Software development is a modern invention, dating back to a theory proposed by Alan Turing in 1935. Since then, many advances have revolutionized the computing landscape. This has led to very large and complex software engineering projects. As a software engineering project grows in complexity, so too grows the need for a structured approach in development. Much like any engineering project, a software project must be carefully planned and executed by a coordinated team of experts. There are many techniques that aim to provide software developers with the tools they need to successfully manage a project. As the software engineering field matures, these management techniques become more refined. This changing landscape helps to ensure that complicated software systems are produced on time and on budget.
The Waterfall Process
In order to understand the current trends in software development practices, it helps to compare new techniques against the traditional technique known as the waterfall process. The waterfall process gets its name from the fact that water falls down in one direction. Similarly, the development process for the waterfall method follows one course. There are six steps in the waterfall process, each of which must be concluded before the next is begun. These steps are (in order): Requirements specification, Software design, Implementation and Integration, Testing, Deployment, and Maintenance. Revisions to the software require starting over from step one. This management technique has been used successfully in the past, but its rigid structure has been criticized as lacking the flexibility needed to produce code under a changing environment.
The Role of Computer Hardware Innovations on Software Development
Given the fast paced nature of the digital world, software developers must be aware of any major changes in the industry that may affect their project. A new piece of hardware may be released that upsets the code base of the project, necessitating major revisions before the project can be released. This volatile landscape requires a more flexible approach than what the waterfall method allows. Many modern software developers use the agile method of software management. This technique focuses on short development cycles. A single development cycle may be as short as a day. This is quite unlike the waterfall method, where the entire cycle may be measured in years. By creating short development cycles, programmers can quickly adapt to changes in project requirements. For example, a game production studio may want to upgrade their graphics engine to take advantage of the latest hardware innovations. By keeping development cycles short, these goals can be realized without losing months of work.
The trends in modern software development are toward shorter development cycles that focus on routine testing. After every cycle, a set of tests are run against the new code. Any bugs are discovered right away, and they can be fixed while the code is still fresh in the programmers’ minds. This allows robust, error-free code to be produced in the ever changing digital environment. Agile development practices help software engineers produce high quality software that takes advantage of modern computer hardware. This continually pushes the envelope and results in tremendous achievements in software engineering. The trend away from inflexible software development practices allows smaller teams to accomplish more productive work, since less time is wasted pursuing dead ends. This can lead to tremendous savings in the costs of software development, which help make a company more competitive on the open market.