Software Development

People both inside and outside IT often ask what is software development. It is a process to create computer software using one or more specific programming languages that provides functionality to address particular business or personal objectives. The development of software is usually a planned initiative with a number of steps and stages that result in the creation of operational software. Hence a good definition is: “a process with a set of activities that create computer software products, including their design, development, testing, and deployment.” Software itself is a set of instructions or programs that tell a computer what to do. It is independent of hardware and makes computers programmable.

Since the advent of software product development in the 1960s, many different approaches have been used for developing the software; the most common today uses an agile approach to development. An agile software development definition includes an approach where development requirements and solutions are delivered through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customers.  Unlike the more traditional and often inflexible development software examples, agile encourages and promotes flexible responses to change, by advocating adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement.

Software is developed using computer programming, carried out by a software developer. A software developer definition is “a person that creates software, either by themselves or in conjunction with others.” What do software developers do day-to-day? They use processes and techniques to create working software, including requirements definition, data flow design, code design, process flow design, flowcharting, code creation, software development testing, and debugging. The end-to-end process is sometimes referred to as the software development life cycle (SDLC). The term ‘full stack software developer’ is someone that develops both user-facing software and server software, including database development and the development of application interfaces.

What are the Different Types of Software Development?

There are several different types. They can be grouped into four basic categories:

  • Application development that provides functionality for users to perform tasks. Examples include office productivity suites, media players, social media tools, and booking systems. Applications can run on the user’s own personal computing equipment or on servers hosted in the cloud or by an internal IT department. Media streaming development is one example of application development for the cloud.
  • System software development to provide the core functions such as operating systems, storage systems, databases, networks, and hardware management.
  • Development tools that provide software developers with the tools to do their job, including code editors, compilers, linkers, debuggers, and test harnesses.
  • Embedded software development that creates the software used to control machines and devices, including automobiles, phones, and robots.

Each of the categories of the different types of development typically attracts different types of software developers, with different personalities, characteristics, and specialisms. For example, medical device software development requires software developers that are fully conversant with developing safety-critical systems. This is a specialism that a typical application software developer is unlikely to possess, but which is critical for all aspects of healthcare software development. A music software developer will need to have musical ability, as well as a grounding in formal music theory, to be successful in developing software for the notation and performance of music. A security software developer needs to have more than just development skills, they must also be experienced in all aspects of IT security. Mobile development specializes in developing application software for mobile devices such as phones and PDAs. Enterprise software development is used to develop a suite of applications that are used across an organization.

The software that is developed can remain proprietary within the organization, or be sold to others. It can also be made freely and widely available to anybody that wants to use it; this is called open source development.

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