January 28, 2021
Importance of Software Development
Why is software development so important? On the surface, the answer is relatively simple. Whether you realize it or not, software development now has a direct influence on many aspects of our daily lives.
From the smartphone apps that define modern communications over the internet-connected products enabling seamless shopping experiences to new application models like blockchain, microservices, and the IoT, software development has completely transformed entire industries.
Technology now shapes the entire customer journey. It spans shopping and service. Content is guiding consumers through the purchasing process–moving seamlessly between channels and devices.
It has also redefined the way we work: the cloud, along with improved mobile access, gives us the ability to connect and sync data across multiple systems and users. This combination has enabled remote work.
In this article, we look at the importance of software development in modern society and how the rate of technology change has influenced the way businesses operate and maintain a competitive advantage.
Why is Software Development So Important? Blame it on Customer Experience (CX)
Digital transformation–as a whole–is largely driven by rising consumer demands–from personalization to seamless, omnichannel experiences, hyper-relevant content, and innovative solutions users can’t find anywhere else.
Today, organizations–whether they call themselves a “tech company” or not–are expected to serve up innovative solutions and experiences able to compete with what billion dollar companies like Amazon and Netflix offer to their users.
For better or worse, consumer expectations are modeled after the experiences offered by big companies with ample resources; being competitive is about products and pricing, but also about getting the service level provided by these companies.
Companies (that can afford it) are responding to this challenge by scooping up developers with data science, AI/ML/NLP, and cybersecurity skills, causing a skills shortage and driving salaries well into the six-figures.
Many more are exploring strategic sourcing options. These companies are leaning on piecing together a network of internal staff, freelancers, gig workers, and outsourced teams both nearshore and offshore.
Perhaps the best way to answer the question, “why is software development so important” is that it’s essential for a company’s survival.
The current pandemic situation underlines the significant impact of software on society. When shutdowns began in March of 2020, many companies weren’t prepared for an all-digital marketplace and suffered major financial losses as a result.
Beyond the monetary impact, the rapid migration to remote work has led to an increased demand for software development services, with companies investing heavily in new digital solutions to replace traditional channels.
Ultimately, CX is the main driver for developer demand. Other trends, which we’ll get to in a moment, simply enable customer-centricity–whether that means eliminating friction at checkout, gaining a better understanding of evolving consumer needs, or bringing innovative solutions to market faster than competitors.
Much of Software Development’s Importance Stems from a Need to Manage Big Data
According to 3Pillar’s Jaime Salame, the software development landscape “has grown exponentially, expanding into markets and use cases I never could have imagined.”
He notes that it wasn’t long ago that moving everything to the cloud, staying connected via mobile apps, and gathering valuable intel via self-serve data analytics platforms wasn’t realistic for many companies.
For example, if you look at the data analytics space, companies had to hire a business intelligence team to make sense of internal and external data sets, and workers often relied on analysts, data scientists, and IT staff to build and run reports.
Later, when AI-driven data analysis emerged on the scene, it was only available at the enterprise level. Today, self-serve analytics tools are widely available. And due to the massive influx of data from social feeds, streaming services, and IoT adoption, have become a prerequisite for doing business.
Brands now rely on increasingly granular insights, sourced from a diverse range of datasets that contain both structured and unstructured data in a variety of formats.
For example, organizations analyze intent data, conversational insights, sentiment analysis, behavioral analytics, and engagement data. The data sets are used to understand the customer. Conversely, industry insights sourced from competitive intelligence tools, newsfeeds, and social conversations are used to understand market conditions.
Then you’ve got sales and revenue metrics, which, combined with cookies that track user behavior, put customers in context. AI-enabled analytics platforms extend human capabilities, informing decision-making, and allowing companies to compete in a challenging market.
Across all industries, the need for real-time insights on demand is a major factor contributing to the IT skills shortage. Organizations need help building intelligent solutions around multiple hyper specific use cases and roles.
For example, marketing, sales, finance, leadership, manufacturing, and so on, all require different information to support jobs. At the same time, those solutions must fit together within a single, connected ecosystem.
Additionally, organizations need data management solutions that protect user privacy, secure distributed systems, and maintain data accuracy and integrity throughout the entire data ecosystem.
Adaptive IT Infrastructures, AI/ML, & Automation Offer Faster Time-to-Market
The cloud has completely changed the way developers build software. It’s not only about physical machines these days but connected platforms and networks of containerized and serverless services.
Modern software developers rely on an evolving set of tools and services to help them keep up with rising demands and bring solutions to market faster.
Development teams have relied on tools like Kubernetes, Puppet, and Git to improve workflows, manage infrastructure, and app deployment for years.
However, operations teams have long been tasked with weaving together static configurations, files, and scripts, manually configuring and deploying workflows on underlying physical infrastructure.
According to Forrester’s 2020 Predictions report, many organizations are rethinking IT and moving toward adaptive solutions that allow them to respond quickly to changing priorities by writing infrastructure as code (IaaC).
This approach, known as Everything as Code (EaC), eliminates manual, repetitive tasks, and physical infrastructure, replacing them with workflows targeting specific goals and desired states. For example, pipeline as code allows teams to define and manage an entire CI/CD pipeline using a source code repository like GitHub.
3Pillar’s Octavio Islas says, “During my years as a software developer, I’ve seen software companies roll out faster and faster project implementations for clients by applying new methodologies like CI/CD.”
Beyond EaC, software companies have adopted new methodologies and tools for delivering better solutions at a much faster pace. They’re leveraging automation to increase productivity, run tests, and extend human capabilities.
With the Growing Importance of Software Development, Vendors Take on a New Role
The reason why software development is so important to modern society is best illustrated by considering how the role of software companies has evolved over time. In the past, software firms were just like any other vendor. You’d put in an order and receive a deliverable based on the specifications you provided upfront.
Now that every business is a software business, service providers have evolved into strategic partners.
Their role is to help organizations understand their customers and the competitive landscape, develop innovative solutions at speed and scale, and consistently deliver experiences to delight users across multiple channels and formats.
3 Pillar Software Engineer Paul Estrada explains it well: “In the past, software companies were more likely to get new clients based only on budget and experience with certain technology stacks. It used to be really common for companies to identify as a .NET, Java, PHP, or other tech-focused organization. We still have hyper-specialized companies, and they have their place in business. But in general, I think the biggest advantage today is having a broader set of services encompassing different technologies, businesses and processes knowledge.”
Paul says, “Today, it’s more common for software companies to mix-and-match different technologies to achieve a specific outcome.”
Ultimately, the software development industry is in the midst of an important transformation of its own, with vendors abandoning the “tech-focused” mindset of old in favor of a new approach centered on problem-solving and innovation.
The days of developers passively implementing specs are over. Given the tremendous impact of software on society, developers now play an active role in helping clients achieve strategic goals by aligning around end-user priorities.