Software developers face mounting pressure in 2021

Well-positioned shops will crank out software for COVID-19 responses while teams hobbled by legacy technology and practices dial back and focus on keeping the lights on.

The former Forrester Research Director Chris Mines predicted in 2019 that the world of software development was set for some big changes in 2020. We had no idea that a year later, almost every development shop would be a remote development shop. It makes the curated list of "remote-friendly" companies on GitHub a nostalgic reminder of a simpler, pre-pandemic time. Most developers adjusted well to the changes in 2020, certainly compared to other professions. Working hours increased and work weeks lengthened, but our digital world didn't come crashing down like other sectors of the global economy. 

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the year ahead

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Now, however, the sprint is turning into a marathon, and as executives demand that developers pick up the pace of digital transformation, we are starting to see the stress fractures in mainstream software delivery grow. As remote development bleeds into mid-2021 and beyond, expect larger disruptions to the way development teams work, especially as the executive demand for new and modernized apps NOW pushes business and development leaders outside their traditional comfort zones. 

For 2021, Forrester Research predicts for software delivery: 

  • Accelerated adoption of low-code platforms will change how teams organize. During the pandemic, many organizations embraced low-code platforms to build and deploy new apps fast. These experiences will drive most development shops to adopt low-code tools and more. Expect to see new hybrid teams emerge, with business users and professional developers building apps together with low-code tools built on cloud-native platforms.  

  • Long-term remote working will increase the importance of digital collaboration. Agile scaling best practices emphasize the usefulness of cross-function, co-located teams. Physical co-location enables high-bandwidth collaboration, even with low-technology practices like Kanban walls and firesides. However, as our remote reality continues, digital tools that enable "spiritual co-location" will become more important. Developers will need to make better use of collaborative work and value stream management tools, as well as new cloud-based team enablers like shared codespaces and pipelines.  

  • Modernization efforts will put pressure on developers to master new skills. Almost three-quarters of infrastructure and operations pros report that migrating existing apps to cloud platforms is a priority of their enterprise's cloud strategy. It's developers that will need to containerize and refactor these monoliths. Taking full advantage of Kubernetes-based container platforms requires developers to master new tools, architecture patterns, and technologies in order to deliver application modernization benefits. 

  • Artificial intelligence will drive more development automation. We predict that more than a third of developers will use machine learning in 2021 to automate development activities. Teams will use machine learning models to make test automation smarter, and natural language processing will be used to review test cases and eliminate duplicates, as well as identify gaps in test coverage. Emerging breakthroughs such as GPT-3 will ignite a raging debate: Will AI replace and reduce demand for enterprise developers or augment their daily activities and free them up to solve business problems and increase the amount of software delivered? 

To understand the business and technology trends critical to 2021, download Forrester's complimentary 2021 Predictions Guide here.      


This post was written by Forrester VP & Principal Analyst Jeffrey Hammond, and it originally appeared here