The rise of technology has meant that software engineering has become more important than ever. Being able to build, design, develop and maintain code through software engineering practices is crucial in every piece of technology we use.
Software engineering is important because it formalizes the development process for large technology projects. Moore’s Law asserts that the growth and speed of technology are exponential. So in the coming years, software engineering will become even more crucial to delivering technological improvements.
In contrast, poor software engineering practices will hinder the growth and development of society. Poor practice is also terrible for a company’s bottom line and can make projects grow in complexity over time.
Gone are the days of an isolated IT team. The integration of technology into every facet of business means poor programming decisions can have drastic knock-on effects.
Let’s take a look at the specific reasons why software engineering is so important and also the key benefits of good software practices.
Why do we need software engineering?
Understanding the importance of software engineering will help us appreciate why we need software engineering.
New technology lands on most people’s laps without a second thought. It’s easy to forget just how far we have come in a short period and the work that has gone on behind the scenes.
Mobile technology has revolutionized the world, but wouldn’t have been possible without software engineering. The advancements in the web have also come about because of the formalization of the development process.
So let’s take a look at why we need software engineering and why it is so important.
1. The rise of technology
Software is now needed in every industry, company, and specific business function. Without it, we would be lost.
The rise of technology has catapulted software engineering to the forefront of the business world and made it incredibly important. As technology continues to seep into every aspect of our lives, we will need software development more and it will become even more crucial.
Three decades ago, programming was fairly niche. Many systems were still manual and worked on an analog basis. Since then we have automated many aspects of our daily working lives and could never go back to the ways things were. We need to nurture software development as an industry, to make sure it can keep up with the demands that society throws at it.
2. Adding Structure
Creating an app worth using is more than just cobbling together code. A codebase needs to be organized and structured in a way that is easy to maintain.
Aside from the code, the product must solve a business problem and be built from specific requirements. Good software engineers can dissect these requirements and create something useful.
Without the craft of software engineering you essentially just have groups of people who can code.
The development lifecycle and business process that has sprung out of software engineering methodology have given everything structure. From requirements to testing, having a structured approach makes everything easier.
3. Preventing Issues
Around a third of all projects are considered “failures”. With double that figure running over budget.
There are plenty of reasons why software projects run over budget, mismanagement, poor planning, and lack of leadership are just a few.
Having a well-planned project pays dividends down the line. Ensuring code quality is up to scratch, requirements are fleshed out, and people are well-trained increases the likelihood of an application succeeding.
Much of the software development process has now been formalized. Quality assurance and user testing have now become vital parts of the process. These help to prevent issues in the future and lower costs.
Software engineering has helped to prevent these issues and has become vitally important to the success of projects.
4. Change and development
Without software engineers to bring technologies forward, we would live in a very different world.
The entire SaaS industry may not have existed without browser technology coming on leaps and bounds.
Using GitHub for version control has become common practice whereas two decades ago it was still the wild west.
WordPress has spurred a blogging revolution.
Mobile apps have changed how we interact forever
The online marketplace has changed the face of commerce forever
Without software engineering, none of the above would be possible. Society needs software engineering because it has allowed us to build much of the world we live in. It has influenced every part of our lives.
The continuous progress of technology has meant we need software engineering more than ever.
5. Automation & AI
Automation and AI are hot topics in the media at the moment.
The manufacturing industry has been completely overhauled by automation in large parts because of software development. The number of people working on factory floors continues to decrease as automation software improves.
It is likely that as this trend continues most engineering disciplines will rely on software development in some way.
For example, Computer-aided design (CAD) is now used heavily throughout the engineering and design world. It has helped automate many of the old repetitive drawing tasks and streamlined entire industries.
Much of the automation and AI industries are in their infancy. However, our reliance on these will increase over time and make software engineering even more crucial to our daily lives.
Manual processes are quickly being identified and automated. The drive towards optimization of the workforce is going to steadily increase. There are other implications to this, in terms of where these jobs will do, but it is no doubt being driven by software.
Most new technology arises from inside the industry. Whether it’s new programming languages or finding new approaches to old problems, its likely came from an experienced developer.
Software engineering has become a principal player in the research and development of new technologies. We are standing on the shoulders of giants and each step forward allows other parts of the industry to flourish.
The theoretical side of software development has enabled us to have better-organized projects that deliver more for less. The practical side of programming has given us new languages and unlocked entire industries.
The reality is that without the research and development of the new technologies that have emerged over the last 15 years we wouldn’t be where we are right now.
7. The Future
The future of many jobs and industries rests in the hands of software engineers. Take Uber, who would have thought that software could disrupt the entire transport industry.
Entrepreneurs combined with a savvy tech team have the potential to change the world with one good product. Part of the allure of development is the ability to scale to incredible heights overnight.
We are only just beginning to see what can be achieved when the power of software engineering is harnessed correctly. It is providing innovation in areas people never imagined possible.
Why we need software engineering: The benefits
As we have discussed, software engineering brings structure to the world of code and has allowed technology to proliferate.
We have looked at why software engineering is important and the reasons behind us needing it. But we should also understand the benefits of software engineering and how it impacts the applications we build
Essentially software engineering as a concept has provided us with best practices that the entire industry follows.
These included but are not limited to:
- The DRY Principle
- Testing Code
- Refactoring Code
- Version Control
Most of these you pick us as you gain experience. But the best practices aim to deliver simple code that works well. By following certain principles we can standardize the production of code and limit headaches down the road.
As the craft of software engineering has matured so has the maintainability of the codebases we create.
Maintaining code is all about adding corrections and small modifications further down the road.
A structured approach to maintainability gives your code longevity. Useful documentation, comments, definitions, and other support documents can make it easier for other developers to jump in and use your code.
In the world of web development and SaaS product, scalability is everything. Software engineering has allowed us to build products that work under varying loads.
Thanks to the introduction of cloud platforms such as Azure and AWS, scaling a project as the userbase grows is simple. You no longer have to hook up a server yourself.
In terms of code, performance has become a major focus in both front and backend development. Web developers now have to understand how to manage large datasets whilst still providing a great user experience.
Accessibility and usability
Google now includes core web vitals as a ranking factor for pages and posts. Included in this are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP measures how fast past page loads
- First Input Delay (FID): FID measure how fast your page becomes interactive
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS measure how much your pages shifts around when loading.
I’ve included a link at the bottom for you to explore these in more detail. In short, good scores on these mean your webpage is easy to use.
Programmers specialize in helping business owners optimize these and it has made software engineers even more important in the race to the top of Google.
Accessibility is now more important than ever. Google Chrome provides a built-in tool for developers to measure how accessible their sites are.
Without software engineering, many disabled users wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the things the internet has to offer. They have been crucial in the fight to open the internet to everyone.
There is an awesome free accessibility course by Google on Udacity. It lets you use a screenreader and experience the web from the perspective of someone with a visual impairment.
It’s an absolute must for every front-end developer:
Security is a hot topic. Software engineering has become more important than ever because people can access your apps from any device and any location.
It means there are a lot of moving parts and constructing a security policy that is robust enough to stand up to the test is crucial.
For WordPress pages, this can include having security plugins to prevent high-frequency network attacks. Other apps may need specialist authentication protection or data encryptions techniques.
A security lapse can be disastrous for big companies, so we need software engineers to protect our platforms.
Testing has become incredibly important over the last decade. There has been an enormous drive in the industry to increase standards. One of the key ways this has been achieved is by improving testing.
It’s easy to settle into the groove and try to spew out as much code as possible. However, it may not be robust. New features and improvements have to be tested to make sure they don’t break existing code.
By putting in the effort early on, software engineering teams save time and money by preventing failures down the line.
There are various types of tests. The most robust are end-to-end tests that test how an app integrates. On the other end, there are unit tests that evaluate specific functionality. The most robust apps have a mixture of both.
Automating parts of the testing saves time and money and is a good smoke test to check if things have gone wrong after features are added.
QA is now on a journey to shift left to be more involved earlier on in development and spot defects at the start of the process.
The combination of automated and manual testing is important for the future of software development and producing great products.
Overall, software engineering is incredibly important. It has changed nearly every aspect of modern society and continues to allow us to achieve incredible things. Billion-dollar businesses are built off the simple web and mobile apps that deliver fantastic value to the users.
We will continue to need software engineers as the world continues to modernize and technology seeps into even more aspects of our, life.