Process Patterns in Software Engineering: Types & Examples

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we'll take a look at the idea of process patterns in Software Engineering, what they are, their types and how they are used to solve problems, with the help of examples.

Managing Complexity

Developing software is a complex business, and it gets more so with each passing year. If you disagree, just take a look at the applications available on your cell phone or laptop. These applications have gotten more powerful, provide higher resolution displays, and include more and more features. It's a sign of the times! It only makes sense that larger, more significant systems would change in a similar fashion. But how do you deal with these changes? How do you implement these larger systems in a consistent, systematic fashion that ensures a high-quality result? One way is to employ Process Patterns.

What is a Process Pattern?

A pattern is a generalized set of predefined steps, that solve a specific problem or achieve a goal, in an organized fashion. You can think of patterns like cake recipes. If you follow them to the letter, you will get the exact same result you expect, a mouth-watering cake. Process patterns are similar, but they deal with a more specific topic. A process pattern is a group of proven steps, that complete a specific task or tasks, and provide a consistently favorable result for a common problem. In other words, they are a template for achieving your specific goal consistently.

Types of Process Patterns

There are many different process patterns that exist. In fact, you might say that there is one for every process situation. Instead of trying to enumerate them all, let's look at some general categories or types:

  • Phase - a process pattern of this type focuses on the overall flow of the problem or goal solution, and the major sections needed to complete it. If you think about the cake recipe example above, the process pattern's major sections might be: ingredient gathering, batter preparation, baking, cool down, and icing. A phase process pattern would be focused on enumerating these sections and ensuring that each is addressed correctly.
  • Stage - a process pattern of this type focuses on the actions or activities needed to realize each phase. Again, consider the cake recipe example above. A stage process pattern might address the ingredient phase identified above and focus on the pantry retrieval stage and refrigerator retrieval stage.
  • Task - a process pattern of this type focuses on an individual action or activity within each stage. For the cake example, this would be equivalent to retrieving eggs as part of the refrigerator retrieval stage.

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