Software development in 2021 and beyond
2020 is now – finally – hindsight. It was a year of unprecedented disruption – how businesses connected with their employees and customers transformed nearly overnight. We saw organizations rapidly pivot to remote-first environments, undergoing years’ worth of digital transformation in a matter of months. Time to market was already top of mind for software development teams, but the last year ushered in urgent requests for new functionality to engage with customers and communities digitally. Much of this transformation was supported by developers who became “digital first responders” – helping their organizations become more agile and resilient. Developers moved workloads to the cloud and found new ways to code, collaborate, and ship software faster, from anywhere.
Many of the changes we saw were trends already underway for software development teams, but they accelerated amid the turmoil of the pandemic. It’s also an opportunity to consider how these changes will affect the future of software development and how we can play a role in building a more resilient future together.
High demand for developer talent
The most successful companies understand digital transformation is not just about adding technology, but about supporting their people to continuously generate value through deep customer insights and rapid iteration. Digital skills will remain in high-demand – we expect to see 150 million tech or tech-adjacent jobs over the next five years. Topping the list of fastest-growing skills on LinkedIn since the pandemic hit are digital skills including programming and digital marketing.
However, many organizations struggle to hire technical talent, and digital skillsets continue to evolve rapidly as well. LinkedIn data shows more than 20% of hiring professionals say the skills they’re looking for now are different than they were before the pandemic.
Minting new developers
With technical skills and developer expertise in higher demand than ever before, a lot of people will be learning to code over the next few years. and LeBron James in “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” Smithsonian Labs, and NASA; and with Netflix on their new original movie “Over the Moon” to help learners explore computer science, data science, and learn to code with their favorite superheroes, athletes and cartoon characters. By connecting learning content to something interesting, relevant, and most importantly – inspiring, computer science and coding become less intimidating and more attainable for learners of all ages – whether they are 8, 18 or 80.
Workplace flexibility and remote-first collaboration
As recovery begins and we all get back to school and work – remote work is here to stay. At Microsoft, we’ve adopted a policy for a more flexible workplace that allows all employees to work from home for up to 50% of the time. I expect greater workplace flexibility will become the industry standard – in fact, LinkedIn saw a 4.5x increase in remote job postings from January to December 2020.
Our team was always remote-friendly – but we didn’t realize until this year what a huge difference there is between remote-friendly and remote-first. But other aspects are missing – particularly around team culture, collaboration, and new employee onboarding, that usually depend upon huge amounts of osmosis and have generally taken place in person in a physical environment together.
Inclusive and supportive team cultures and human-centered developer tools
As we talk with development teams, we’re seeing a tremendous need for developers to collaborate pre-commit – for pair-programming, mentoring, defining component boundaries, debugging, and learning. With distributed teams, it becomes harder to build social capital – the kind of connection with a colleague that makes it easier to overcome challenges together. A focus on building the right team culture is critical – encourage team communication, normalize asking for help, and make it a priority for established employees to support onboarding.
That’s why we’ll see a growing need for human-centered coding experiences – those that enable you to connect and bond with your colleagues in different modalities as you code. Human-centered coding can become a way for you to learn about your colleague’s habits, coding styles, best practices, and general tribal knowledge asynchronously while also being provided cues on the best time to engage in real-time with your colleagues and connect with high-bandwidth tools optimized for developer-to-developer collaboration like Visual Studio Live Share – so you can both preserve your focus time and stay “in-the-zone.”
Scaling out with open source
Over the past year, we saw an interesting trend on GitHub: Enterprise developer activity dropped on weekends and holidays but open source contributions jumped, suggesting that as people are “signing off” of work, they are “signing on” to open source. We saw open-source project creation jump 25% since April, year-over-year.
With the rising demands of new technologies and rapid time-to-market, professional developers have increasingly turned to open source so that they can focus their ingenuity on their unique business requirements. Research shows 99% of applications contain open-source components.
Scaling out with low-code solutions
It was in these circumstances that we saw many developers adopt and support low-code tools. Low-code has the potential to fundamentally change how developers work, and we’ve only scratched the surface on how low-code tools and professional developer tools can be used together to get solutions out the door more quickly.
These building blocks help junior developers add value more quickly and empower citizen developers, who have domain expertise but lack formal development skills, create applications, and automation that would not have made the priority list of a central IT development team. These solutions built by hybrid teams can still use the same quality processes and DevOps automation used by solutions authored exclusively by professional developers.
Jan 14, 2021 at 21:15