Software Engineering vs Software Development: What Does Your Team Need

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Rafael Timbó
Rafael Timbó
Chief Technology Officer

Table of Contents

There are some key differences between software engineering vs software development. Understanding these differences can help clearly define your needs.
Published on
July 18, 2022
Updated on
April 11, 2024

Whether you own and operate a tech company or you are working on an app or other software for your business, you may need a software developer or software engineer for your team. Knowing the difference will help you find the right people to enhance your team and meet your overall business goals.

Your team may create a variety of apps and programs that integrate with other software to make it more functional. Or you might offer a company-specific app that makes doing business with you easier for your customers. Either way, a software engineer or software developer can help you. Here is the lowdown on software engineering vs. software development and how to find the best people for your needs.

Difference Between Software Engineering vs Software Development

Both software engineers and software developers know how to code and build computer programs and apps. But each position is responsible for different parts of the planning and development process. They need different skills and experience to help your team move forward and meet its goals.

What Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer designs programs for computers and apps. They design, develop, test, and maintain software using a variety of coding languages that determine how the program will function. A good software engineer can program in multiple coding languages and is familiar with software architecture and everything that makes a program or app work.

They may also test programs created by other engineers, evaluating usability, finding bugs and other coding issues, and helping to improve the product. For your team, a software engineer can offer a variety of services, including:

  • Building your products or apps
  • Helping ensure that your platform communicates with other software for seamless integration
  • Updating to new software and systems
  • Problem solving with other members of your development team

With the rise of new technology like artificial intelligence (AI)-powered programs and robots, you may need a software engineer to help you with these assets. Your software engineer can program these assets, aiding them in the machine learning they need to function at their highest level. When programmed properly, AI-powered assets can help you automate different parts of your business.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

A software engineer is responsible for the following parts of your project:

  • Designing and maintaining the system
  • Managing the entire development process
  • Evaluating and testing new programs or apps
  • Writing and refining code
  • Optimizing software based on design recommendations
  • Building program architecture for the whole program or app

What Is a Software Developer?

Software developers are the creative brains behind computer programs and apps. They evaluate client needs and create solutions to solve them. Your software developer oversees the team, testing products and apps at different stages of the creative process, evaluating how the program or app meets end user needs and recommending modifications.

Your software developers will create the code and the design for different parts of the app or program, laying out how it will work. They will be responsible for mapping each part of the app to create a better understanding of the final product and its functionality, driving the user experience.

What Does a Software Developer Do?

Software developers are responsible for these parts of your product or your business as a whole:

  • Designing and building computer programs
  • Maintaining and refining individual parts of an overall program
  • Building underlying operating systems
  • Evaluating end user needs and creating solutions
  • Testing and refining programs to recommend improvements

How to Choose What You Need for the Development Process

Depending on your needs, you may need software developers and software engineers. You can figure out which position to hire for using a variety of factors. You may only need to fill one position, or you might need a team that includes a software engineer and multiple software developers. Take the following into consideration when determining whom to hire for your team.

Identify the Technical Skills Needed for the Job Responsibilities

Software development and software engineering require similar skill sets, but they may not be interchangeable. It’s important to know what skills you need on your team at the time so you can look for professionals who have right capabilities.

Technical skills of software engineers include:

  • Computer programming
  • Knowledge of multiple programming languages, such as Java, Python, PHP, C++, C#, Go, and Ruby
  • Operating systems
  • AI and machine learning
  • Data structure and algorithms
  • Databases
  • Testing

Technical skills of software developers include:

  • Coding languages such as Java, Python, and C++
  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Testing procedures
  • Operating systems
  • Debugging
  • Text editing software
  • Cloud computing
  • Database and SQL
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Git and GitHub

Check in with your project team to find out what skills are missing on the team and what kind of person you need to fill them.

Define Where You Are in the Development Process

How far you are in your program and/or app development process will be a factor in who you hire for your team. Software development vs. engineering professionals are brought in during different times in the process, since their roles and responsibilities cover specific parts of each project.

If you’re in the early stage or you’re interested in building an entirely new program, app, or platform from the ground up, you will need a software engineer. Software engineers work from a larger scale and have a wider range of freedom when it comes to designing and programming for each project. Your engineer can code the whole program to include many of the features you’re interested in exploring.

Once you’ve started building your program or app, you can bring in a software developer to help you refine it. Software developers are responsible for individual parts of the program, and they consider how the final product meets your end users’ needs.

Your software developers will be able to evaluate what you’ve built from an end-user standpoint, identifying bugs in the system and evaluating features your customers may not want. If you’re at the stage where you want to start tailoring your program to clients, a software developer can help you.

Determine the Knowledge You Are Looking For

Software engineers and software developers have different knowledge bases. Software developers need to know how to modify existing code and tailor it for the customer. They are familiar with the research and development process and know how to evaluate programs and apps from a real-world perspective. You may find a software developer that fits into your specific niche, like mobile app development or machine learning for AI.

A software engineer has a deeper breadth of programming and coding knowledge. The are able to apply engineering to programming and data management. Software engineers know how to code and write programs, but they also know how to evaluate and use analytics, test, and scale to refine each program.

What to Look For in Software Engineers

If you’ve evaluated your needs and you need a software engineer, look for someone with these hard and soft skills.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are a critical part of a software engineer’s job. They need to be able to analyze a variety of problems and develop solutions. If you’re in the early stages of development, your software engineer can help you evaluate problems you want to solve with your program or app and brainstorm features of your product that will provide these solutions.

They also need to identify problems during the programming process, so they can evaluate what’s not working with the code and fix it. There will likely be multiple solutions to each potential problem. You want to find a software engineer who can assess the pros and cons of each to determine which one is best for the project.

Once they have arrived at a solution, your software engineers should be able to clearly communicate their reasoning behind their decision to get stakeholders on board and move the project forward.

Communication Skills

Your software engineers will need to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, from the project manager to the company COO. They may also attend presentations to the client. When you’re looking for a software engineer, find someone with good communication skills.

You want team members who can articulately defend their decisions while being open to feedback and changes. Software engineering is also a highly technical job. Not everyone in the company will understand the intricate details involved in programming and executing a project. Your software engineer should be able to distill this information into simple terms to explain parts of the project to those without their technical knowledge.

Other communication skills that are beneficial to software engineers include:

  • Listening
  • Public speaking
  • Writing and editing reports

Project Management

You may need a software engineer to manage your project. Since they are responsible for holistic product design, they will likely manage projects, including smaller teams of software developers. To manage a project effectively, your software engineers should be able to delegate and hold people accountable to keep them on task.

If you’re looking for a project manager, find someone with leadership skills who can inspire team activity to complete the project on time. You may also look for people who have experience with risk management, particularly if you’re working for a high-security client. Examine resumes for meeting facilitation and budgeting skills, and find people who are comfortable tracking different team members.

Effective project managers can identify problems with the team that might delay the project. Find a software engineer who is comfortable solving these issues before they derail the project timeline.

Degree in Software Engineering

If you’re like most companies, you require your software engineers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, though some companies have done away with educational requirements to expand their talent pool. Although people who’ve grown up working with technology may be able to learn on the job, a bachelor’s degree covers everything your software engineers need to perform on the job.

You could find someone with a master’s degree for even more in-depth knowledge of software engineering. If your engineers will be working on complex programs or apps, find someone with a degree and experience with your particular programming language or skill.

While sifting through resumes, keep an eye out for professionals who have taken supplemental classes to keep their skills fresh. Tech is an ever-evolving field that moves fast. Find people who have various certifications and who are committed to continuing education.

Knowledge of the Software Development Life Cycle

Even if you’re not interested in a software engineer to manage projects, you should find people who know the development life cycle. That way, they're familiar with their potential scope of responsibilities depending on where you are with your particular project.

A software engineer working on a project in the maintenance phase will have different job duties than one working on a project in the planning phase. When you find people who know the software development life cycle, they can pivot more easily between projects. You might have a small but nimble team that needs to be flexible to develop new products and maintain existing ones.

If your team only works on products in part of the software development life cycle, you may consider someone who specializes in that function, but it’s good for your team to have an in-depth knowledge of every stage. You might consider someone with experience in design, implementation, and maintenance, or you could find a professional who specializes in design and analysis.

What to Look for in Software Developers

You may need someone to handle a specific part of your project or to refine existing products so they’re more aligned with your overall business goals. In this case, you would likely need a software developer. Consider the following when looking for your developers.

Extensive Knowledge and Experience With Coding Tasks

Software developers spend much more time evaluating, writing, and rewriting code, making tweaks that help improve a product’s functionality. Your software developers are responsible for writing, testing, debugging, and other tasks that help polish your program or app and make it ideal for the final customer.

They should know how to do these and other coding tasks quickly and efficiently. You don’t want a specialist who spends too much time trying to find bugs in a program because they’re not familiar with that particular task.

Understanding or Experience With Multiple Programming Languages

Software developers need experience with a variety of coding languages. Although your team may be using a specific language on their project, your developer may need to know another programming language to help your app or program integrate with other software.

Apps don’t function on their own, and they need to be compatible with multiple devices and operating systems. Finding software developers who know multiple programming languages will help you develop products that are seamless and work for your end users regardless of what device they are using to access these programs.

Soft Skills

Like software engineers, your software developers should have soft skills including analytical and communication skills. Since much of their time is spent debugging and maintaining software, they should know how to analyze problems when presented and find solutions for fixing them.

Your software developers may be responsible for fixing massive product failures that customers discovered after rollout. They should be able to identify potential causes and devise creative solutions.

Since your software developers need to know how to make a program or app work for the customer, they will need to be skilled at interdepartmental communication. They might not be managing the project, but they should have enough information to modify a program as needed so the product functions correctly for customers.

Which Is Best for Your Development Staff?

Now that you’re familiar with the key differences between software engineers and software developers, you have a better idea of what you need to round out your team. You may need a project manager with broad knowledge who can help you develop new programs or apps for your company. In this case, you would hire a software engineer.

If you need to round out your team with professionals who can help you test, modify, and refine your products, you may need a software developer. You could build a team of developers to work on different parts of your apps and programs, making them more robust for your customers.

Whatever your needs, consider working with Revelo. We are a tech company with a robust network of professional software engineers based in Latin America who are filling project needs for companies all over the globe. Our English-speaking software developers and engineers are educated, experienced, and skilled. We have over 300,000 technology professionals available to work full-time remotely for businesses in seven countries.

Everyone in our network is pre-vetted, saving you the time and hassle of evaluating multiple resumes to find someone with the skill set you need. You will experience a quicker time to hire, with professionals ready to jump into the team in as little as three weeks.

If you’re interested in finding out how you can build your team, contact us.

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