Taking back software engineering – craftsmanship is not enough
Would you fly in a plane designed by a craftsman or would you prefer your aircraft to be designed by engineers? Engineering is the application of iterative, empirical, practical science to real-world problems. Craftsmanship is a wonderful thing, and as a reaction to the terrible abuses of the term engineering in software development, software craftsmanship has helped in our learning of what really works.
The term “Software Engineering” has gained a bad reputation. It implies big up-front design and mathematically provable models in place of working code. However, that is down to our interpretation, not a problem with Engineering as a discipline.
In recent years, we have discovered what really works in software development. Not everyone practices approaches like Continuous Delivery, but it is widely seen as representing the current state-of-the-art in software development. This is because at its root, CD is about the application of an iterative, practical, empirical, maybe even science-based approach to solving problems in software development. Is this a form of Software Engineering?
Software isn’t bridge-building, it is not car or aircraft development either, but then neither is Chemical Engineering, neither is Electrical Engineering. Engineering is different in different disciplines. Maybe it is time for us to begin thinking about retrieving the term Software Engineering, maybe it’s time to define what our Engineering discipline should entail.
Dave Farley, founder and director of Continuous Delivery Ltd, is a thought-leader in the field of Continuous Delivery, DevOps, and Software Development in general. Dave is co-author of the Jolt-award winning book “Continuous Delivery”, a regular conference speaker, and a well known blogger.