1 Software development as engineering
G. F. C. Rogers, writing in the early 1980s, defined engineering as ‘the practice of organising the design and construction of any artifice which transforms the physical world around us to meet some recognised need’ (Rogers, 1983).
Rogers was not a software developer, but an engineer specialising in thermodynamics and jet-engine development. Yet his definition captures the essence of engineering and has a wide applicability which extends to software. Much of our endeavour in software development is the design and construction of software to meet some recognised need – of people, organisations or society at large – with tangible effect on the real world.
Look at Rogers’ definition of engineering. How would you relate elements of that definition to your understanding of software development?
Organising design and construction can be related to what is commonly known as a ‘software development process’: if you develop software in the context of a commercial organisation, it is highly likely that you and your team will follow one such process to coordinate the construction and deployment of software.
The physical world around us can be related to the context in which the software will be deployed – the context could be the way an information system is organised, the device in the case of a software controller, or the internet for a web application.
The recognised need in Rogers’ definition relates to the problems the software is meant to solve – what we commonly capture as requirements in software development. These problems are the reason why the software should exist, and express how software should affect its context once in operation.
In this course we take an engineering view of software development, and, guided by Rogers’ definition, will explore in some detail the constituent elements of software development, and the interrelations between these elements.