Understanding The Application Development Cycle

Technology recruiting is always difficult, but it’s even worse when there are gaps in your understanding of the basic processes of technology development. Ever try to make sense of the application development life cycle? It may not seem directly relevant to your role as a recruiter, but by gaining a basic understanding of the steps involved in application development, you will also gain some important insights into the roles and experience of your candidates. Below I’d like to show you how you can put a basic understanding of application development straight to work in helping you recruit technical candidates. Defining the application development lifecycle and how it relates to recruiting is similar to building a house. If we break down the process into simple, manageable steps, it not only becomes less overwhelming, but we can begin to see how to use this knowledge in evaluating a candidate’s experience and knowledge. Definition Phase As a homeowner there is a point where you may make a decision that your current residence no longer meets your needs. This decision is synonymous with the Definition Phase of the application development lifecycle. Instead of the house, the organization determines that the current system no longer meets the needs of the end user. The bottom line is that goals are defined based upon a set of business problems. In recruiting terms, the question to a candidate is: “Take me through the definition stage of a project you have been involved with in the last year. How did you come up with some of the problems that were identified?” <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Analysis Phase Once you’ve decided that a new home is the answer, you meet with an architect. At this point you and the architect analyze your current residence and where it is lacking, and weigh that against your needs. This phase in application development is called the Analysis Phase. The Analysis Phase is when the technical people get involved. The technologists begin to look at the current systems and the problem together and begin to conceptualize a solution. A question to ask a candidate may be: “Take me through a scenario of when you have assessed a technology problem and have come up with a solution,” or “Can you describe the business reason behind your latest project?” Design Phase After the initial evaluation, the architect begins to draw up a design of your new home. He or she plans how the home should look and what the layout will be. The result is the blueprint for the home. The same is true in the application development life cycle. In the Design Phase, decisions are being made on such issues as security, where data will be stored, processes, and architecture. The end result here is a system diagram. A sample question to a candidate: “What role did you play in the design phase component of the development lifecycle? Describe it for me. What process did you go through for the design?” Development Phase Once the design is complete, the construction begins. The Project Manager oversees the process and is responsible for making sure the blueprints are followed, the building stays within budget and the timeline is followed. The construction workers review the blue print and begin the building according to the plans. In the Development Phase of application development, the same is true. The diagram is given to the developers, who review the design, break it down, and begin coding, and the Project Manager oversees the process. Recruiter-speak: “What is the latest version of (a tool) that you have worked with?” Testing Phase With a new home, once the construction is complete, you would walk through and do a quality check. You may make sure the plumbing and electricity work, that the walls and rooms are where they should be and that your needs are being met. The same is accomplished in the Testing Phase. At this point, different types of testing occur. Functional, or “black box,” testing may be done based on the original requirements. For example, does the new home meet your needs? Structural, or “white box,” testing may be done from the structure of the developed software. And finally, stress testing may done to test capacity of the new system. Recruiter-speak: “Describe for me the types of testing you have performed. How did you do it? How did you interpret the results? What did you do with the results once completed?” Implementation Finally, after your new home has been completed, and you’ve agreed that your terms and requirements have been met, you begin to move in to the new home. Likewise, once testing has been completed and the bugs have been fixed, you Implement the new system, or put it into production. Just as in building a home, documentation and project management are ongoing. Two types of documentation occur. Technical documentation is part of the process and can be important when future problems are identified. This is the information about how the application was written. Client or end-user documentation is the manual needed for the user to operate the new application. Conclusion To fully understand your candidate’s background, first ask the question, “In what phases of development have you been involved?” Overall understanding of the application development lifecycle, how it works, and the role each technologist plays in the process, will enhance your technology recruiting skills and ultimately help you gain respect from the hiring managers.

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Kimberly Bedore (kimberlybedore@earthlink.net) is a consultant and public speaker who develops and implements staffing solutions for clients, resulting in increased efficiencies and significant cost savings. She uses her wide range of recruiting experience to provide companies with a wealth of information related to sourcing and sourcing strategies, recruitment training, and the implementation of solutions and metrics that enable a higher degree of staffing effectiveness.

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