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How Are IT and Software Engineering Different?

September 12, 2022 in Engineering Around Travel

It has become a minor pet peeve of mine over the common misunderstanding between the Information Technology (IT) industry and software engineering (or software production). These fields are entirely different, yet folk associate all computer work with IT jobs these days. So let’s set the records straight by exploring IT and software engineering.

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The Information Technology Field

The IT field was born to help guide businesses, governments, and people to help adopt technology solutions to aid them in their daily beat. IT professionals learn the technology trends, solutions, and products and adapt them to support their customers accordingly. IT professionals have in-depth knowledge of their customer base and tend to be technology enthusiasts. As a result, they learn high-level and end-user-facing details that help them customize and solve real problems with many technology market products.

IT Professionals will help their direct clients adopt these technologies with training, direct support, and hardware. The value IT Professionals provide in a world with 1000s of technology solutions, and a rapidly changing landscape is immense. Further, technology assistance is not exactly a part of the animal kingdom’s natural order. Humankind continues to make impressive and fast-paced evolutions for efficiency and cost savings. We cannot live without the world of IT.

Further, “IT” is a genuinely mega field. We break that entire field down to professionals dealing with hardware, training, server management, cloud infrastructure, data management, software, etc. The field is vast and branches out to many different specializations. However, one important thing to note with these specializations is that they are using existing products. Much as a car mechanic does not build the car, they work on your car and can fix it up nicely. However, they probably do not know to design and build their car.

Product Development

Software engineering is the blanket field of building complex software as a product. Software is nothing more than a dynamic program that attempts to solve a problem through automation. It can achieve excellent results by giving you a new streaming service, new video games, a new way to listen to music, a way to drive your car itself, and a new productivity app on your phone. Software is a product built to solve problems and provide end users value. Building software is no easy task and requires a lot more than the ability to code.

Generally, teams of engineers, designers, and product owners come together to build a vision of a problem that needs to be solved. The team uses their experience and know-how to design the solution at a high level before it ever starts getting built. Prototypes of a product allow product teams to get early feedback on the product. Resourcing is discussed, and ultimately, once the design is locked in. Then, the engineering team will carry forward with building the software.

The cycle of building the product can take quite some time, with surprises and pivots during the journey. The original design and plan of the team will hold up better if the team is experienced and has high trust in each other. Ultimately, the final product delivered and ready to be consumed by end users is the pride and joy of the entire product team. Building software is not easy, though. We have seen more and more in all industries dealing with software, half-baked and buggy products. This will continue to be the case if we don’t support the software product teams to continue taking the time they need to deliver the right quality products. We also need to stop giving our money to subpar quality products to discourage it.

The Nutshell

To summarize, at the surface level, IT is a large industry that uses software and hardware technology to aid and improve human capabilities. Software engineering is also a large industry around building software as a product for direct end users. Those end users of the software products could be IT, gamers, consumers, mobile users, etc. Hopefully, I helped set those records straight; now, everyone understands the market space better!

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