What application developers really want

A fresh reader survey of nearly 500 developers reveals high aspirations and time-honored challenges

Quite a lot of developers read InfoWorld. So, recently, we surveyed nearly 500 of them to get an idea of their challenges and aspirations. The survey, which also tapped visitors of our sister publications JavaWorld and IT World, was conducted over 19 days in August by IDG Research -- and turned up some interesting results.

First of all, I was surprised by how much the developers spend -- or, rather, have influence over purchasing. The mean amount was $212,000 in programming products and services over the last 12 months, even though only 16 percent of the respondents identified themselves as managers.

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Who says developers have no power?

This unexpected influence over where the money goes was flanked by less-welcome news. When asked to estimate how much their company spent in the last 12 months on outsourcing, the mean was a whopping $290,000. That number rose by a couple of percentage points when respondents were asked to predict next year's outsourcing spend.

Another surprise was the scale of these developers' ambitions. A full 68 percent said they aspired to be an application or enterprise architect, and nearly one in five thought they wanted to become "CIO/head of IT," as the survey put it.

Actually, I've interviewed a number of CTOs and CIOs who came up through the developer track, and (with all due respect to others) they frequently seemed to have the firmest grasp on what their operation's challenges and opportunities were. The developer as withdrawn geek bereft of leadership qualities is a stereotype that deserves retirement.

The answers to the most telling question, "What are the top challenges you feel the developer community is facing?" didn't surprise me at all. Here's the breakdown:

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