What is software development?
By its definition, SD is a collective term referring to a set of computer science-based activities related to processes of creation, design, deployment, and support of software.
The software itself is a program or a set of instructions that “tell” computers what to do, thus making them programmable. Software can be divided into three basic categories:
- System software – includes core functions, e.g., operating systems, hardware management, utilities, and disk management;
- Programming tools – consists of code creation programming tools such as compilers, debuggers, linkers, programming languages, and even text editors;
- Application software (or applications/apps for short) – these are programs that helps users perform various tasks, e.g., data management software, time organisers/productivity suits, security programs, and media players/editors. This category also includes web and mobile applications used for shopping, socialising etc. and games.
Lately, a fourth category has emerged – embedded software. This sort of programs is used for communicating with and controlling devices/machines which aren’t strictly computer systems, like industrial robots, cars, telecommunications networks etc. The common trait among them (and their software) is the possibility of connecting them to the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).
The primary conductors of software development are software engineers, programmers (coders) and software developers. The dynamics between them vary depending on the specific development departments and communities, but their roles frequently interact and overlap. But SD isn’t strictly reserved for them – many professionals like device fabricators, scientists, hardware makers etc. have their part in creating software code. SD also isn’t confined to just the traditional IT industries – since 2016 less than half of overall software development is conducted by strictly IT companies (based on an article by the Brookings Institute).
Commercial vs custom software development
Although it might seem that SD is SD no matter what, the exact process, and thus the end product, varies depending on the target audience.
The so-called commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) is developed for a broad range of requirements, which allows for marketing and distributing it commercially. A good example of such software is Microsoft Office.
On the other hand, custom software is designed, created, deployed, and maintained for a specific group of functions, users, or organisations (some of it is even developed for a single recipient). This can be anything from a simple work organiser for a specific company, to software that controls Mars rovers.
Development process steps
In most cases, SD is conducted using the following steps:
- Selecting software development methodology (e.g., DevOps, Waterfall, Agile development, Rapid Application Development (RAD)) to set a framework for the software development project.
- Gathering and documenting requirements for users/stakeholders.
- Building or choosing a basic architecture for the software.
- Designing possible solutions for problems identified in requirements, often in the form of storyboards or process models.
- Conducting early prototyping, validation and simulations on a model build with modelling tools (based on a modelling language like UML or SysML).
- Coding in a programming language best suited for the future program. This step should also include reviews by team and peers to avoid possible issues and speed up the production of quality software.
- Testing the design and coding in pre-planned scenarios and conducting performance tests.
- Building distinct software’s versions and establishing QA priorities/release criteria to find and remove possible defects.
- Deploying the completed software for use and providing customer service.
- If necessary – migrating data from existing data sources and applications to new/updated software.
- Constant measuring and managing the software to maintain its quality/delivery throughout its lifecycle, plus evaluating the whole process of its development (e.g., by using the CMM – Capability Maturity Model).
How can software development help improve your business?
Since nowadays almost every business model must include internet marketing to be even remotely successful, the use of dedicated software programs, platforms, and mobile apps has become a crucial part of company life.
Deploying a well-build software, especially one made specifically to satisfy your company’s needs, can hugely impact your revenue. Here are some of the most valuable benefits of incorporating proper SD:
- Better accessibility – with the right platform, your services will be accessible from both computers and mobile devices. A flexible, mobile-friendly interface is crucial in today’s business, as more than half of internet users do their shopping via phones and other mobile devices. This boosts the so-called User Experience (or UX) and help you build a user-friendly brand.
- Easier marketing – with an online platform, you can promote your services/products practically anytime and everywhere in a quick and additional expense-free way (via the so-called on-the-go marketing). Your clients will be able to access your ads whenever and wherever they want.
- Having a direct communication channel – with the right app (e.g., a live chat implemented on your web page) you can have a direct line for communicating with your customers. With this, you can help them with their doubts and problems almost instantly, boosting your brand reputation on the fly. This process can be additionally automated, so you won’t have to answer thousands of questions asked in the same second – a well-knitted chatbot can deal with most of them, redirecting the conversation to you only when it’s necessary.
- Increasing customers’ engagement – higher-quality software (be it a website or an app) gives you more ways to get your clients engaged, thus making them more likely to return later. A satisfied, loyal customer will not only buy more from you but also bring some friends and family, basically giving you free advertisement.
Software development in business – final thoughts
Living in the Information Technology era has some unique benefits but also its sets of obstacles. To stay relevant, businesses must constantly keep up with the market trends, which in large part means they’ll need to create programs and apps that can keep their customers engaged and tend to their needs. Silicon Cities can help you with managing your IT, implementing innovations, and picking the best technical solutions for your company.