Software Engineering vs Software Management

Reading Time: 2 minutes Before getting into discussions about SEMAT I need to talk about a related topic I think will

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Before getting into discussions about SEMAT I need to talk about a related topic I think will clarify my point of view on the initiative.

Clues to succeed in a Machine Learning project

In November 1990, Mary Shaw published in IEEE Software a great, very influential paper titled “Prospects for an Engineering Discipline of Software”. In November 2009, she published an update of her view on the subject titled “Continuing Prospects for an Engineering Discipline of Software”. This short article is also very interesting and I would like to extract a paragraph from it.

Talking about CMM, Shaw says: “Software has engineering challenges aplenty, and mislabeling management and process issues as “engineering” diverts attention from the equally important technical issues of creating a systematic, scientific basis for an engineering discipline. Our prospects would be better if we’d recognize the former as “software management” allowing the latter to fully occupy the mindspace of “software engineering.” No other engineering discipline suffers this confusion. As for our field’s maturity, whenever someone says, “We don’t need technical advances; we need a better process,” that’s a sign that production skills haven’t yet brought us to a fully mature commercial practice.”

Commercial practice, according to Shaw, is the previous step to Engineering Discipline, where we have a strong and widely accepted scientific basis. I think that Shaw is right in that equaling software process issues to software engineering is wrong and misleading. And that mistake is one of the reasons why some people, who in my humble opinion are also wrong, say that “the whole engineering approach to developing software is wrong”.

If you are to believe in the SEMAT initiative, you have to agree on the definitions that Shaw presents on those two papers. In an MIT course I found a definition of engineering that is very simple: “Engineering is purposeful science”.

As I do agree with Shaw’s definitions, I think the SEMAT initiative is headed in the right direction. More to come…


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