Emerging Software Development Trends

Software developers serve as the creative and technical masterminds behind many of today’s popular technology tools, from mobile apps for personal use, to data solutions that help address real-world problems such as climate change, to any number of digital breakthroughs.

A software developer reviews code on two computer screens.

In developing and testing computer software applications, software developers perform a wide range of activities, including analyzing user needs; applying computer and mathematics principles in their designs; creating specifications; enhancing existing software systems; and collaborating with hardware developers, project managers, and others involved in the software development process. Software developers also monitor software development trends as the demand for technology evolves to meet the global market’s continued appetite for innovation.

The future of the software development role looks bright. Employment of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is projected to grow 25% between 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This projection far exceeds the predicted growth of the labor market as a whole.

For individuals looking to enter or advance in the software development field, keeping up to date on key software development trends in coding, apps, agile systems, and interface design can open opportunities for an exciting — and rewarding — career. The median annual salary for software developers was $120,730 as of May 2021, according to the BLS.

Software development encompasses various roles, including the following:

  • Applications Software Developer: Develops, tests, and programs software applications for computers, mobile phones, and other devices using existing development tools
  • Software Engineer: Applies engineering principles and programming language knowledge to create software products and systems
  • Systems Software Developers: Develops software used on a system level, such as operating systems and drivers, to run a computer’s hardware and application programs

These roles are a small representation of the vast number of job titles open to software developers.

Thanks to the global market’s continued appetite for technological innovation, software development’s future has looked bright for years. Amid the changing technological landscape, businesses must stay current on emerging trends in software development, which is why software developers play a pivotal role in helping companies get ahead, or at the least, stay competitive.

Software development processes and practices are continually evolving because of the fast rate of technological change. Emerging trends such as low-code, no-code, and DevOps are transforming how professionals develop, deploy, and manage software and software platforms.

At the same time, changes in software development processes and practices help drive the accelerated pace of the technology sector itself. An organization that fails to keep track of emerging software development trends runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

Since the software development field is in constant flux thanks to a range of factors — a changing technological landscape, globalization, evolving consumer and business demands, and market trends — software developers must refresh their skills to remain competitive throughout their careers.

Resources: History of Software Development

A look into the history of software development and the evolution of software development roles helps individuals looking to enter the field or advance their careers understand software development trends.

What will software development look like in the next decade? No one knows for sure. Still, a look at emerging software development trends of today can provide a glimpse of the future. The following are 10 of the most noteworthy software development trends dominating the tech industry.

1. Cloud-Native Application Development

Cloud-native application development is a software development trend that involves building and running applications in distributed computing environments (aka “the cloud”). It provides organizations with a streamlined approach to building and updating apps while ensuring quality and minimizing risk.

A simple definition of a cloud-native app is a program designed for the cloud. For example, a streaming service like Netflix runs on the cloud, but users can interact with it through their smart TVs or other devices.

Cloud-native apps require front-end and back-end architecture. The front end is where the user interacts with the software that lives on the back end via a user interface. Back-end infrastructure consists of storage and hardware at a distant server farm (i.e., in the cloud).

Software developers working on cloud-native apps integrate the front end and back end to ensure they interact seamlessly. Software developers in this space should have programming skills in traditional languages such as C/C++ and C# and web-centric languages such as Java, JavaScript, .NET, Node.js, PHP, Python, and Ruby. Knowledge of cloud-native app development platforms, containers, Kubernetes, APIs, DevOps, and Agile methodology is vital to the role.

Statistics point to the growing adoption of cloud-native app development. Gartner reports about 65% of application software spending will go to cloud technologies in 2025, nearly a 10% rise from 2022.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A 2021 McKinsey report about the state of artificial intelligence in business says 56% of organizations have adopted AI. The report points to the growing impact of AI technologies in four key areas that can directly impact an organization’s bottom line — service operations, product and/or service development, marketing and sales, and risk.

A primary area driving rising interest in AI-driven applications is machine learning (ML). Machine learning is a subset of AI that can be defined as a machine with the ability to learn from experience without programming, similar to human intelligence.

Software developers working on AI and ML applications use vast amounts of data and build algorithms to train a model to analyze data and predict outcomes. AI and ML can shorten processes in the software development lifecycle, such as testing. Using AI, tests can run automatically, providing more time for software developers to write code.

To build models, software developers working with AI and ML should have programming skills in languages such as Python, R, Java, and C++. Software developers in this space also have knowledge of problem definition, data collection and preparation, and model learning, deployment, integration, and management.

3. Blockchain Technology

A blockchain is a digital ledger distributed across computer network nodes. Blockchains can be described as databases but are structured differently. While a database typically organizes data into tables and grows in size as it stores more information, a blockchain structures data into blocks that hold a limited amount of information. When a block’s storage capacity is reached, it closes. This block then links to the previously filled block, and the blocks are strung together to form the blockchain.

A key feature of blockchain is that its data structure creates a secure and decentralized timeline and record of data and transactions. The structure of the blockchain creates an irreversible record of a transaction, which means that the data in a block is guaranteed to be trustworthy without requiring third-party verification. This makes blockchain ideal for financial uses, such as cryptocurrency systems like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

As blockchain gains publicity and acceptance in financial markets, other businesses are exploring its uses. For example, the use of blockchain technologies to drive supply chain transparency can reduce risk and improve the overall efficiency of the global supply chain. Another example of blockchain use cases and industry applications includes healthcare; specifically, protecting and securing healthcare and genomics data and improving the tracking of disease and outbreaks.

Software developers working in this area focus on building applications from the front end to the back end that maintain a secure and decentralized record of transactions on the blockchain. For software developers interested in becoming blockchain developers, common programming language skills include Java, C++, Solidity, Python, JavaScript, Ruby, and PHP. An understanding of databases, networking, data structures, and cryptography is essential.

4. Automation

The primary benefit of automation is that it minimizes human involvement. Automation technology can help manufacturers uncover anomalies in production or support a financial organization’s fight against fraudulent transactions. This gives individuals more time to work on higher-value activities and improve labor productivity, a key driver of economic growth.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, companies are investing in automation to support their digital transformation and reaping financial rewards. For instance, companies see returns of $5.44 over the first three years for every dollar invested in marketing automation, according to Oracle.

As a software development trend, automation is used in diverse types of activities ― from application development to infrastructure deployment. Automation can also streamline the software development life cycle. Software developers working on building automation solutions typically have knowledge of scripting, source code management, Kubernetes, security, testing, and monitoring. Programming skills typically include Java, Python, Ruby, and Perl.

5. Cybersecurity

The latest digital trends point to worrying signs of increasing cyberattacks. As remote workforces ramp up, vulnerabilities are introduced to data systems ― such as employees connecting to data via unsecured devices and connections, or lackluster password policies. One report cites a 238% increase in cyberattacks among remote workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While cybersecurity has long been crucial for businesses in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world, the growing adoption of cybersecurity practices is expected to help business and government organizations defend against cyberattacks.

Software development engineers working in this space build applications and systems that protect organizations from cybercrimes and cyber threats. General technical skills of software developers looking to work in cybersecurity include Java, SQL, and JavaScript. Software developers with knowledge of cryptography, information systems, security operations, and information security can improve their chances of landing a cybersecurity role.

6. Multi-Cloud

Businesses adopting digital strategies are embracing the cloud, which, according to Gartner, will drive digital experiences for more than 85% of organizations by 2025. But what happens to an organization’s data when the cloud infrastructure hosting their data systems goes down? When an organization’s data systems crash ― whether from a cyberattack, power outage, or other cause ― it can mean huge business losses.

Multi-cloud is growing in adoption because it helps organizations improve infrastructure capabilities and cost and minimize their reliance on a single cloud provider. Through multi-cloud technology, organizations can diversify the locations of their data systems, helping guarantee high availability to data. In the simplest terms, multi-cloud works as a backup: If one cloud system goes down, other clouds with the same data systems will remain available to users.

Using multiple clouds may be becoming commonplace, but with every cloud provider comes different requirements. These requirements allow data to work seamlessly across many different clouds. Establishing a multi-cloud infrastructure can be complex, requiring skilled developers to create software that integrates applications and systems across different cloud environments.

Software developers often use Python, Java, Go, and C++ to create algorithms for multi-cloud environments. Knowledge of virtualization, hosting, databases, and storage as well as the major cloud providers including Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure is necessary to effectively develop software on each environment.

7. The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the billions of physical devices connected to each other via the internet and sensors. IoT Analytics reports the number of IoT-connected devices will more than double from 12.2 billion in 2021 to 27 billion in 2025.

Advanced IoT analytics help organizations improve efficiency and reduce costs. Software developers in this space build software that enables devices to communicate with others via sensors and the internet. A key component of IoT is empowering business leaders with the ability to access huge volumes of data collected from devices to inform business decision-making.

Skills and technologies used by software developers for building IoT applications include high-level languages used for web and mobile applications such as Java, Swift, and Node.js. Software developers also typically have knowledge of API automation, testing, information security, and UI/UX design.

8. Low-Code and No-Code

Low-code and no-code platforms allow individuals without any programming skills to build innovative software. These tools provide users with a visual interface to build apps and create workflows. Each platform offers different benefits: low-code platforms eliminate most of the coding process, while no-code development platforms eliminate all coding processes.

No-code platforms are typically for business users who have virtually no programming language background to build apps with basic functionality. On the other hand, using low-code platforms requires some knowledge of technology, including .NET, Java, and API tools, to provide enhanced functionality and customization and integrate with other software, including legacy software.

Low- and no-code tools are a rapidly growing software development trend. A Zapier report says 82% of no-code platform users began their use during the pandemic, and 90% of companies attribute faster growth thanks to the adoption of low-code. Time savings, the ability to automate workflows, and increased flexibility were among the primary factors driving the growth of these tools.

9. DevOps and Agile

The success of an organization’s digital transformation hinges on a number of complex processes going right. But 70% of digital transformation efforts come short of goals, according to Boston Consulting Group. Additionally, CIO magazine reports that up to 70% of IT projects fail. Software projects can go off track because of a lack of collaboration between individuals and teams.

DevOps and Agile are two approaches to solving problems and improving collaboration in software development. While both have the primary aim of accelerating software development in collaborative settings without compromising quality, each focuses on distinct parts of the process.

DevOps focuses on improving collaboration between development and operations teams during product development. A subset of DevOps, called DevSecOps, focuses on security. While Agile also focuses on collaboration throughout a project, its primary aim is to facilitate customer feedback in the process and enable rapid releases. Combining the two approaches can enable organizations to optimize the success of products as well as projects.

Software developers with knowledge of Agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban can deliver applications far more quickly, improve software quality, and provide better user experiences. Knowledge of Linux fundamentals and scripting languages such as Python is essential to DevOps. DevOps engineers also have experience with Node.js and languages such as Java, JavaScript, Ruby, and PHP.

10. User Experience (UX) Design

A software developer can develop a product with all the bells and whistles, but if users find its user interface lackluster, they simply won’t use the product. Today, good customer experiences are vital to business success. According to PwC, 59% of consumers are willing to walk away after a number of bad experiences, while 17% will leave after only one unpleasant experience.

This is why user experience design (UX) is an increasingly important software development trend. UX design typically takes place separate from the software development process. For example, while UX designers research, design, and test user interfaces, software developers put together a product’s code and architecture. Moreover, while UX designers focus on ensuring the end user is satisfied with how a product operates, a software developer is concerned about the product’s technological performance. However, tying these two processes together makes the system work optimally.

UX encompasses all types of technology products. For example, mobile-responsive design, a subset of UX, focuses on mobile experiences. Software developers who want to build software with end-users in mind should understand UX concepts such as wireframing, prototyping, and using design tools such as Adobe.

Emerge as a Software Development Leader

As the digital transformation accelerates, billions more devices access the IoT, data continues to expand, and new software development trends emerge — there will be a growing need for software development professionals.

Successful software developers are those who can remain at the forefront of helping organizations adapt to digital technology’s rapid changes, which translates into continued career and leadership opportunities. Developers, however, must keep their technical skills fresh and their knowledge up to date to remain competitive.

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