Precision machine tooling fuelled the industrial revolution

From Iron to Algorithms: How development frameworks are transforming software engineering

Ben Melbourne profile picture

Ben Melbourne

3 May 2024 · 3 min read

Software engineering is a new discipline in the grander scheme of humans building things. Compared to other engineering fields in the built environment (such as civil, mechanical, electrical, etc), it is only starting to emerge from it’s nascent steps.

Just as these other disciplines changed radically during the industrial revolution in the 18th century, software development is in the process of going through our own period of rapid change, transitioning from the era of individual craftsmanship to industrialisation and automation. Software is starting to unlock the benefits of innovations that characterised the industrial revolution.

Trends that reshaped engineering

During the Industrial Revolution, the interplay of specialisation, standardisation, modularisation, and task automation drove the transformation of our world.

In manufacturing practices, specialisation allocated specific tasks to workers, enhancing efficiency by allowing them to become highly proficient in their roles. Standardisation brought uniformity to the production process, ensuring that methods and components were consistent across the board. Modularisation utilised these standardised components to facilitate easier assembly and maintenance, increasing production flexibility. Automation further boosted these efficiencies by mechanising repetitive tasks, which enabled quicker and more precise manufacturing. Collectively, these advancements dramatically increased productivity and established the foundational practices for modern industrial operations, fostering a cycle of continuous improvement.

In parallel, the field of engineering itself was evolving. Specialisation within traditional engineering disciplines allowed engineers to develop deeper expertise in specific areas, enhancing both the quality and efficiency of their output. Standardisation in engineering brought about uniform approaches and components that enabled large-scale production and the interchangeability of parts, streamlining construction and manufacturing processes. Modularisation in engineering contexts meant that complex systems could be broken down into manageable segments that could be independently designed, manufactured, and assembled. Automation in engineering reduced the need for manual labor, particularly for repetitive tasks, thereby not only speeding up the production process but also reducing costs. These changes not only transformed how products were made but also profoundly impacted the engineering profession, shaping modern engineering practices.

The revolution within of software engineering

Software development is experiencing a similar transition that mirrors the shifts in traditional engineering from craftsmanship to industrialisation. These trends—specialisation, standardisation, modularisation, and automation—have deeply impacted software development. Initially dominated by highly skilled individuals manually coding and managing every aspect of software, the industry has moved towards more standardised and automated environments. This change facilitates the handling of larger and more complex software projects with increased efficiency.

Specialisation within the field has led to roles such as front-end, back-end, and database engineers, each focusing on a specific segment of the development process, much like the division of labour in factories.

Standardisation has been embraced through the adoption of universal programming standards, coding conventions, and frameworks that ensure consistency and quality across codebases and among developers worldwide.

Modularisation has become a cornerstone of software architecture, enabling developers to create scalable and maintainable systems that can evolve over time without significant overhauls. The use of libraries, services, and microservices architecture, allows for building applications from smaller, reusable, independently developed components, echoing the modular assembly techniques in physical engineering.

Finally, automation has revolutionised how software is developed, tested, and deployed, with continuous integration and deployment pipelines automating repetitive tasks such as testing and deployment. These automated processes increase production speed, reduce errors, and lower costs, contributing to a more dynamic and efficient software development lifecycle.

Development frameworks: a modern revolution

In the context of these evolving practices, application frameworks such as Ash embody these historical advancements in engineering principles. The use of a resource-oriented approach and a declarative setup to simplifies the management of application components, promoting standardisation and specialisation. Additionally, their extensibility through extensions and the automation of routine tasks such as API generation reflect the modularisation and automation trends that have long benefited traditional engineering disciplines. These frameworks represent a contemporary manifestation of these enduring principles, tailored for the dynamic and evolving field of software engineering.

As software engineering continues to evolve, leveraging robust frameworks like Ash that incorporate proven engineering principles can significantly advance the development and management of modern software systems. This approach not only ensures that software development is efficient and scalable but also that it continues to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing technological landscape.

Ben Melbourne profile picture


Ben Melbourne

Ben is a customer-centric and commercially-minded product leader with a passion for building innovative products and growing successful companies. He helps companies improve their ability to define, align and execute on their product strategy. He loves working with companies that have a strong purpose and mission, along with a clear strategy for achieving these. Companies that have a relentless focus on customers, a culture of curiosity, collaboration and continuous improvement. Either that, or aspire to become like this.

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