How to Develop Problem-Solving Skills on Software Engineering

Gimena Aguerreberry
May 20, 2021

Developing software is a rewarding endeavor because you create an efficient and easy-to-use program that solves people's problems. However, you have to be a good problem solver before getting to this end goal and launching your project.

Experienced developers will tell you that there's no way to prepare for the amount of tech issues, bugs, and human error that will come up during the development process. You have to learn how to think fast and solve problems collaboratively with others.

There are many things you can do to hone your problem-solving skills. Check out our top tips for becoming a problem solver, and you'll learn how to become a more effective software engineer quickly.

Take time to Research

Before you begin solving all your software's problems, you need to understand the problem head-on and your options available. This is where using a traditional development process can help.

In traditional problem-solving setups, the first step of problem-solving is learning more about the problem, researching it, and understanding it. Researching the topic is an essential part of this process, as you may begin to see solutions you hadn't previously recognized.

What have other developers said about this coding or framework structure bug? You can read programming books or even check out forums like r/Programming and even Quora.

Break Down Bigger Problems into Manageable Chunks

Once you better understand the problem, exercise your ability to break it down into manageable pieces. Think of it like this: an entire mountain is intimidating. But taking a step is doable. You don't need to conquer the mountain all at once. Take it one step at a time.

When we use our ability to break down a problem into simpler tasks, we not only work effectively but build our confidence and understanding of the problem. This part of the development process will improve your perspective of the problem and work like experienced developers.

Visualize Data Flows

Another method of problem-solving skills is to think in terms of data flows for your development process. Point A is the problem you start with, and you need to move it to the destination at the end: the solution.

Between the start of the process and destination, there are the arrows the data flows through, and then the boxes. Each box represents a sub-goal. If something doesn't work, you can set a new path and sub-goal.

The data will need to move through a flow chart and hit all the sub-goals to get to the destination. Each goal represents how the data will be somehow changed and manipulated.

The end of the flow is your main goal. By thinking through a data flow, you can follow the data through each transformation, easily set sub-goals, and understand how they contribute to reaching the ultimate solution!

Apply Parallel Task Management

Once you break down the problem into manageable tasks, consider when you'll need to complete each one.

One approach is to work on one task at a time. However, this can be inefficient. A more efficient approach, particularly if you're working with a team, is to work on two tasks that don't overlap.

For example, if you can do task number 3 before task 2 is finished, but you can't move onto task 4 without tasks 2 and 3 being completed, 2 and 3 can be grouped. Working on these tasks in tandem can keep you working and thinking about the problem overall.

When you don't group tasks, you may find yourself stuck on something in one task. And it can be hard to keep up your momentum. By finding tasks that complement each other, you'll learn more about your project, and working on one task could help you with the other!

Use (and Re-Use) Solutions That Already Work

Software development isn't always about reinventing the wheel. Experienced developers often take advantage of existing solutions rather than waste energy creating new solutions to old problems.

A clear example of this is with open source software development. You can save yourself time and the headache of creating hundreds of solutions and programming language algorithms that don't work like you need them to.

You can also re-use your own past successes or those of your colleagues. As you face new problems, you don't need to find novel solutions consistently. If the information is readily available, take advantage of it.


Every software engineer develops their problem-solving skills over time and improves with every project. As long as you are utilizing a process, work towards improving your skills (even if slowly doing so), and reflecting on your successes and failures, you will grow in your problem-solving skills and become an even better software engineer.

Need to develop your software with problem-solving skills that work? Our team at SOPHiLABS can take the pressure off. We have experience working through complex software engineering development issues with clients. We'll take a look at your project and work with your team to come up with efficient problem-solving solutions.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help with your software development project.

"How to Develop Problem-Solving Skills on Software Engineering" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Hitesh Choudhary.

Categorized under people / software development.

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