Strong demand for software developers, remote workplace flexibility, open source and low-coding solutions are just some of the trends that Microsoft’s predict will persist into, and past, 2021.
Detailed in a blog by the tech giant’s corporate vice president of product, developer division’s Amanda Silver, 2020 saw software development teams saddled with urgent requests for added functionality to digitally engage with customers and communities.
“Much of this transformation was supported by developers who became 'digital first responders' – helping their organisations become more agile and resilient," she said. "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.”
These trends, she added, are likely to have lasting changes, even with the move back to hybrid work environments.
1. Developer demand expected to remain strong
With technology proving to be vital during the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Silver doesn’t expect this to slow down any time soon. Citing a statistic made by Microsoft president Brad Smith back in June, she said the tech giant expects roughly 150 million new technology, or tech-adjacent, jobs globally by 2025.
However, how those jobs will look like exactly is difficult will be difficult to predict, as Silver claimed LinkedIn data indicated that more than 20 per cent of hirers claim that the skills they are looking for now differ to the ones they were looking for pre-pandemic.
“To help meet this demand, we must make technical learning more accessible to anyone who wants to learn to code and pursue a career in software development," she said. “This has become even more important over the last year as the pandemic and economic crisis left so many people seeking new jobs.”
2. Need for human-centred developer tools
Through discussions with development teams, Silver noted that there has been a “tremendous” need for developers to collaborate pre-commit, particularly for pair-programming, mentoring, defining component boundaries and learning.
While she said this has been a trend that has been around over the last decade with teams becoming more distributed, 2020 emphasised it.
“If we’ve learned anything while being separated from each other last year, it’s that connection and bonding are important elements in successfully working together,” Silver said. “That’s why we’ll see a growing need for human-centred coding experiences – those that enable you to connect and bond with your colleagues in different modalities as you code.”
However, taking a human-centred approach is a balancing act, as added collaboration can also bring interruption to workflows. The end goal, Silver continued, is to allow for developers to pick up on their colleagues’ habits, coding styles, best practices and “general tribal knowledge” to optimise collaboration.
3. Open source in free time
Also identified throughout last year on the Microsoft-owned hosting platform GitHub was as enterprise developer activity fell over weekends, open source activity rose. The VP suggested that this meant as people clocked off work, they took up open source coding in their personal time.
"Open source can become an outlet for creative expression, an environment and community that supports learning new skills, as well as a way to build on the shoulders of giants," she said.
4. Low-code sticking around
Silver noted that with the rising challenges of 2020, developers had to “fundamentally reinvent how businesses operate”.
To take on these challenges, she said that “many” developers adopted and supported low-code tools. By doing so, she said these developers can create reusable components, especially by those that may be lacking in more formal experience, for application and automation creation that may not have necessarily be the top priority of IT teams.
“These solutions built by hybrid teams can still use the same quality processes and DevOps automation used by solutions authored exclusively by professional developers," Silver said.
It’s not something that is expected to be just a fad either, as the VP added that low code solutions will pick up steam as an important tool for professional developers and business users.
“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," she said.
5. Making software development education appealing
In order to make software development learning more accessible, Silver said there will be a need to make the education around it more appealing to a broader demographic. She cited Microsoft’s own efforts in that regard, including partnerships with movie companies, that tie the subject matter together of superheroes, athletes and cartoon characters to coding activities.
“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,” Silver said.
“It takes more than technical skills to succeed. To help students and educators build vital skills like communication, confidence, problem-solving and resilience, we’ve developed a series of mentoring toolkits to help build a more inclusive future for the tech industry.
"The educational landscape is also shifting significantly – from physical settings to institutions that educate in virtual and hybrid spaces, to self-taught learners. In remote learning environments, students learn via cloud-hosted platforms and tools, and their educational institutions build on the benefits of self-service environments and at-scale collaboration.”
6. Remote working hurting certain employees
Working from a location that is outside of the office has been a change many had to get used to, but current trends indicate that the lack of a physical culture may lead to certain types of employees being affected differently in the long run.
According to Silver, this was particularly felt within Microsoft by managers and new employees.
“In some parts of our organisation, we saw significant increases in after-hours instant messaging, as well as increases in PR [pull requests] rate. However, new hires were submitting PRs at a rate much slower of those new hires of last year. And we found many managers responsible for keeping morale high were also facing burnout themselves,” she said.
Within the tech giant, Silver said Microsoft is shifting towards more of an approach that makes an active effort to mitigate the challenges posed by remote working, rather than one that simply includes remote workers.
This includes the encouragement of shorter meetings, having an intentional focus for well-being and learning and establishing other ways to promote collaboration.