There are many "models" or representations of the software life cycle, all showing a logical flow of activity, an orderly progression from the identification of a need to production software. Each model is a process framework consisting of phases designed to guarantee the integrity of their subcomponent activities. Each phase reduces project risk by employing entry and exit criteria to determine how to proceed; each phase results in an internal or external deliverable.

Software development life cycles are sometimes called software life cycle management methodologies, to encompass all the standards and procedures that affect planning, requirements gathering and analysis, design, development, and implementation of a software system. For any life cycle to be effective, it must be carefully selected and often customized (adapted and evolved) to specific project goals and objectives.

Rather than starting from scratch, some popular, generic models provide good beginnings. Each model has its peculiar strengths and weaknesses, and each is well suited for certain types of projects.

The model selected for a project or the models used by an organization should meet the needs of the organization, the type of work to be done, and the skills and tools of the software practitioners using the model(s).

By recognizing the power of life cycle models within the process framework, you can assist your organization in becoming flexible. Each project in the organization can use a different life cycle model that is customized, while continuing to operate within the same process framework to assist management with providing baseline information across projects. The integration of life cycle models with the process framework is yet another step in achieving a higher level of maturity in software development. The organization will have recognized the need for a process to develop software that is consistent, while providing for flexibility in the implementation of that process through the use of the customized life cycle models.

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