More visitors come to InfoWorld to read about software development than any other topic. No surprise, then, that we recently fielded a survey of developers to determine what they’re focused on, where they want to go, and what challenges they face going forward.
The results are in -- and they make a compelling argument that developers have become more important to the organizations they work for than ever before.
Our analysis also uncovered some key differences between developer age groups that may help predict where software development is headed.
Lowering business barriers
More than any other response, one answer pointed to developers’ growing influence: When asked how often they meet with senior management to talk about development needs, 73 percent of our developer respondents said “frequently” or “sometimes.” That percentage kicked up to 82 percent among developers under the age of 45, indicating a rising trend.
Yet the level of involvement business stakeholders have in software projects could still stand some improvement. In our survey, just 46 percent of developers declared that business stakeholders were involved at the right level in testing applications.
A gap emerged between large and small businesses when developers were asked to describe their relationship with business management. Among those who worked in organizations with more than 1,000 employees, 44 percent said their relationship was “combative” and/or “distant”; 19 and 15 percent of developers chose those responses, respectively, in organizations with less than 1,000 employees.
The developer’s worklife
Among the choices presented, developers chose “problem-solving/troubleshooting skills” as most important for developer success. After all, that’s what developers do. But the No. 2 choice defied a developer stereotype: 48 percent said communication/collaboration was most important. More predictable, perhaps, was that only 37 percent felt confident in this area. Confidence in both areas increased with age.
The rising demand for more and better software compelled 32 percent of our respondents to say they considered the pace of development to be extremely/very fast paced; another 30 percent described it as somewhat fast paced. But that’s the way they like it: 50 percent said they were extremely or very satisfied with the pace, with another 30 percent choosing the “somewhat satisfied” option.
The top challenges for developers may sound familiar. Tied for first place, at 29 percent, were “doing more with less staff” and “keeping up with new technologies/changing skill requirements.” A notch below at 28 percent was the perennial “scope creep/uncontrolled growth in project requirements.”
The generation gap emerged again in the fourth choice of “not enough time to complete tasks”: 33 percent of developers over 35 years old chose that objection as the top challenge, as opposed to 14 percent of those under 35. Either younger developers work faster or they’re less likely to object to long hours, feeding the cliché that software development is a young person’s game.
Life on the edge
According to our survey, freeing up developer time was the most frequently chosen benefit of devops, which enables greater developer empowerment throughout the dev, test, and deployment cycle. The second choice was a three-way tie: More positive interactions with the operations team, accelerated time to production, and the ability to improve existing products.
The top four skills developers felt they needed to acquire reflected a solid understanding of current trends: cloud APIs, data analytics, security issues, and mobile technology. Mobile was ranked as the No. 1 skill needed to succeed among developers under 35.
Half of the developers surveyed said they were proficient on the Android platform, while 41 percent were proficient on iOS. About one-third indicated they weren’t proficient in any native mobile platform, a skills gap that increased with age.
A growing influence
Phone interviews were conducted as part of our survey, and many responses pointed to the rising influence of developers in the organization. One respondent spoke for many, saying, “A good chunk of my time is spent talking with department leaders about their developer needs. Sometimes I need to go to senior management to make the case for a new solution.”
In the past, such access was less prevalent. Stuck in the waterfall era, developers awaited the arrival of requirements documents and often worked in isolation from the business. Today, with the growing recognition that every company is a software company, developers are becoming equal partners in choosing technologies and hammering out solutions that meet strategic business goals.