What is software engineering

Software engineering is an engineering discipline that is concerned with all aspects of software production from the early stages of system specification through to maintaining the system after it has gone into use. In this definition, there are two key phrases:

  1. Engineering discipline Engineers make things work. They apply theories, methods, and tools where these are appropriate. However, they use them selectively and always try to discover solutions to problems even when there are no applicable theories and methods. Engineers also recognize that they must work to organizational and financial constraints so they look for solutions within these constraints.
  2. All aspects of software production Software engineering is not just concerned with the technical processes of software development. It also includes activities such as software project management and the development of tools, methods, and theories to support software production.

According to the IEEE (1991)

According to the IEEE (1991), software engineering is defined as follows:

  1. The application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation and maintenance of software; that is, the application of engineering to software.
  2. The study of approaches as in (1).

Engineering is about getting results of the required quality within the schedule and budget. This often involves making compromises-engineers cannot be perfectionists. People writing programs for themselves, however, can spend as much time as they wish on the program development. In general, software engineers adopt a systematic and organized approach to their work, as this is often the most effective way to produce high-quality software. However, engineering is all about selecting the most appropriate method for a set of circumstances so a more creative, less formal approach to development may be effective in some circumstances. Less formal development is particularly appropriate for the development of web-based systems, which requires a blend of software and graphical design skills.

Software engineering is important for two reasons

  1. More and more, individuals and society rely on advanced software systems. We need to be able to produce reliable and trustworthy systems economically and quickly.
  2. It is usually cheaper, in the long run, to use software engineering methods and techniques for software systems rather than just write the programs as if it was a personal programming project. For most types of systems, the majority of costs are the costs of changing the software after it has gone into use.

The systematic approach that is used in software engineering is sometimes called a software process. A software process is a sequence of activities that leads to the production of a software product. There are four fundamental activities that are common to all software processes. These activities are:

  1. Software specification, where customers and engineers define the software that is to be produced and the constraints on its operation.
  2. Software development, where the software is designed and programmed.
  3. Software validation, where the software is checked to ensure that it is what the customer requires.
  4. Software evolution, where the software is modified to reflect changing customer and market requirements.

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