Software Development in 2020

The more development changes, the more it stays the same

To mark the launch of CCS Insight’s Software Development and Delivery research service, Bola Rotibi, who leads our efforts in this area, reflects on how software development has changed and warns of a transformation that businesses will need to navigate in the decade ahead.

Diverse, dynamic and even confusing, but beneath it all, the fundamentals of development and delivery haven’t changed.

As an analyst covering software development and delivery over the past 20 years, it never fails to surprise me how true that statement remains today, as technology usage and practices have evolved and expectations of the workforce, consumers and partners have soared.

Back in late 2009, in an analysis of the software development market, I spoke of it being a tough year that heralded the best and worst of times as the economic backdrop and high levels of uncertainty facing many countries around the world put a strain on the finances and spending power of many businesses. But while tightening of belts and efficiency savings were a driving imperative for many organizations, the prospects for IT spending looked good. Studies of the day showed a projection in growth as companies looked to embrace in 2010 the next generation of web and social computing interactions and new technology advances to improve end-user experiences. I also wrote about the rise of software technology as its usage influenced the ability of businesses to grow, innovate and broaden their product capabilities, market to a wider audience and operate more efficiently and effectively.

Fast-forward 10 years and, give or take some slight differences in the latest technologies spearheading change, much of what I wrote back in 2009 could be true of the backdrop for today’s software development and delivery market.

Back to the future… again?

Many of the studies that look at growth in IT spending for 2019 and 2020 project a rise even though there are variations in its size. This strangely similar setting to a decade ago should encourage us to reflect on the past, if only to anticipate potential challenges and gain a sense to the possible resolutions. However, there will be differences that companies will need to navigate going into the next decade to be successful. This forms the foundation of CCS Insight’s Software Development and Delivery service.

An era of opportunity for all

Digital technologies and communication networks are enabling all manner of capabilities. The greater connectivity that we have presents some interesting opportunities as well as hurdles.

Digital transformation aims to improve business and operational outcomes and expand an organization’s reach while opening paths to new opportunities. Another lure of digital transformation is the potential for companies to reimagine their processes, deliver more value-generating experiences for employees, clients and the supply chain alike, and improve overall productivity.

Although there are new software technologies, there are also legacy ones that continue to run business-critical services and processes. Platforms such as mainframes are still well deployed within many organizations. They not only continue to serve a vital role in delivering highly used transactional systems, but they’ve also evolved to produce new levels of efficiencies and to offer new capabilities and services. Their applicability for a broad range of business services and next-generation workloads has seen a new cohort of young professionals and students looking to take advantage of the latest advances to the technology. Established platforms like mainframes are far from dead, with providers such as IBM, BMC and Micro Focus continuing to make them relevant to the next wave of development and delivery roles.

Ultimately, no organization — be it in the manufacturing, financial, telecommunications, healthcare, retail or automotive sector — should be under any illusion as to the change that’s coming their way and the transformation that will be needed to stay relevant and in the game. In this new climate, the crucial factors determining success will be how well organizations can navigate the pitfalls, home in on the benefits and stay focussed in their direction.

Underpinning the transformation process is the building and fast delivery of software.

The digital starting point

The starting point to digitally transform and progress will undoubtedly be different for many businesses, as will the end point. Pivoting to a digital organization, capable of operating smartly in the digital economy, isn’t without its challenges. The complexity that underlies many IT estates is a productivity drag that faces many organizations of all sizes and from across the maturity spectrum.

Regardless of whether you believe we’re entering a new era of software or industrial revolution, survival will be based on operational adaptability and flexibility, business and product innovation and relevance.

Being a smart digital operator is more than building software effectively. The creation of software is part of a means to an end. Making software technologies work for each user may be harder because creating better experiences isn’t just about enabling better ways to do something, it’s about new capabilities. This calls for a holistic approach to software development that spans from processes that focus on people and culture, to tools, training, diversity in development and delivery teams and commitment from management.

Software development in the next decade

The possibilities and potential from the onslaught of software and communication technologies are clear. Software is central to the way we live, work, rest and play. It’s a market driver that’s rich in opportunities for growth and is exciting in the extent of the commercial reach and what can be achieved. Software-defined systems, be they in cars, hand-held devices or other smart products, are opening up new avenues of engagement and interaction, and potentially new revenue streams.

This broadening scope and deepening of software-related functionality and the vast amount of data that is generated and collected is a trend toward the development of smarter products, smarter workplaces and smarter solutions. Software is a cornerstone of digital transformation.

Through the apps and solutions they build, software developers, engineers and development teams provide a gateway to more effective and efficient operations and the means for delivering the kind of innovations that allow businesses to stay competitive and relevant to their existing and potential customers. It’s also clear why technology suppliers, tool vendors and end-user organizations rightly recognize developers as an important catalyst for disruption, innovation and adoption.

“OK, Developer”

A new generation of tools, devices and practices are influencing the development and delivery community. Artificial intelligence in all its various forms is delivering new levels of insight and higher levels of controls, which is helping development staff address operational priorities, increase levels of automation, personalization and boost performance and productivity at reduced costs.

Sharp-minded development and delivery teams and organizations from across different industry sectors, acting quickly, are able to take advantage to deliver new levels of interaction with greater sense of purpose and value. This places the next generation of software development roles in a commanding position.

That said, it’s vital that development teams become broader to minimize the risk of bad applications. The teams that are winning are those made up of more sophisticated and people-oriented developers and that have evolved to become an important cohort of influencers in the decision-making processes.

A development and delivery service for the 2020s

Now, more than ever, companies need to get software development right. End users are no longer putting up with the failures that they might have done in the past. Important concerns for companies will continue to centre on software delivery productivity and the efficiency and effectiveness of the IT organization. There’s no longer an excuse for “crappy apps” or software that “sucks”. The tools available in general are just better.

As businesses decide which technology and products they will bet on over the next five years, CCS Insight’s software development and delivery research will help organizations and providers clarify, simplify and amplify their strategies to engage prospects, clients and their workforce in a more meaningful and business-relevant way. We will look at the challenges and successes for software apps, solutions, systems and practices that enable organizations to stand out and achieve competitive advantage.

This will be our difference.

A free, 30-minute webinar covering Growth in Digital Transformation is also available. To access it, simply click here.