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Every project, of course, has different requirements and different results. The process of developing custom software, however, tends to follow a few well-defined steps. Smaller projects will typically follow these steps more or less in sequence. Larger projects, on the other hand, are almost always broken down into smaller business modules, each one of which will follow the development sequence independently. Even though they are treated as discrete steps, often the steps themselves will overlap. All of the steps are equally important. One of the hallmarks of a quality development effort is that the proper amount of time is spent on the "non-coding" steps. Unfortunately, under tight deadlines, many inexperienced developers will frequently jump right into writing code, without giving proper consideration to gathering requirements, design, and sometimes even testing.
It is important to understand how these phases fit together, and what the roles of the client and the consultant typically are. While every phase of development requires the involvement of both client and consultant to some degree, establishing requirements requires the greatest participation by the client, while the development phase typically involves the least.
There are two common approaches to application development. The more traditional is known as the "waterfall" method of development. In this approach, the steps are tackled one by one, in order, and there is no backtracking. Requirements gathering is followed by analysis, which is followed by program design, and so forth. While in principle, this strict ordering of steps simplifies the process and makes it easier to track one's progress, in practice it is often too restrictive in not allowing for cases in which the requirements are either likely to change, or are poorly defined at the start.