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Five Software Topics Worth Adding to Your 2023 Radar

Nick Walsh By Nick Walsh // 1.18.2023

Sick of “new year” prediction articles yet? Me too. Don’t worry, this one’s a bit less guesswork and a bit more question marks. Here’s a handful of topics we’re bumping into often, but need to see more research or movement on for concrete opinions — tomorrow’s blog posts, if you will.

So, as you toss 2022’s calendar in the proverbial bin and make sure your site’s copyright date is still right, take a peek at these five software concerns worth tracking:

1. Applications That Bring Value in a Hurry

Big, complex, moonshot types of projects — the ones that need 6+ months and as many bodies as possible — struggle in a risk-adverse climate. There’s still venture capital out there in record or near-record amounts, but where it lands changes with the weather (and inflation, interest rates, global issues, et cetera). At the moment, attractive new applications have traits like:

  • For business platforms, a built-in first customer. That could be the company spearheading it, a partnered organization, or someone else willing to use new tech off the bat — growing pains and all.
  • Immediate value, especially around the passage of time. This sounds like: “We have 10 people handling that manually,” or “That task takes 10 minutes to complete and happens hundreds of times a day.”
  • An immediate breakeven (or better) return, even if that first customer winds up being the only customer.
  • Feature needs that fit in an honest-to-goodness minimum viable product. Launch shouldn’t be several years (or even quarters) down the road.

Nothing’s a sure thing in the world of software, but the current economic climate favors bite-sized risks. Your mission statement can still focus on changing the world, but you don’t have to change the whole darn thing with the first release. If anything, small steps open up creative business plans — like skipping investment altogether.

2. Tech Leadership Paired With Leadership Leadership

Medium, large, and city-sized companies have a bead on this, so here’s a topic for all the startup listeners out there. If you’re not a technical founder, it’s worth looping in a trusted technical voice of reason as soon as you can.

Entrepreneurs have a habit of retreating to a quiet place when the direction needs finalizing: Business plans, mission, vision, values, and anything else that sits at a high level. It’s a creative instinct; designers have the same tendency. Disappear, collect your thoughts, arrive at something you’re happy with, then present your findings. If it’s worked so far, why not?

Nimble is the nearly-cliché, one-word answer here. In a downturn, you want:

  • To arrive at value quickly (what we talked through in #1)
  • A tight feedback loop, exemplified by an XKCD comic we call on often
  • Alternatives to time-consuming and/or expensive plans

You’re still on the hook for the final call and adding the wax seal. To get there, though, it’s more valuable than ever to let some light in before technical needs take shape. The right sort of technology partner will help you remove friction, not hit the brakes.

3. Sorting Out Software Team Size

Analogy time. Depending on the industry and problem space, the bar for an entry-level app is much higher than a decade ago — a car in place of a scooter, for example. We’ve added extra wheels, more design and engineering time, seats, electronics, and so on. In software parlance, that’s equivalent to security, performance, scale, testing, data, and other todos added or deepend by industry growth. More boxes to check, and (potentially) more people to check them.

What does a project need? Will it take a Product Designer, UX Researcher, and Illustrator as distinct, specialized roles, or someone that dabbles in a little of each? Do we need a dedicated DevOps expert, or does the extra cost of managed hosting make sense for now? Where does it make sense to dive deep instead of starting simpler?

There are no definite answers. The right team will change from project to project, from feature to feature, and over the lifecycle of an application. Enter new questions, like: Should team members wear more hats? Fewer? Where should the bottlenecks be? Which new specializations are on the up? Plenty of uncertainty, making it a worthy inclusion on this list.

4. A Widening Skill Gap (That Needs Closing)

Following on with team size, getting new folks up to speed is an ongoing problem spot for development teams. Doubly so if that new person is also new to the industry.

Senior developers are worth their weight in printer ink, but they didn’t just blip into existence that way. They likely joined an application development scene that was less complex, offered room to fail, and grew with it. Replicating that journey has a bunch of open-ended questions, like:

  • What’s the right balance between freedom and oversight?
  • Does the team have time set aside to help mentor?
  • Are tasks available that suit a fresh face? If not, can some be prepped? By whom?
  • Rather than throw them into the full-stack deep end, should a newcomer master one part of the stack at a time?

As it stands, there’s an easy 6–12 months for a fresh-faced new hire to become a frequent contributor. It’s a necessary, worthwhile, and rewarding investment — but process improvements pay dividends and offer a serious flexibility advantage over the rest of the space. At the same time, universities, bootcamps, and similar programs are eager to improve the hireability of their graduates. What’s the industry’s responsibility, and how can it help?

5. Skepticism of New Technology is Healthy

Blockchain isn’t new, but the fervor around it certainly spiked in the last two years. The impact has been pretty direct in Florida (our home state), with Miami positioning itself as the crypto hub: Good for investment, bad for housing supply.

Like all digital companies, keeping an eye on emerging tech is an evergreen responsibility for Envy Labs. More than ever, though, the current batch of future-forward tools — the aforementioned blockchain, Web3, decentralization, crypto, AI, etc. — are ethical minefields. The industry had just decided “move fast and break things” may be a problem; now, the next wave is rife with scams, schemes, vague promises, and high-profile trials.

Worthy of indictment? A stumble out of the starting block? A little of both, probably, but it’s hard to be rosy after seeing billions of dollars lost.

Either way, it’s helpful (and important) to keep a skeptical eye on the march forward. ChatGPT seems like an incredible tool. Incredible tools can be used by anyone. Some healthy suspicion around the unknown is reasonable, especially given our recent past.

A Glance at the Future of Web Software

From value to talent to emerging tech, this year’s question marks cover quite the spectrum. And there are still plenty of topics to be reckoned with: Will the rash of layoffs impact developer salaries in the short or long term? What new specializations are ready to pop? As a skill, is CSS increasingly taken for granted? (Yes.)

It’s shaping up to be a look before you leap sort of year. The need for software is still high, but the current state of the world summons a fancier magnifying glass. Risk-averse plays want quick feedback on value and goals.

Concerns? Questions? A solid topic that’d make this list 6 items long? I’d love to hear from you.

Next Up

The Power of Gamification: Transforming Users into Loyal Fans

Ayana Campbell Smith By Ayana Campbell Smith // 12.20.2022

When developing gamification strategies, it’s important to remember that not everything needs to be (or should be) a game. Discover when and why to gamify.