The Death of SDLC

The basic methodology used to implement many systems today still follows the System Development Life Cycle (SDLC), which was developed to aide technical development of computer code. Organizations today recognize that SDLC does not adequately address the organizational and human performance challenges that are critical to ensuring IT success. It is time to move beyond outdated technical development methodologies and adopt approaches that better address human and organizational challenges.

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Joe Sanchez

Jason, very much enjoyed reading your post.

Ideally, the human performance challenges would be addressed during the SDLC “Testing” phase but to your points, often this testing focuses on technical criteria and not often enough on human performance – business value criteria.

One of the best examples of human performance / design thinking is a “60 Minutes” story that aired last year (2009) titled, “The Pentagon’s Bionic Arm” @ It focused on the Pentagon’s design of a high-tech bionic arm for soldiers wounded in battle. At one point during the story, Dean Kamen (who designed the Segway and was asked to support the engineering of this bionic arm was asked about the “toughest part of the engineering process.”

He responded: “The prototype had 25 circuit boards and 10 motors. But it would be no good at all unless the patients were willing to accept it.

“We went and started talking to the real patients, the potential users, down at places like Walter Reed. And immediately, we were shocked to learn, even just the hollow plastic shell that they wear when they’re out and about, it sweats, and it hurts, and it irritates. And we came back and realized that if we build the world’s best nine-pound arm, but nobody will wear it because 24 hours a day, or 12 hours a day, of wearing a nine-pound arm is going to be irritating, and frustrating, we said, ‘We’ve got a way bigger problem here.'”

The toughest challenge was not the technology, it was the human performance / human interface challenge.

That “60 Minutes” piece is one of my favorite stories to illustrate the importance of change management (focusing on user adoption) and human performance / design when addressing system development.

Keep writing!


My old boss used to say current SDLC and layers of reviews is the death of IT. I would agree especially in this era of cloud computing and quick tools.

A lot of the work of SDLC is still built for large systems and came out of DOD. We need to create agile and nimble processes for Gov 2.0 and other new initiatives.

Edward Williams

Very interesting, Jason…

A word that comes to mind after reading your post is “agile” or “agility”. It’s a huge topic with a lot of discussion and debate around the web (blogosphere). And what you’re talking about – involving people – is a very big part of what I understand “agile” to mean.

This, also, points to what’s known as the iterative development – build small chunks and release faster. I don’t know if this will end the SDLC practices but at least it should considered. We have tried this on a couple of projects and have had nothing but praise from our clients.

Here is a video that captures some of these ideas very well…. what we’re looking for is “The shift from a passive relationship between consumer and producer to the active engagement of everyone in experiences that are meaningful, productive and profitable.” Oddly enough, this I think could be applied to what should be doing with gov20.

Thanks for sharing your post…