Would you fly in a plane designed by a craftsman or would you prefer your aircraft to be designed by engineers? Engineering is the application of iterative, empirical, practical science to real-world problems. Craftsmanship is a wonderful thing, and as a reaction to the terrible abuses of the term Engineering in software development Software Craftsmanship has helped in our learning of what really works.
The term “Software Engineering” has gained a bad reputation. It implies “Big up-front design” and “Mathematically provable models” in place of working code. However, that is down to our interpretation, not a problem with “Engineering” as a discipline.
In recent years we have discovered what really works in software development. Not everyone practices approaches like Continuous Delivery, but it is widely seen as representing the current state-of-the-art in software development. This is because at its root CD is about the application of an iterative, practical, empirical, maybe even science-based approach to solving problems in software development. Is this a form of software engineering?
Software isn’t bridge-building, it is not car or aircraft development either, but then neither is Chemical Engineering, neither is Electrical Engineering. Engineering is different in different disciplines. Maybe it is time for us to begin thinking about retrieving the term “Software Engineering” maybe it is time to define what our “Engineering” discipline should entail.