Why Adaptability in Software Engineering Is So Important

What does it mean to have adaptability in software engineering? How does this demonstrate why adaptability is important in the workplace?

Adaptability in software engineering means successfully handling and creating change, including changes in technology, workflow, or responsibilities. Learning how to be more adaptive can help you grow in your career in any industry.

Learn more about the value of adaptability at work and how to develop adaptive leadership skills with these insights from the field of software engineering.

Why Adaptability Is Important for Engineers

One essential skill for engineers and engineering managers is adaptability, the ability to handle and create change. Adaptability in software engineering is important because the field is constantly evolving, and you must keep up with these changes to succeed. If you’re trying to figure out how to develop adaptive leadership skills as an engineer, you likely have an advantage because you’re already used to the technology industry’s constant evolution. You can apply that mindset to your managerial style if applicable, helping your team and the company become more flexible and successful.

Though adaptability in software engineering is important, business experts say adaptation is essential for all industries, not just the tech industry, because change is getting faster and more ubiquitous. It’s difficult for company leaders to guide their companies through such uncertainty— especially in industries that don’t continually evolve, as their leaders aren’t used to handling change. To adapt to fast, ubiquitous change, embrace continual learning: Learn new things whenever possible, and use that knowledge to improve the company. By modeling this behavior, you encourage your subordinates to do the same and make the whole company more adaptable.

Here we’ll discuss the two aspects of adaptability in software engineering that apply across disciplines: handling change and creating change. 

Handling Change

You’ll have to adapt frequently throughout your career. Often, you’ll have to adapt because your superiors requested you start a new project, requiring you to change your schedule and plans. If you can’t turn your superiors down, you must reevaluate your plans and make new ones that allow you to incorporate their request. One reason why adaptability is important in the workplace is that business leaders often have shifting priorities based on external factors.

To ease this process, expect and plan for change. Break your projects into mini-projects, so if you do have to abandon the final steps, you still get value from the steps you completed along the way. Say, for instance, you’re assigned to make an app with detailed visuals. You expect change, so you break it into mini-projects: A simple version of the game, with the base code and simple visuals, and the full, detailed version. Your team completes the first mini-project, so when your superiors request that you start working on a new project, you can pivot to the new project and release the simpler version of the game, ensuring the company gets some value from your work. Adaptability in software engineering allows you to create value at every step of the development process.

When Change Becomes Damaging

While change is an important element of success in many industries and a key part of adaptability in software engineering, some business experts warn that too much change can be damaging. Bosses who constantly change their goals—which in the software engineering industry often translates to requesting new projects—are difficult to work with. For instance, they may blame you for not meeting their expectations when doing so was impossible because those expectations kept changing.

Experts suggest two methods of handling this kind of change: First, ensure you understand your boss’s expectations by raising specific queries—for instance, what are the exact features they want to be included—and recording their responses. Second, regularly check in to review your boss’s expectations. These methods ensure you have as much information and time as possible to make the adapting process easier.

In addition, these tactics may help you break your project into mini-projects: You can use the detailed information from your questions to make sure the whole project’s most important elements are completed in the first mini-project. Plus, knowing immediately when your boss’s priorities change can help you determine whether you have time to complete your current mini-project or if you must abandon it immediately.

Creating Change

As you progress in your career, you’ll likely become responsible for creating positive change as you gain more control over how that department operates. This is where knowing how to develop adaptive leadership skills is vitally important. You can create positive change by combining your specialized knowledge with your understanding of the company as a whole. When you understand the company’s overall goals and issues, you can direct the department to adapt in ways that help the company meet those goals and resolve those issues.

For example, say your company is having trouble filling a high volume of orders. You direct the engineering department to develop a new computer system that organizes the orders in a way that’s easier to use and understand. Changing the system helps the sales departments fill orders faster, which improves the company by increasing customer satisfaction and profit. This is where adaptability in software engineering can benefit the entire company.

This process is a holistic business approach—the practice of looking at a company as a whole when problem-solving or making decisions, rather than considering departments separately. This is a relatively new business approach, some business experts say, though holistic health (paying attention to your whole body to stay healthy) has been practiced since the 4th Century BC. In addition to helping you meet your goals and resolve issues, using a holistic business approach can help you understand how different departments impact each other and improve consistency across your company.

Why Adaptability in Software Engineering Is So Important

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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