Software is the set of instructions or programs that tell a computer what to do. The development of software is the process programmers use to create computer programs.
Software development is normally carried out by programmers, software engineers, and software developers. Programmers write code specifically to carry out individual tasks, such as merging a database. Software engineers use engineering principles to build software and applications to solve problems and they often use modeling language.
Software developers are usually involved with specific project areas, where they may be required to write code. They have an overall view and will work across departments to manage development teams, as well as conduct software testing and maintenance.
What does a software developer do?
Software developers’ main roles are to design, program, build, install and maintain the software in a variety of systems. They also need good client skills to discuss projects from which they can design a new product.
The range of applications for a software developer is very wide so he may work for a software development company, or he may be freelance. Depending on the size of the project a software developer may work in a team of software developers and programmers on a large, complex project. So, the software developer needs to have an adaptable attitude, where he can fit into the project requirements.
Most organizations across all industries now use software to some degree and so software developers are needed in business, technology, healthcare, and manufacturing among many others.
The difference between software development and software engineering
The core skills of software development involve designing, writing, installing, and maintaining software to be used by end customers. Their tools of the trade include programming languages such as ASP.net, Java, C#, and Python. However, software developers need skills beyond programmers, as they need to critically appreciate the entire cycle of the software, from inception to maintenance. As a result of the complexity of these responsibilities, some software developers prefer to focus on one particular niche.
In comparison to software development, the role of software engineering is regarded as the pinnacle of the software hierarchy. A software engineer has a much wider remit in terms of the requirements needed to fulfill the role. The software engineer needs to communicate effectively right across the range of stakeholders involved in any one project.
To ensure this happens effectively software engineers need good knowledge of algorithms, languages, scalability, and data structures, as well as best practice in engineering and web development. Software engineers often use the same technology as developers, but they also need a good working knowledge of analytics, testing, and scaling.
Software development processes
Software is developed for many different applications but among these, it is written to satisfy one of four different needs:
- To solve a real-world problem
- As quality management becomes a bigger driver, so software engineering is applied more to software development
- To meet the specific needs of a customer
- For personal use
Right from the earliest days of computing software development methodologies were developed to create structure, so that software developers could work as a team. The methodologies that exist today have all evolved to reflect the technology available at the outset. Some of the main software development methodologies in use today include:
As its name suggests the waterfall model symbolizes a linear and sequential attitude to software development. The waterfall method involves these stages sequentially:
Requirements – analyze, gather, and document
Design – the creation of the software architecture
Code – the development, testing, and integration of the software
Testing – the systematic search for and debugging of errors
Operation – the support and maintenance of the system
In the application of any waterfall model, the above stages are viewed as discrete steps of software development. Generally, each stage is fully completed before moving on to the next one and sometimes clients’ approval is required in the transition from one stage to the next.
Agile scrum methodology
The agile scrum methodology sees the combination of the agile philosophy with the scrum framework. In this context agile means ‘incremental’, where each step of the process moves forward gradually and logically. This structure has been found to be particularly appropriate when businesses need to finish specific projects quickly.
The scrum element of the agile scrum methodology highlights the need for scrums or meetings, where stakeholders in the project collaborate to brainstorm and structure the project.
In most cases, project management systems aim to build and complete an entire product linearly from start to finish. The agile scrum method instead concentrates on delivering several different models, thereby offering the client more business value.
Some of the frequent benefits of the agile scrum methodology include:
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Creativity and innovation
- Lower costs
- Quality improvement
- Organizational synergy
- Employee satisfaction
- Customer satisfaction
Incremental and iterative
The incremental and iterative methodology for software development makes use of a dual approach, which is ideal for larger projects. Utilizing repeated cycles (the iterative element), along with smaller parts of the software developed at the same time (incremental element), developers can use in earlier versions of the system what was previously learned.
So, in an incremental development process, the component parts are sliced into individual segments, and each increment builds on what has gone previously. In this way, fully operational elements of functionality are added to what has gone before.
The V-shaped model can be interpreted as an extension of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases, as normally shown in the waterfall model.
The V-shaped model highlights the relationship between the phases of development and the related phases of testing. Because of this association, it is also known as the ‘verification and validation model’. Every time a software developer adds a new element to a project the V-shaped model acts to test and validate it, making it a disciplined approach.
Each of the waterfall stages below have a corresponding V-shaped model parameter to test and validate them:
- requirements analysis
The spiral model is a useful tool in providing support for risk handling. It is one of the most important Software Development Life Cycle models, which uses a spiral graphic to represent it.
Every loop of the concentric spiral signifies a phase of the software development process, so the number of loops making up the spiral varies with the number of phases in the project. It is up to the project manager to decide how many phases are needed to develop the product and the attendant project risks.
In the spiral model, each phase is subdivided into four sections, each with a different function:
Establish objectives and identify alternative solutions
The client is interviewed for their requirements so that objectives can be established, detailed, and analyzed at the beginning of every phase. Alternative solutions are suggested at this point.
Identification and resolution of risks
All available solutions are evaluated to determine the best. The risks associated with the best solution are then identified and resolved using the best possible strategy. At the end of stage 2, the prototype is created as the best possible solution.
Development of the next version of the product
The identified product features are developed and verified during testing in the third quadrant. The next iteration of the software will be available at the end of the third quadrant.
Planning and review
In the final quadrant, the client evaluates the most recent version of the software.
What are the different types of software?
There are three main types of software, application software or apps, such as Microsoft Office, which is used for performing tasks. The second is system software, which involves the operational software in a computer such as the operating system or discs.
And lastly, embedded software, which operates autonomously in the background on a computer or is used to control electrical devices such as washing machines and microwaves, as well as electrical systems in cars.
Application software on a computer enables the user, via an interface such as a keyboard, to carry out various tasks. The application software is positioned above the system software and is designed to execute specific functions. Application software is also known as ‘non-essential software’ because the computer can still operate without it.
For example, Firefox or Chrome Internet browsers are created as application software. They enable the user to browse the Internet securely, while MS Word is a word processing package offered by Microsoft. Both operate independently from the computer but in conjunction with it.
System software is the program that manages a computer and runs its applications and hardware. It provides the framework on which other software can operate and it also controls the computer hardware.
A good example of system software is Microsoft Windows. It runs in the background, providing basic functionalities. There are different types of system software, such as:
An operating system is a package of software that provides a framework for other applications to run on top of it. So, on a desktop PC, the operating system provides the interface of the keyboard and the monitor to enable the user to interact with the computer. Even the simplest handheld device needs an operating system to function.
Another type of system software is firmware, which is a permanent program installed on the computer’s motherboard. Firmware acts as the vital link between physical devices and other hardware. A good example is the BIOS on your computer, which initially starts everything up and checks for errors before handing over control to the main software package.
Embedded software usually runs in the background independently on a computer, where it is not affected by human input, and its output isn’t displayed on a screen. Embedded software ranges from simple applications with a few kilobytes of memory right up to complex applications. Examples of embedded software include:
The smooth operation of today’s cars is in many cases brought about by embedded software. Numerous tasks, both electrical and mechanical, are required to operate the different systems in a car and it is embedded software that is used to drive these applications. Examples of complex embedded software applications include power and energy management, climate control, engine, and transmission control.
As our homes become more technologically advanced even some of the simplest appliances are controlled with embedded software. White goods such as cookers, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, and microwaves all have multifunctional controls with numerous different settings, which are ideal for the logic and controllability of embedded software.
The software is designed to optimize the performance of the appliance and its energy efficiency.
The accelerated growth of hybrid and remote working looks like they are permanent features of the new post-COVID working day, and so organizations need to adjust. Adopting a flexible operating model enables companies to extend their services beyond one physical location.
At the same time integrating AI into software development will lead to better decision-making, improved productivity, efficiency, and automation.
As business becomes more digitally interconnected the opportunities for cybercriminals increase. The cost in lost time associated with breaches means software developers are now moving away from firewalls and antivirus protection to the use of innovations such as cybersecurity mesh.