that being able to adapt to changes is superior to adhering to the plan and declared that customer satisfaction can only be achieved through active client involvement in the process.

Likely, none of them suspected then that their Agile Manifesto would become an industry Bible and remain relevant in the decades to come.

What is Agile SDLC?

Agile software development life cycle (SDLC) is a methodology that relies on cooperative decision-making and product development in short cycles, or sprint mode. It is an iterative and incremental development model that has been designed to overcome the shortcomings of conventional linear models, such as Waterfall.

Agile SDLC contains a set of principles and practices that refer to flexibility, collaboration, and customer-centricity to deliver top-notch software that meets the ever-changing demands of clients.

What advantages does Agile offer your business?

Let’s start with some statistics. Approximately 71% of US companies are Agile-oriented. After implementing it, businesses have seen an average increase of 60% in both their revenue and profits. Moreover, projects developed using this methodology have achieved a 64% success rate.

Agile has become immensely popular in the software sector for a number of reasons, many of which might be of great importance to your startup.

Advantage #1: Increased software quality

Agile divides a project into many smaller, more manageable bits. By doing so, the team can focus on high-quality development and team collaboration.

The code is integrated regularly and undergoes continuous testing. This ensures that the product is stable and functional throughout the whole process. Any defects or mismatches are identified right away.

Agile teams also conduct retrospectives regularly to evaluate their workflows and pinpoint potential areas for improvement. This method promotes the idea of ongoing development.

Advantage #2: Customer collaboration

Agile strongly emphasizes the involvement of customers and stakeholders at all stages of the development process. Their feedback and input play a significant role in setting the team’s priorities and decision-making.

Advantage #3: Adaptability

Thanks to Agile methodology, teams involved in software development are more responsive to change. As customer needs, market conditions, or project goals evolve, Agile teams can correct course and priorities more rapidly.

Advantage #4: Cross-functionality

In Agile software development life cycle, teams are composed cross-functionally and comprise experts in different fields and with various skillsets: product owners, developers, testers, designers, business analysts, stakeholders, and technical and domain experts. Thanks to this diversity, teams can handle tasks and problems more creatively and effectively.

Advantage #5: Readiness

Agile is focused on delivering operational software increments at the end of each iteration.

This gives stakeholders the opportunity to view progress and provide feedback at an earlier stage in the project. It may come as a surprise, but Agile teams can provide functional and tested software every two weeks.

Advantage #6: Prioritization

In Agile methodology, teams work on product backlogs, which contain prioritized lists of functions to be developed, improvements and fixes to be introduced. The work starts with items at the top of the backlog, so that the most important features are addressed first.

According to the Annual State of Agile survey, the top five reasons for adopting this methodology are to:

  1. accelerate software delivery (71%)
  2. enhance the ability to manage changing priorities (63%)
  3. increase productivity (51%)
  4. increase business/IT alignment (47%)
  5. enhance software quality (42%)

The Standish Group CHAOS REPORT reveals that only 9% of Agile projects fail, and this is a perfect summary of the paragraph on its benefits.

Top Agile methodologies in software development

The Agile software development is a methodology whose principles can be applied in numerous ways. We have collected the most popular Agile frameworks below.


This is probably the most widely adopted Agile framework in software development. It is highly iterative and incremental, and usually operates in 2-week units, called “sprints”. Each sprint in Scrum brings together cross-functional teams to deliver potentially shippable increments. Daily meetings, sprint planning and reviews are vital in the Scrum methodology to adapt to the ever-changing requirements of the project and deliver the most value to customers.

The Scrum Framework


This Japanese word can be translated as “signboard” or “visual board”. In this Agile framework, visual elements are used to manage the project and developing software.

The central part is the Kanban board, with columns that represent different stages of project workflow, such as “To Do,” “In Progress” and “Done.” Work units are represented here as cards, and they move through the columns as they are handled. All columns are visible to team members so that there is a shared awareness of what has been accomplished and what tasks are upcoming.

Kanban Board


Scrumban is a hybrid that combines the best principles and practices of the two above-mentioned methodologies. It incorporates Scrum’s defined roles (Scrum master, product owner, development team), ceremonies (sprint planning, daily Scrum, sprint review, sprint retrospective) and iterations, along with Kanban’s visual boards and optimized workflow, allowing teams to work with greater flexibility and adaptability. - Scrum vs. Kanban

Lean software development

Lean is inspired by manufacturing principles. It was introduced in the Japanese automotive industry to maximize efficiency and value in production, and minimize waste. It has been adapted to software development and is based on the following principles:

  1. Defining value
  2. Mapping the value stream
  3. Creating flow
  4. Using a pull system
  5. Pursuing perfection

Simply put, Lean is about delivering what clients need when they need it, without unnecessary features and processes. Work is “pulled” into the process based on customer demand, as opposed to being “pushed” in accordance with a predetermined schedule.

Dynamic systems development method (DSDM)

This Agile framework is focused on delivering software on time and within budget. In DSDM, strong emphasis is put on clear communication and requirements, collaboration, iteration and user engagement. The work is performed in short cycles, called “timeboxes.”

Model of the DSDM project management method.
Model of the DSDM project management method.

The 7 DSDM principles comprise:

  1. Focus on business needs
  2. On-time delivery
  3. Cooperation and collaboration
  4. Clear communication
  5. No compromise for quality loss
  6. Incremental and iterative approach
  7. Control demonstration

XP (eXtreme Programming)

XP is well-suited to small and medium teams. It gained popularity for its focus on rapid delivery of high-quality software. There are several unique practices in this Agile methodology: programmers work in pairs, tests are written before coding even begins, and both developers and customers should be deeply involved in the process. A strong emphasis is put on frequent releases and regular integration. XP promotes simplicity in design, persistence in feedback, early delivery and responsiveness to changing requirements.


This is not a single method, but a family of methodologies named after gemstones. They are constructed to be flexible and lightweight so that teams have the comfort of selecting the variant that is best suited to their specific project requirements.

Source: Wrike

There are three priorities within Crystal:

  • project safety
  • development efficiency
  • habitability of the resulting conventions

The author of this methodology also enumerates three compulsory rules:

  • frequent delivery
  • reflective improvement
  • osmotic communication 

While the remaining four rules can be applied to improve a team’s sense of security:

  • personal safety
  • easy access to expert users
  • technical environment
  • strong focus on one’s tasks

Feature-driven development (FDD)

FDD is especially suited to complex projects with a wide range of functional requirements. It is an Agile development methodology that centers on the process of dismantling a large project into a series of smaller, more manageable components. These elements, which stand in for pieces of functionality, form the basis of the software. FDD emphasizes design sessions, feature lists, feature teams, iterations, and increments. The FDD approach to software development focuses on client involvement while arranging work around features.

7 key stages of the Agile software development life cycle (SDLC)

The Agile development life cycle is usually made up of a few stages, each of which is meant to make the development process easier. These stages might be slightly different depending on the chosen Agile methodology.

Phase 1: Concept

The concept phase, also known as project initiation, is the first stage in Agile software development. It involves the product owner, business analysts, the development team and future users, who establish a vision of the project, and define its scope, objectives, and goals. The concept phase often includes an initial list of features and a product backlog.

At this stage, the objective is to get all the involved parties to agree on the overall goal, and ensure that everyone has a common understanding of the tasks that need to be completed and the reasons behind them.

Phase 2: Inception

The inception phase of an Agile project refers to the early stages of planning and envisioning how the finished product will look. Teams go into greater detail when it comes to plans and analyses, with the end goal of refining the project vision that was established during the Concept stage. They might also define initial requirements, conduct feasibility studies or run risk assessments.

The purpose of inception is to establish the project’s course and guarantee that it will satisfy both business objectives and customer requirements before moving on to the more iterative and execution-oriented phase.

Phase 3: Iteration

This phase involves cross-functional teams who implement prioritized features from the backlog. Depending on the Agile methodology, this takes from one to four weeks (usually two). During each iteration, teams design and develop features, then test and integrate them.

Iteration encourages stakeholders to provide regular feedback and fosters a continuous focus on delivering working software. It also makes it possible to quickly adapt to shifting requirements. The iterative stage allows for frequent corrections and ensures that product is delivered in small, regular increments.

Phase 4: Testing

Agile puts strong emphasis on testing. This includes test-driven development (TDD), automated testing, and manual tests, run incrementally and iteratively. Testers collaborate closely with developers to establish approval criteria for users and develop test cases. They also make sure that each feature complies with the specified requirements.

Because of continuous integration and frequent deployments, testing is always done on the most recent code. As a result, issues can be identified and addressed early in the process.

This method enables quick feedback, aids in maintaining product quality, and guarantees that the software will continue to be dependable and error-free.

Phase 5: Release

During the release phase, end-users or customers receive working and potentially shippable increments of the software. Iterative features are integrated, tested, and prepared for deployment.

This stage also usually involves final performance testing, security assessments and documentation updates, as well as user acceptance testing (UAT) to ensure that user needs are met and the software is successful. Once the software is ready, it is released to production or made available to users.

Phase 6: Maintenance

Following the release of the software product, support and upkeep are required. This Agile development life cycle stage goes beyond development. Tasks include addressing flaws, improving existing features, and accommodating changing requirements in response to user feedback and evolving needs.

Maintenance teams prioritize and implement improvements in iterative cycles. To ensure the software keeps providing value, it is updated to fix bugs and incorporate user feedback.

Phase 7: Retirement

In Agile, the retirement phase represents the end of the software’s life cycle. The goal here is to safely shut down software that is no longer used or supported. Teams perform data migration and archiving. They ensure a seamless transition for users to new or alternative versions and products. To achieve a smooth exit of the software from the organization’s portfolio, careful planning and communication with the relevant stakeholders are essential.

Most common Agile software development approaches

Agile software development can be approached in a variety of ways. Here is a list of the most preferred models.

V-model SDLC

The V-model SDLC is a structured and sequential approach to software development and testing. The V-model gets its name from the V-shaped diagram that it uses to depict the relationship that exists between different phases. Each phase of development corresponds to a testing phase, and both progress simultaneously. The V-model prioritizes validation and verification in order to find bugs early in the development cycle.

Source: GeeksforGeeks

On the one hand, the V-model is easy to comprehend and apply. Each phase is completed one by one, guaranteeing high development discipline. On the other hand, it is associated with higher risk and uncertainty. Generally, the V-model is considered to be more suitable for smaller projects than complex and long-lasting ones.

Iterative SDLS

With iterative SDLS, software is incrementally developed through a number of repeated cycles, or iterations. In each iteration, a set of features is designed, developed, tested and integrated. Iterations are short, often lasting two weeks.

Iterative SDLS has numerous advantages: quickness, flexibility, ease of testing, debugging and risk management. Early on in the process, a partially ready product is delivered, which enables stakeholders to provide feedback more rapidly. This iterative evaluation facilitates continuous software improvement and adjustments based on shifting requirements.

Appealing as it may sound, this method has its drawbacks too. The process may require more resources. Each stage of an iteration is rigid and does not overlap with the preceding phase. Furthermore, design or architecture issues can arise because not all of the requirements are collected at the start of the project.

Iterative development model

Spiral SDLC

The Spiral software development life cycle is a model that combines the best components of iterative and incremental approaches. The work is broken up into so-called “spirals.” Each spiral represents a stage in the development process and consists of four main activities: 

  • planning
  • risk analysis
  • engineering
  • evaluation

The Spiral SDLC provides clarity for developers and test engineers​​. It works best for complex and potentially risky projects where rapid risk assessment, continuous improvement and adaptation are crucial for success.

Spiral model (Boehm, 1988). A number of misconceptions stem from oversimplifications in this widely circulated diagram (there are some errors in this diagram).

Waterfall SDLC

Waterfall is a traditional methodology characterized by a logical progression of linear and sequential stages. The structure and requirements are defined at the beginning and the process is carefully documented. The requirements and goals are defined once and for all.

Teams involved in one task do not participate in others.

Source: ResearchGate

This methodology is appropriate for easier projects that are developed under more predictable conditions.

How do Agile methodologies fit into the remote work era?

Agile has proven to be highly effective for software development and project management in the age of hybrid or remote work. After all, Agile principles, such as collaboration, communication, and flexibility, do not interfere with the idea of “working from anywhere.”

The daily stand-up meetings and sprint planning that characterize Agile make it easier for teams to communicate openly and keep groups aligned and focused.

It is worth noting that remote work also emphasizes Agile’s values of incremental delivery, self-organizing teams and trust among employees.

Why choose RST as your trusted Agile software development partner?

At RST, we have been using Agile for 15 years and follow its rules on an everyday basis. We will gladly share our expertise with you while developing your software. Simply use the contact form on our website and leave us a message. We will respond right away, as quick reaction time and client-centricity are not only Agile, but also core RST principles.

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