Software developers are the creative and technical minds behind the programs which run your internet-powered office network systems, webpages, social media or even the games you play on your computer, mobile phone or other electronic devices. Software runs every application you access on the internet, and across whatever device you use to access it. Software also controls the programs which run household appliances such as electronic refrigerators, washing machines (think of the innovative “fuzzy logic” programs), dishwashers, microwaves, etc. A software developer or engineer is a computer science professional who combines a strong knowledge of engineering principles and various programming languages in his work of identifying needs, conceptualising, developing, and implementing new software products, as well as overseeing the maintenance and further enhancement of such products.
The process in a nutshell
In order to understand what software developers do and the results they achieve, it is necessary to understand the processes behind the end result. The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) itself consists of certain steps, for example : Plan, Define, Design, Build, Test and Deploy or Plan, Code, Build, Unit test, Spin up test environment, Integration tests, Deploy, Maintain. This is necessarily a large subject to tackle, and for the purposes of this article, it is easier to define these steps more simply as :
This means identifying the reasons why the software is being developed and what results it is expected to achieve.
This refers to the mathematically precise and exact description of the software to be developed, usually to further improve applications which already exist and are well-developed, in order to precisely tweak or optimise their operation. However, where the software systems are critical to safety and stability, these specifications are written before commencement of a project.
This refers to a theoretical depiction of the physical software system, exploring the possible future demands of the system as well as ensuring that the system will meet all requirements for which it is written.
This simply refers to writing the code which runs the software, although this is not necessarily the biggest part of the process.
This is the run-through of parts or all of the software by the software engineer, ensuring that the various contributing systems in the program operate well together as a whole.
Although it may seem obvious, it is vital that the design of the software program is accurately recorded, particularly in regard to maintenance and future development.
Training and Support
Again, it is necessary to train those who will be using the program on how to use it confidently and adapt to its implementation in their normal working lives. Whilst the developers may be extremely familiar with the program, it is important to remember that those who are to actually use the program may have an understandable and initial resistance to a new system which is out of their comfort zone. This is also a very good method of testing and refining the final program, since users will inevitably experience problems which may have been overlooked by the developers or are not as functional in practice as planned.
This phase of the process refers not only to the continued smooth running of the software and the removal of programming bugs, but also includes possible re-writes of any code in the original design which does not operate efficiently, thereby ensuring that the software is producing the results it was written for. This takes time and effort once in practice, and it is highly unlikely that any software will run without problems from Day One of actual implementation. This may well lead to ongoing further developments to produce additional results over and above the original specifications.
Types of Software Engineers
Software engineers fall into two primary categories: applications software developers and systems software developers.
Applications software developers are instrumental in designing and implementing software which is end-user interactive. As such, they work with various operating systems, including Windows, iOS and Android, amongst others. These developers may be given specific requirements to meet, or conduct an independent requirements analysis, from which they develop and implement the software program to meet these requirements. From that point on, there is a continual process of tweaking the software to refine its results-effectiveness, resolve glitches and bugs in the programming, and updating the program to either actively or pro-actively adapt and meet continuing demand and changing user requirements.
The field in which software engineering operates is extremely wide, and constantly expanding. A software developer, as a consequence, may specialize in different fields of expertise, including the building of computer information systems and customer-accessible web-pages.
Applications software developers often form part of an interactive team comprising graphic designers, project managers, marketers, and customer staff to deliver a product that meets its requirements. They may also be responsible for the training of end-users in the use of the software application through the development of appropriate training manuals.
Systems Software Developers are more concerned with so-called back-end engineering, building the actual operating systems and networks which are the necessary support structures on which the applications software developers build. They are therefore not directly concerned with the end-user, but more with the needs of the software programs themselves, to ensure that these, when developed and implemented, are able to run effectively. This may include responsibilities such as the integration of unrelated software products into cohesive programs, maintaining optimum
IT operation through the direction and enforcement of IT standards, accurate IT documentation and updates to meet ongoing technological advancements. These specialists work with senior management and development teams in organizations, as well as data science professionals and senior systems architects.
As such, these developers may possibly bear the responsibility for both the hardware and software needs of the customer or organization – the ‘end-user’.
Additional roles in the software engineering field are: Mobile developers, who primarily design, build and debug software applications for iOS and Android devices and platforms. Mobile developers may work in teams led by an Applications Architect, who oversees different software projects, and acts as liaison and co-ordinator between various team members. It is their responsibility to ensure that all user requirements are included in the software package, coding standards are enforced and the project is accurately documented. Additional team members may consist of Quality Assurance Analysists, who work closely with software engineers to run tests aimed primarily at identifying and correcting bugs, code errors, and development issues. The dissemination, receipt and storage of information on databases is undertaken by Database administrators, for the purpose of recovering and querying data, establishing access control protocols and troubleshooting.
This article is not intended to be an all-inclusive explanation of software development and its many different applications. I have not touched on the different process models, which would form a comprehensive article on their own. Nonetheless, the article is intended to provide a brief explanation of the purpose of software development and hopefully lead to a better understanding of the vital work that software developers perform in our everyday lives, and without whom our lives would be so much more complicated, time-consuming and stressful.