While near-constant digital transformation means that software development still plays a crucial role in modern businesses, successful developers are as likely to excel in their personal attitude as they are in their technical skills.
The days when a great software developer was defined by their abilities in a single programming language are long gone. Today, good developers work across the entire stack — in fact, their success hinges on their ability to engage with a range of stakeholders to drive business results, says Spencer Clarkson, chief technology officer at Verastar.
“I think what makes a good developer these days is that holistic understanding,” he says. “They need to be agile in their working style and also understand the concept of Agile development – fail fast, grow fast.”
This is something that others also recognize. According to technical analyst Forrester, Agile delivery is essential to the success of digital transformations, but the best companies go even further. Only 47% of low performers have 75% or more of their development teams using Agile software development practices, compared to 93% of successful companies.
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In the case of Verastar, which provides a range of business services to more than 160,000 small businesses across the UK, Clarkson says the long-term success of his business is directly linked to the ability of talented IT staff to deliver excellent data-driven services. to customers.
“And so, for us, a good developer thinks about why they want to change or build something, but also make sure they understand the data and how that’s going to be presented to the user as information on the glass,” he says.
Clarkson recognizes that this focus on business results and customer requirements is a clean break from the past. He has developed a broad base of coding skills over his own career and can program in no less than 20 different languages.
However, his IT leadership responsibilities mean he’s unlikely to get his hands dirty with code these days. Specifically, he also doesn’t want his staff to spend all their time coding — and, if they do code, he certainly doesn’t expect them to specialize in one language.
“I think having a unique programming capability is not the way to go today,” he says. “I think you have to be able to turn to any language, construct or framework.”
According to Clarkson, software developers should combine an aptitude for object-oriented languages, such as Java, C++, C# or Python, with a business results-oriented understanding of modern technology integration concepts, such as microservices and cloud-based computing.
“Software development is now much more about gluing things together rather than creating something from scratch,” he says. “There are a lot of great apps and great products. It’s how you glue them together – it’s your IP. People have to have that aptitude first and then be versatile.”
Gartner also indicates that organizations and their employees must be ready to evolve in several strategic directions at once due to the continuous demands for innovation and digitization. The analyst predicts a shift to more autonomous working styles over the next three years as organizations adopt remote and hybrid work models.
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The new normal means that developers will work in different ways with a wide church of partners. In addition to in-house developers, Verastar uses outsourced capabilities and works closely with some key digital transformation partners, including Salesforce.
“We have a very hybrid team. People have to learn to work together and in different teams. We bring everything together with Agile and sprints. Working in a virtual world means it’s very rare that you’re all sitting together in the same office now,” Clarkson said,
“And that is certainly the case for us. Although we have a center in Sale, Manchester, we have developers who work remotely, our partner works remotely, and he will also be based near the coast or at the foreign, so you may end up with a fairly large team.”
Dal Virdi, IT director at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, is another technical leader who recognizes that a successful modern IT team relies on a hybrid mix of in-house developers and outside specialists.
Virdi recognized around 18 months ago that his company’s ongoing digital transformation strategy and the way the company was introducing a wide range of technologies meant that they did not need to have in-house specialists focused on a language or a platform.
“We need a broader set of architectural and engineering skills,” he says. “So we need them to be the best they can be, but we also need them to cover our entire landscape.”
Virdi says he has bolstered his internal development teams with external development partners. Shakespeare Martineau uses the resources of these partners on an ongoing basis to support some of the things the company wants to develop.
“For example, we have a testing partner who assists us with all the testing we do with all of our new systems and services,” he says. “We are now augmenting many of our services to bring in the levels of expertise that we need to give us those accelerators on our way, to move forward and do things with different technologies.”
For Virdi, the key to success is to increase internal talent in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible: “If we can buy the services and remove some of the internal overhead, then that’s what we’re looking at. “
Of course, the changing nature of software development – with greater focus on broader goals and less time on single projects – means CIOs will have to work hard to ensure talented software developers are happy with this new way of working.
Adam Miller, IT group leader at Markerstudy Group, says the key to retaining and attracting new talent is giving people interesting jobs to sink their teeth into. “To be honest, there’s quite a diverse set of activities that we have going on, so I’m lucky in that regard,” he says.
However, Miller also recognizes that keeping software developers happy isn’t enough to focus on their current projects. Talented staff will need to know that as the nature of IT work continues to evolve, so will the opportunity to develop and adapt their own skills.
“It’s about supporting their ongoing training and development and exposure to new technologies. Everyone wants to learn what’s new, and they want to be prepared for what’s to come,” says Miller.
“So being able to combine those two factors – looking at new things, working on interesting jobs – is crucial, as well as paying people fairly and respecting their work/life balance requirements as much as possible. I think these are the most important aspects of creating a healthy working environment.”