One key Unique Selling Proposition or USP of software products from time immemorial is software’s ability to tackle complex situations involving decisions based on facts and input from the user. This implicitly means that decision-making is an essential aspect of software engineering and software development. There are various tools to help represent the decision-making process; one of them is the Decision Tree. Therefore, understanding the Decision Tree in Software Engineering is integral if you want to establish your career in this field. But first, let’s take a quick look at the fundamentals of Software Engineering.
What is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is the all-encompassing process of requirement analysis, design, build, testing of software applications. This stands out in contrast with software development, which generally refers more to coding and testing than anything else. It helps in the development of software through a systematic application of engineering approaches. This definition might sound old-school, but most of the top names involved in software development take this route, unlike many just starting.
Software engineering in the 1970s was the answer to many unorganized efforts of coding to develop computer systems which eventually failed or had shot over the planned budget. It considers the critical concepts of scalability, adaptability, cost, and quality all together while you are designing and developing a software application. It is important to note that software engineering brings together many other disciplines like computer science, management science, economics, and system engineering.
While developing software, several kinds of analysis take place based on the business domain. One of them is decision analysis. Many business problems are centered around decisions. While engineering a software application, you will encounter decision analysis at various stages. During such decision analysis, it is essential to document the decision-making process so that subsequent stages of development can use them to code business rules or process logic around them. One tool that helps in this task is the Decision Tree.
What is a Decision Tree?
- Decision Tree is not a tool exclusively used in software engineering. It has its use in any domain where there is a need to concisely and graphically documenting a decision-making process.
- Decision Trees can also be considered as a framework that allows businesses to make consistent choices. They are also used to map out all possible outcomes of a decision and be used as a guide in the process of decision making.
- A Decision Tree is a graphical representation of the processing logic at various points in the software application in a software engineering setup.
As a simple example, let’s consider a scenario of new membership in a library management system. The application might present you with a menu for membership with several sub-menus, including options for new members, renewal of membership for existing members, and cancellation of membership. Now at a conceptual level, Decision Trees can represent these choices and the corresponding actions associated with each choice.
A Decision Tree is similar to a flowchart that uses various shapes to represent nodes (where the decision is taken) and leaves, illustrating the action or choice made.
Decision Tree in requirements analysis
Requirements analysis is a crucial part of the software development process. It is one of the pillars that software engineering stands on. Decision trees come in handy when a business case demands a complex set of if-else conditions. In other words, a complex set of interdependent rules.
In requirements analysis, you chart out all decision points and all possible solutions. This allows you to list all possible options and then take the best way forward. This becomes visual and objective, thus reducing complexity in design. The decision tree diagram lets you see and understand a complex business requirement at a glance.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Decision Trees:
- Decision Trees are easy to understand and interpret.
- With the graphical representation of decision trees, a non-specialist can understand what is taking place.
- It can help provide essential insights even with little complex data.
- It helps determine quickly the best, worst, and expected values for various conditions.
- Decision trees can be quickly combined with other decision analysis techniques.
Let’s also list down some critical disadvantages when using decision trees:
- Given its structure, a small change anywhere may lead to cascading effects on a large section of the decision tree.
- Decision trees are also considered relatively inaccurate in comparison to other techniques.
- Certain calculations can get pretty complex, particularly when many outcomes are linked.
Decision Trees are a crucial tool to express a complex setup of interrelated business requirements in software engineering. If software development excites you, you need the best in the business of teaching to handhold you through the learning process; Great Learning offers just the right program for you. A master of computer application from Great Learning in collaboration with Jain University can significantly benefit you.