Software Development

Align people, tools, and best practices to rapidly create quality software.

What is software development?

Software development is the process of defining, developing, testing, deploying, and managing changes to software over the course of its useful life. It includes all the processes involved in creating and maintaining a software product or software embedded in systems or products, from inception through release and ongoing maintenance. Software development is a core competency for any company who sells software, software-based services, or smart products—a global market valued at $429 billion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% (2022 to 2030).

Why is software development important?

Software development is a key driver of innovation throughout the global economy. From automobiles to cell phones, thermostats, and medical devices, software provides key differentiating capabilities. Software has played a key role in the greatest advances of the past decade from the Industrial Internet of Things to genetic sequencing, computer vision, robotic surgery, and autonomous vehicles. Looking forward, software development will continue to power innovation in products and services.

What are the basic types of software?

System software

System software is used to run computer hardware and provide basic services to the applications that run on top of it. Operating system software is an example of system software. System software is typically written in a low-level computer language to maximize speed and efficiency.

Application software

Application software provides functionality to users. Enterprise software, personal software, and mobile apps are all examples of application software. Application software may be written in high-level languages, generated from design models or assembled from pre-built components.

Embedded software

Embedded software is special-purpose software that monitors and controls microprocessors used in airplanes, automobiles, thermostats, and other physical products. Embedded software is often packaged in electronic control units (ECUs) to deliver sets of functionality. For example, different ECUs provide automotive braking, navigation, safety, and other capabilities. Embedded software typically requires a real-time response, mandating a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) and programming language.

Popular software development methodologies

Waterfall Method

Waterfall methodology is a linear approach to software development. The project starts with a requirements phase, which is fully defined and approved before the project moves on to design phase, which is followed by the implementation phase. Due to the length of time between initial concept and final implementation, the waterfall model is not resilient to change and is most appropriate for highly rigorous projects with clearly defined requirements and a low risk of failure.

Agile Method

Agile methodology is a project management approach that prioritizes flexibility and customer satisfaction. Agile methodology utilizes short iterations called sprints, collaborative planning, regular reviews called retrospectives, and continuous delivery of value. Agile methods are ideal for projects with unclear or evolving requirements, as its iterative approach clarifies user needs as it delivers value. Many frameworks provide additional guidance, including scrum, kanban, and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Agile at Scale

Hybrid Method

A hybrid model is any development process that combines elements of multiple methodologies. For example, a common approach of product development teams is for design, electrical, and mechanical engineers to adopt the V-model and deliver product versions at regular intervals. Software teams follow Agile practices and deliver updates every three weeks. Periodically, both sets of teams come together to integrate work and conduct a product-wide retrospective. A hybrid process can combine the best elements of each methodology to deliver complex products with speed and rigor.

V-Model

The V-model is a project management model often used to manage large-scale, complex projects that involve multiple engineering disciplines. It is also known as the verification and validation model. The left side of the “V” decomposes requirements into designs and detailed engineering specifications, while the right side of the “V” integrates, validates, and verifies each lifecycle stage. The V-model is a useful framework for managing complex products that require a high degree of rigor.

Software development best practices

Agility - Respond rapidly to evolving customer and market needs. Agile practices optimize agility through short sprints and frequent deliveries.

Analytics - Capture and analyze team metrics that align activities with the highest priorities and establish a foundation for continuous improvement.

Change Management - Manage changes to requirements, code, and test assets to rapidly cascade changes through the team. Branch and merge assets to easily create variants.

Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD) - Merge code changes into a shared repository that is integrated, compiled, tested, and delivered at regular intervals, accelerating software delivery.

DevOps - Adopt automated, repeatable release management processes that accelerate the delivery of value to customers.

Security - Manage the chain of custody and authorization of strategic software assets through audit trails, e-signatures, and other governance techniques.

Requirements Management - Iteratively analyze and define the scope of a solution and develop detailed specifications.

Test and Quality Management - Validate and verify results at each stage to improve outcomes and reduce the cost of quality.

Release planning - Plan and manage the distribution of software to end users.

Software development tools and solutions

Codebeamer is a new generation application lifecycle management (ALM) solution for simplifying complex software development at scale. The open platform extends ALM workflows with powerful Agile software engineering capabilities. Codebeamer provides requirements, risk, and test management, best practice workflows, integration with your development toolchain, and support for Agile and V-model methodologies. With Codebeamer, teams can realize value from day one, tailoring the tool to their needs. Simplify regulatory compliance with pre-configured templates. Enjoy 360-degree traceability from idea to delivery. Codebeamer builds on the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) standard to integrate with the PTC engineering digital thread.

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Frequently asked questions

What are the stages of the software development process?

  • Requirements Analysis
  • Design
  • Implement
  • Test
  • Document
  • Deployment and Maintenance
  • Reuse

How has software development evolved over time?

Software development techniques are always changing. In the past, programmers wrote applications from start to finish. Today, software engineers use Agile methods to quickly deliver value over short iterations. They may generate code from design models or utilize reusable, off-the-shelf components to achieve their objectives in a fraction of the time and cost. In the future, AI-assisted engineering will bring about yet another wave of software development efficiency.

How is embedded software development different?

Embedded software development differs from application development in many ways. Embedded software is typically:

  • Packaged in Electronic Control Units (ECU's) that deliver discrete functionality and cannot be repurposed
  • Used to control parts that are not easily updated and must operate flawlessly over the life of the product
  • Extremely complex, requiring the collaboration of multiple requirements, design, development, and test stakeholders
  • Mission- and safety-critical, requiring the highest levels of quality and reliability
  • Built using an RTOS and programming language to maximize speed and efficiency
  • Designed to operate within a low-power consumption environment

How does software development in regulated industries differ?

Regulated industries, including aerospace and defense, medical and pharmaceutical, and transportation and automotive, impose specialized requirements for building safety-critical products. These requirements govern both the safety and quality of the end products, as well as the rigor of the software development process itself. In general, software development in regulated industries requires greater attention to governance, security, and auditability.