The Future of Software Engineering: Lightpoint Global Overview
17 May 2023
Programming legend Robert Cecil Martin, aka “Uncle Bob,” prophesied in 2014 that the number of programmers would double every five years. Even if this rate is no longer up to date, the core of the statement remains: software engineering, in all its facets, is a growing professional field.
Nevertheless, the software engineering world has drastically changed in many aspects in recent years. We have made significant technological advances. However, requirements and expectations of software and the complexity of projects have also increased significantly.
Will software developers remain the drivers of digitization, or will artificial intelligence and bots replace them? What technology trend will shape the profession in the nearest future? In this article, we will try to glimpse the future of programming and foresee what is the future of software engineering.
What is Software Engineering?
First, let’s start with a general definition. Software is a set of instructions written as programming code to perform specific tasks on a computer. Software engineering is a generic term applied to various industries.
The market encompasses a wide range of software products and solutions designed either for professional use or private purposes. They range from simple productivity tools like word processors and spreadsheets to complex software solutions like project management tools, graphic design software, and enterprise resource planning software.
The demand for software engineers has surged, doubling since 2020, as the software market value continues to grow at a steady annual rate of 6.5%, with the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and China leading the way, according to Statista.
Two primary software distribution models exist:
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Offering cloud-based accessibility, SaaS eliminates the need for downloads to the desktop with the provider handling hosting and maintenance; prevalent revenue models include subscriptions, pay-as-you-go, and one-time usage, with Salesforce standing as a major SaaS player.
- On-premise solutions. The traditional model involves software installation and local operation, remaining relevant for data integrity and security purposes, particularly in heavily regulated industries; Microsoft exemplifies a prominent on-premise software distributor.
What is the current demand for skilled software engineers?
The soaring growth of AI, IoT, robotics, and automation applications is set to fuel an unprecedented demand for software engineers as organizations race to meet the evolving needs of these cutting-edge technologies. There are many reasons for the demand growth, to name a few:
- The limited lifespan of code
- Need for innovative software solutions
- Increased complexity of projects
It is worth mentioning that outsourcing full or part of development work to countries with lower wage levels has been a long-time practice. Since the home office became part of everyday work during the pandemic and will increasingly remain part of it, other companies have recognized outsourcing software development services as a more cost-efficient option than hiring in-house.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (paywall) revealed a surprising reality for the software engineering profession. Despite the widespread attention given to the impressive milestone of only 1.4 million job cuts, the overall landscape remains remarkably steady, indicating the extraordinary resilience of the market. In an encouraging projection, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates an outstanding 26% surge in software developer employment within the upcoming decade.
This latest data challenges the prevailing narrative surrounding the state of the software engineering industry. While the media has been captivated by the headlines highlighting historically low layoff numbers, the bigger picture tells a tale of steadfastness and unwavering strength. Amidst the turbulence of global events, the software engineering sector has proven its mettle, undeterred by the fluctuations in the job market.
Figures show clearly that today businesses are highly interested in skilled employees. But will there be a demand for software engineers in the future?
Will software engineers be needed in the future?
Chris Wanstrath, the founder of the programming collaboration software Github, presupposed in 2017 that the future of software engineering is not programming at all. Even then, various tools were spreading that made it possible to develop complete apps without any programming knowledge. Their triumphal march continues to this day: the popularity of no-code/low-code solutions is increasing, especially in the development of web applications.
The numbers are promising: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, stated that demand for software engineers will increase by 41 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Therefore, practically nobody doubts the future of this profession. But IT is a fast changing industry, where bottlenecks drive up salaries. Will this development remain profitable, or are companies also looking for other, more cost-effective solutions?
Programmers and software engineers are among the jobs of the future. They will be relevant for IT long enough to lay the decisive foundations. From solving actual core problems to dealing with new individual requirements and wishes to developing, checking, and adapting software, programmers will still be needed for quite a while. Software development still remains a complex process which demands creative processes based on various methodologies such as Agile, Scrum, or Kanban to succeed with the most out-of-the-box solutions. And human creative processes are not so easily and, above all, so quickly replaced by the logical processes of automation. So, let’s talk about the skills required for a software developer both hard and soft.
What Software Development Skills Will Be Required?
In a highly competitive landscape, software engineers must possess a diverse skill set encompassing many programming languages, tools, frameworks, and platforms to not only meet the requirements of job openings but also stand out and secure employment in an increasingly demanding industry. Here are the most popular programming languages in 2023, according to the Praxis research:
However, what is more needed nowadays are software engineers with other qualities besides technical know-how. Apart from the creativity we mentioned above, one of them is analytical thinking.
Today’s tech-savvy customers have plenty of wishes, requirements, architecture patterns, and designs, which come in all sorts of degrees of detail, formal or informal, and in the most diverse nomenclatures, into a compact, consistent, efficient, practical, understandable, and technically feasible form. Thus software engineers should thoroughly analyze the requirements to create solutions that meet customer needs and expectations.
Moreover, software engineers today must therefore recognize connections, generalize and simplify aspects, consider edge cases, identify complexity, etc. To win the battle with AI-based technologies, a skilled engineer may require the following soft skills:
Collaboration and communication
Effective collaboration and communication skills will be crucial as software engineers increasingly work in cross-functional teams and interact with stakeholders. While modern coaches and books on communication can provide valuable knowledge and guidance, they cannot fully replace the depth and nuances of soft skills developed through years of practical experience and real-world interactions in the software engineering profession because the human-to-human connection is beyond the control of artificial intelligence (for now, hopefully).
Problem-solving and critical thinking
Strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills will remain vital for software engineers to analyze complex tasks , identify efficient solutions, and optimize software performance. While AI-based risk prediction analytical software can offer valuable insights, it cannot replace the invaluable expertise and intuition gained through practical software engineering experience, encompassing context-specific decision-making and nuanced problem-solving.
Software engineers will need to cultivate emotional intelligence to effectively collaborate with diverse distributed teams. Moreover, empathy is crucial for software engineers to succeed as it empowers them to understand and manage their own emotions, navigate conflicts, and build strong relationships, enhancing overall job performance.
Data analysis and interpretation
Data analysis and interpretation proficiency will become increasingly valuable as software engineers leverage data-driven insights to optimize software performance and enhance user experiences. Compared to any algorithm, human software engineers excel in data analysis and interpretation due to their ability to contextualize and apply domain knowledge and make subjective judgments that go beyond the capabilities of AI/ML-based programs.
The qualities mentioned above are essential. The competition from countries with lower wage levels is fierce, and the employees’ education and technical skills are constantly improving. As a result, pure programming work, whether simple or complex, can easily be outsourced to any location around the world.
Technology Trends that Impact the Software Engineers’ Future
The future of software engineering holds exciting possibilities as emerging technologies continue to shape the profession. Here are five technology trends that are poised to have a significant impact on software engineers:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
AI and ML technologies are revolutionizing software development by automating tasks, enhancing decision-making, and improving efficiency. Software engineers will need to acquire skills in designing, implementing, and maintaining AI-powered systems to stay relevant in the evolving landscape.
Internet of Things
The proliferation of IoT devices will require software engineers to develop applications that seamlessly connect and interact with various smart devices. Engineers will need to grasp IoT protocols, security considerations, and data management techniques to build robust and scalable IoT solutions.
Encompassing freely available code and software is poised to significantly shape the software engineering profession. It fosters collaboration and innovation through shared resources and the collective expertise of experienced coders, enabling developers to leverage and build upon existing assets. Moreover, this trend accelerates development cycles and promotes knowledge-sharing within the community.
As blockchain gains traction across various industries, software engineers will be crucial in developing decentralized applications (DApps), smart contracts, and secure data handling mechanisms. Understanding blockchain principles and cryptographic algorithms will be essential for software engineers entering this domain.
Today, web portals and simpler web applications can be implemented by almost anyone with no programming knowledge using online editors that are similar to building blocks. No-code platforms are designed to bypass insufficient programming resources cost-effectively and speed up the development cycle.
As a result, new digital processes can be implemented by employees who are more closely involved in the workflow and business strategies — which may be a salvation for the software engineers on the job market.
The shift towards cloud-based infrastructure and services continues to accelerate, requiring software engineers to possess expertise in developing and deploying applications in cloud environments. Familiarity with containerization, serverless architecture, and distributed systems will be vital in building scalable and resilient software solutions.
The realm of quantum computing emerges as a boundless universe, holding the power to unravel hidden challenges that expand classical computers’ capabilities and propel humanity toward unprecedented breakthroughs. Software engineers will need to learn quantum programming languages and algorithms to harness the power of quantum computing, opening up new avenues for optimization, simulation, and cryptography.
Embracing these technology trends and continually upgrading skills will be crucial for software engineers to thrive in the future, enabling them to tackle novel challenges and contribute to cutting-edge innovations across industries.
Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, software professionals will find themselves at the forefront of innovation, shaping the future of technology and safeguarding critical systems.While the future of software engineering remains uncertain in the ever-changing business environment, you can gain a clear advantage in the competition in your industry with a bespoke software development partner at your side.