SDLCThere are two life cycles that are associated with product development, regardless of the product and/or industry it belongs to. These are the Project Management Life Cycle and the Product Development Life Cycle. Let me first describe, in a generic way, the relationship between these two life cycles. Later I will explain how the relationship works specifically for software/systems development.

Let’s assume a hypothetical scenario where the Department of National Defence (DND) wants to build New Generation (NG) fighter jets for the Air Force. DND asks xYz Aeronautics, an aerospace and defence contractor, to build a prototype of the jet first. DND wants the new aircraft to be able to take-off vertically, employ only one engine, use conventional fuel, etc. But it has only $100 M for this project and it gives xYz Aeronautics three years to build the prototype.

As you can imagine, building a NG fighter jet is technically very challenging. But xYz Aeronautics has been in the business of making fighter jets for more than 100 years – this is its core competency. xYz Aeronautics has its own tried & tested process for new aircraft building: it has to design the jet and its key components, test the individual components, manufacture them, assemble the whole jet and test it again and deliver the aircraft. In a simplistic term, this internal end-to-end process of xYz Aeronautics for building the fighter jet is the product development life cycle. Obviously, the product in this instance is the fighter jet.

But don’t forget, there are those DND constraints: xYz Aeronautics has to build the prototype in $100M, within 3 years, and they have to meet all the functional requirements. In order to meet all those constraints, they need the Project Management Life Cycle (PMLC). So, a PMLC acts as an over-arching control over the underlying product development life cycle. However, if you do not have any constraints (like in our example $100M, 3 years, only one engine etc.), you do not need the PMLC. However, this is seldom the case in real world product development, unless you are building a mansion for a dictator in a 3rd world country. Even in that case, time usually is a constraint.

Now let’s discuss specifically about the software or systems development. From our NG fighter jet development analogy earlier, you can draw a parallel to xYz Aeronautics’ internal development process to the SDLC. For software development, the product is the software, and the SDLC represents the product development life cycle. As the software industry is not as mature as the manufacturing or construction industries, product development life cycle (i.e., SDLC) methodology is not standardized (yet). This is the reason you will see several prevalent SDLC methodologies out there: ad-hoc, waterfall, unified/iterative, Agile (SCRUM or Kanban), lean etc. On the other hand, the PMLC methodology is pretty much standardized. In most cases you have two methodology options: PMI proposed PMBOK or OGC’s PRINCE2. In many ways PMBOK and PRINCE2 are very similar. Therefore, Project Management and Product Development (i.e., SDLC) Life Cycle methodologies are complementary.

So do you really need two different managers, one for Project Management and one for Product Development, i.e., SDLC for software development? In my opinion, you do; this is especially more true for large scale software development projects. The skill sets required for these two managers are very different. The project managers need to be multi-disciplinary, while the SDLC managers need to be more technical.

What do you think? Do you have any comments, inputs, feedback or ideas that you would like to share with us? Please feel free to use the form below. We would love to hear from you!

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