Serial or Linear Sequential Development Model

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Editorial,  12 min read,  updated on September 17, 2023

This Model also called as the Classic life cycle or the Waterfall model. The Linear sequential model suggests a systematic sequential approach to software development that begins at the system level and progresses through analysis, design, coding, testing, and support. The linear sequential model has the following activities;

Sequential Development Model

Information engineering and modeling

Software is a part of a large system, work begins by establishing requirements for all system elements and then allocating some subset of these requirements to software. This system view is essential when software must interact with other element such as hardware, people and databases. System engineering and analysis encompasses requirements gathering at the system level with a small amount of top level design and analysis. Information engineering encompasses requirements gathering at the strategic business level and at the business area level.

Software requirement analysis

The requirement gathering process is intensified and focused specifically on software. To understand the nature of the program to be built, the software engineer (analyst) must understand the information domain for the software, as well as required function, behavior  performance and interface. Requirements for the both system and the software are documented and reviewed with the customer.


Software design is actually a multi step process that focuses on four distinct attributes of a program, data structure, software architecture, interface representations, and procedural (algorithmic) detail. The design process translates requirements into a representation of the software that can be assessed for quality before coding begins. Like requirements, the design is documented and becomes part of the software configuration.

Code generation

The design must be translated into a machine–readable form. The code generation step performs this task. If design is performed in a detailed manner, code generation can be accomplished mechanistically.


Once code has been generated, program testing begins. The testing process focuses on the logical internals of the software, ensuring that all statements have been tested, and on the functional externals; that is, conducting tests to uncover errors and ensure that defined input will produce actual results that agree with required results.


Software will undergo change after it is delivered to the customer. Change will occur because errors have been encountered, because the software must be adopted to accommodate changes in its external environments or because the customer requires functional or performance enhancements. Software maintenance re-applies each of the preceding phases to an existing program rather than a new one.

A successful software product is one that satisfies all the objectives of the development project. These objectives include satisfying the requirements and performing the development within time and cost constraints. Generally, for any reasonable size projects, all the phases listed in the model must be performed explicitly and formally.

The second reason is the one that is now under debate. For many projects the linear ordering of these phases is clearly the optimum way to organize these activities. However some argue that for many projects this ordering of activity is unfeasible or suboptimal. Still waterfall model is conceptually the simplest process model for software development that has been used most often.

Limitation of the linear sequential model

  • The linear sequential model or waterfall model assumes the requirement of a system which can be frozen (baseline) before the design begins. This is possible for systems designed to automate an existing manual system. But for a new system, determining the requirements is difficult as the user does not even know the requirements. Hence, having unchanging requirements is unrealistic for such projects.
  • Freezing the requirements usually requires choosing the hardware (because it forms a part of the requirement specifications) A large project might take a few years to complete. If the hardware is selected early, then due to the speed at which hardware technology is changing, it is likely the final software will use a hardware technology on the verge of becoming obsolete. This is clearly not desirable for such expensive software systems.
  • The waterfall model stipulates that the requirements be completely specified before the rest of the development can proceed. In some situations it might be desirable to first develop a part of the system completely and then later enhance the system in phases. This is often done for software products that are developed not necessarily for a client, but for general marketing, in which case the requirements are likely to be determined largely by the developers themselves.
  • It is a document driven process that requires formal documents at the end of each phase. This approach tends to make the process documentation-heavy and is not suitable for many applications, particularly interactive application, where developing elaborate documentation of the user interfaces is not feasible. Also, if the development is done using fourth generation language or modern development tools, developing elaborate specifications before implementation is sometimes unnecessary.

Despite these limitations, the serial model is the most widely used process model. It is well suited for routine types of projects where the requirements are well understood. That is if the developing organization is quite familiar with the problem domain and requirements for the software are quite clear, the waterfall model or serial model works well.