What do I call myself this morning?

I can’t think of any of other discipline that is as discombobulated as the software industry.   We have an identity crisis because we can’t even figure out what to call ourselves.

So what do we call solving customers problems using  computers? Is it software development, computer science, information technology (IT), information management (IM) or is software engineering.  These terms are used interchangeably. 

When it doubt we should look it up, so let’s turn to wikipedia and look up these terms.

“Software development is the set of activities that results in software products. Software development may include research, new development, modification, reuse, re-engineering, maintenance, or any other activities that result in software products.”

I really like this first definition of software development because it is vague enough not to be tied down or held accountable.  No one can really figure out what you are suppose to be doing.  I really dig any job title that includes the word “research”  because “research” officially means screwing off at work.

But wait… how about this definition of software engineering.   

Software engineering is the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches.

It is really cool to say, “I am a software engineer” at some cocktail party.  It is like saying, I studied engineering in college and I am really smart.  By the way, most software engineers never studied engineering.   The problem with this definition is there could be some accountability with the words, “quantifiable” and “disciplined.”  You may want to avoid this definition at work, but use it to impress your friends and relatives. 

Maybe this definition of IT is better.  It is pretty vague and it is best to have a vague job description, so you can never be held accountable.

Information technology (IT), as defined by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), is “the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware.”

Wow! not sure what any of that really means.

I really dig the definition of information management below because it is the vaguest of them all.  It would be perfect if we could get rid of that last sentence because, well,  it sounds like some accountability to me. 

Information management (IM) is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. This sometimes involves those who have a stake in, or a right to that information. Management means the organization of and control over the structure, processing and delivery of information.

In the end, I think it is best to just keep changing titles and especially organizational names.  If you were the department of Information Management this month, then you need to be the Software Development next month, then the IT department.  I would avoid using the term Software Engineer unless it is to impress someone that you don’t actually work with and does not really understand this thing we do with computers.

That reminds of the time my daughter was in kindergarten and introduced me and said, “my dad works with computers.”   Now that my friends is vague and I like it!


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