Software developer pay spans a notoriously wide range, but few would argue that U.S.-based development costs are “cheap.”
According to a U.S. News & World Report analysis, the median U.S. software developer earned $120,730 in 2021. Experienced devs can easily command $200,000 per year in cash compensation alone, with incentive pay and company benefits adding significantly to that total.
You most likely know this already. You also most likely know that complex software development projects take months and involve multiple developers and engineers. “Cost spiral” doesn’t begin to describe the situation.
You don’t need to be reminded how important it is to cut devops costs wherever possible. Your bosses and shareholders (perhaps one and the same) remind you enough.
Fortunately, emerging technologies and tools are making it easier than ever to reduce software development expenses without compromising output, efficiency or quality. It’s no exaggeration to say that these new capabilities are revolutionizing software development and helping devops teams save money across the board.
Let’s take a closer look at four types of emerging capabilities: next-generation project management tools, cloud computing services, task automation tools and ephemeral development environments. Each offers potentially game-changing opportunities for teams looking to work faster, smarter and more efficiently.
Using next-generation project management tools to drive software development efficiency and collaboration
Signs of bad project management include missed deadlines, poor quality control, and infighting within teams that need to collaborate closely. These and other direct results of poor project management are harmful to the broader organization (and to the careers of those responsible for them).
Yet poor project management has a direct financial cost as well. This goes back to what we’ve already discussed: the high cost of labor in a product development environment and, specifically, the very high cost of labor in a software development context. Every day that passes without an anticipated deliverable is a day that brings unanticipated costs. And while every project budget has some built-in wiggle room, said costs eventually become unacceptable.
The good news is that software development teams can turn to an already-existing library of scalable, easy-to-use project management tools that easily map to devops use cases. Your team may already use some basic project management tools to manage workflows and keep track of deliverables timeframes and responsibilities, but if you haven’t surveyed the landscape and assessed individual tools’ capabilities relative to your team’s needs, you’re likely not maximizing their potential.
Look for project management tools with the following capabilities:
- Use cases specifically designed for your specific development framework. For example, Jira’s project management tool is specifically tailored to Agile development teams.
- Relevant integrations with third-party apps, from general-purpose tools like Google Docs (where your spreadsheets likely live already) to devops, cloud storage, and even CRM software.
- Sophisticated calendar views that enable visual-oriented team members to “see” their project responsibilities at a glance.
- Powerful developer APIs that allow you to customize the project management interface to your needs and produce efficiency-oriented outputs.
Ideally, your team relies on one core project management tool to manage everything it’s working on together, with individual developers free to use additional tools to manage their personal workflows.
That may require you to cut out a less optimal tool (or several) and disrupt legacy use cases, but it’s better to rip off the Band-Aid now, before a bona fide productivity crisis hits. Further down the road, untangling competing and deeply entrenched workflows will surely prove more costly and more disruptive.
Leveraging cloud computing services for projects with multiple stakeholders
Like project management software, cloud computing services no longer count as revolutionary. If your team is small, it might use GSuite for cloud-based storage and collaboration. If it’s larger, it might use Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (whose incomprehensible value only underscores the critical importance of cloud computing).
And so you’re already aware that cloud computing services make development more efficient by enhancing collaboration, reducing duplication of effort, and sharply cutting reliance on onsite database hosting, file storage and data processing.
Your team can and should use cloud computing services in additional ways that even more directly improve devops efficiency and cost control:
- Containerization: Containerization enables software deployment on any computing infrastructure. Bundling app code and file libraries in a self-contained, platform-agnostic unit eliminates the need to match platform-specific software packages (i.e., Windows-compatible) with the correct machines. Containerized deployment is more portable, more scalable and more resilient — and it’s only possible in the cloud.
- Microservices (vs. monolithic architecture): Microservices break up the development architecture into many small, agile units that communicate via API. Rather than an inflexible “monolith” that needs to be reworked as it scales, microservices can be scaled internally (or new ones created) as needs arise. Like containerization, it’s a much more flexible, agile, and ultimately low-cost way to manage complex devops workflows.
Automating repetitive tasks throughout the development lifecycle
Task and workflow automation tools are improving at an incredible clip, and the advantages of next-generation automation are particularly impressive for devops teams. As just one example, telecom giant Ericsson drove significant cost savings by automating key aspects of their software development pipeline and transitioning to a continuous deployment model, according to a study published in Empirical Software Engineering.
Transitioning to continuous deployment is a time- and cost-intensive process that may not be practical for smaller teams, at least not in the near term. But your team can leverage task automation in many other ways.
Testing automation deserves special mention here. Automated testing and QA solutions like Robot Framework and Zephyr (respectively) reduce the need for repetitive, labor-intensive poking and prodding by human devs whose efforts are better spent elsewhere. By finding bugs and quality issues earlier in the development workflow, they also reduce the need for costly and time-consuming fixes further along in the process.
Increasingly, code generation itself is automated, thanks to tools like Eclipse. These generative tools will only improve as processing power increases and training sets expand. Consequently, this sets the stage for a near-future scenario where devs will need to manually write far less code. That, in turn, will allow devops teams to stretch dev resources further. Additionally, it will free up person-hours for more creative or problem-focused work.
Utilizing ephemeral environments to improve development speed and quality
Finally, software development teams can achieve efficiency and cost improvements at virtually any scale by utilizing ephemeral environments. These are temporary staging environments that can be created at will, generally for a single-purpose feature test or bug fix, and then eliminated when no longer needed to keep costs low.
Ephemeral environments offer clear advantages for development teams. They reduce pull request backlogs, a notorious sticking point (and cost driver) for larger teams. They’re isolated, which reduces the risk of bug-inducing branch conflicts. They’re fully automated, which frees up engineers to deal with more important matters. And because they enable more targeted, granular testing, they speed up the development process overall. They also reduce the risk of an unacceptable issue breaching the main code branch. Repairs on the main code branch are much more time-consuming and costly.
The result is a faster, more efficient workflow that scales with your team in response to demand. For example, Uffizzi’s on-demand ephemeral environment tool helped Spotify add 20% more features to every release of its popular Backstage developer portal platform. Backstage grew rapidly after initial open-sourcing in 2020 and now averages some 400 active pull requests per month. The transition to ephemeral environments slashed average pull request completion times across the platform.
Ephemeral environments can also help smaller development teams achieve the same economies of scale as larger teams. For example, moving to a continuous deployment model might seem out of reach for small teams under the old “bottlenecked” shared environment framework. Start by streamlining this process and freeing up department resources for longer-term strategic work. Ephemeral environments (and other process automation tools) make such shifts possible.
It’s no accident that Uffizzi’s out-of-the-box ephemeral environment solution supercharges the continuous integration/delivery process.
Opportunities abound now, with more to come
Change is already here for software teams accustomed to the old way of doing things. These four emerging or expanding technologies and tools —
- Next-generation project management software
- Expansive and flexible cloud computing services
- Increasingly intelligent and capable task automation tools
- Scalable, on-demand ephemeral environments for better testing and QA
— are making life easier and development faster for devops departments around the world. Their capabilities and use cases will only expand as time goes on.
These four technologies aren’t the only emerging opportunities for software developers and the companies that employ them, however. Around-the-bend and over-the-horizon capabilities could change the tech industry in even more fundamental ways:
- AI-driven platforms for developers, like TensorFlow, that promise to dramatically speed up development timeframes and allow teams to do much more with much less
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC) capabilities that break down silos between devops teams and the rest of an organization and create trusted, reliable code frameworks that ultimately reduce developer and maintainer workloads
- Low- and no-code application development, which — while possibly overhyped in the short term — could further break down barriers and enable faster, more collaborative action
- Augmented reality tools and apps, whose potential impact remains speculative but which will likely play an increasingly important role in software and product development over the next decade
In the coming years, odds are you’ll integrate all four of these capabilities into your devops workflows by then. You’ll most likely take advantage of other emerging technologies and tools in the near future too. These may even include some we don’t yet know about. As the pace of innovation accelerates, staying one step ahead of the competition — and doing right by your firm’s stakeholders, financially and otherwise — means watching closely for new tech that can speed up your development timelines and reduce overall devops costs.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In many respects, the future is already here, and you have everything you need to streamline your operations today. Now it’s time to execute.