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What software engineering can learn from soccer

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We've talked about software quality for a long time, developing numerous software quality assurance approaches in the hope of making our software increasingly better. Charles Mann, contributing editor of MIT's Technology Review, points out that other technologies-televisions, cars, airplanes, bridges-have improved over time as their engineering matured; he asks why software has not. In the February 2001 issue of Communications of the ACM, Edsger Dijkstra said that software's biggest challenge is "how not to make a mess of it." So, where have we gone wrong? To answer this question, we can look at how other disciplines learn and grow. Software development is as much an art as a science, and we learn lessons from both perspectives. Many of us think of ourselves as engineers: we train in engineering departments and rely on engineering tools, techniques, and quantitative methods to guide us. But our work's artistic side-which those who promote agile methods often emphasize-plays an important role, too. As good software developers, we are grounded in artistic engineering activities such as modeling and design. Our good people skills enable us to work with customers and on teams. And we need good instincts to select the best approaches and products to use.

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Software, IEEE  (Volume:19 ,  Issue: 6 )