Rod Cope, CTO of Perforce Software, explains how to meet the demand for global software development talent
The number of software developers entering the workforce is increasing, but the demand always exceeds the supply.
Most businesses already know they depend on software. Today, many of them are starting to understand that software development – and the people behind it – must be a higher priority. The good news is that the number of software development talent entering the workforce has increased. The bad news is that it is not enough.
The problems are volume and quality; software projects are increasingly complex, with multiple and diverse elements and contributors. The IoT, for example, requires hardware and software teams to ensure that their respective components can safely interoperate. Plus, reaching for development talent is just the start: retaining them is a bigger challenge. Developers are solicited.
Try the challenge
There are several ways to reach and retain talented developers. First, companies should encourage a greater organization-wide appreciation of the value of software developers (as part of the need to view IT as an asset, not a burden). Developers will feel more valued and motivated. At the same time, continue to proactively communicate this value to them while linking their activities to business results.
Clear and developmental career paths should be provided for new and experienced software developers. Younger developers will expect rapid career growth – show them faster, more engaging paths, such as more opportunities to work on innovation projects and tech or earn a new job title or a new salary by learning a new skill. Experienced developers may want more time to explore new technology, some freedom to decide what to work on next, or just consolidate what they have been working on for years.
A mentorship program connecting graduates with more experienced developers is a good idea. However, this can add an expensive workload. Supplement this “human” support with tools that, for example, help monitor the quality of code, driving a consistent level of coding practice and preventing the number of errors escaping in production.
Be flexible with each person’s working hours, location and choice of tools. Give them top quality materials and other work products to make their jobs easier. Online training and permission to devote working time to it is essential.
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The growing diversity of automated tools that surround the developer’s digital workspace means more people can get involved in aspects of software development. Sometimes referred to as “citizen developers,” these team members may not be experienced or qualified software engineers. However, give them codeless development and testing tools and they can improve their contribution to the organization. For example, scriptless testing means that commercial testers can perform more tests without knowing how to write test scripts. They don’t even need to know how to write a single line of code.
Automation also means that software developers perform more testing early in the application lifecycle. As a result, the impact on their working day is minimized, while the issues are hopefully discovered earlier in the process. This “Shift Left” testing approach is an integral part of DevOps. In turn, this frees up test engineers from more routine testing and allows them to focus on other tasks that require manual intervention (and there will be testing that will require human assistance for many years).
Like just about any other aspect of business these days, software development teams can be located remotely. Many organizations are already using talent from far away. Best practices are to hold frequent but short video meetings with cameras on for better human interaction. Be sensitive to time zones and consider rotating regular meetings so team members can alternate those who have to work sooner or later. Also take advantage of collaborative tools so that everyone is heading in the same direction. Examples include project tracking, shared whiteboards, and version control.
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It is vital to create a “safety first” mindset among everyone involved in software development. Software engineers haven’t traditionally focused much on security, but that needs to change. Additionally, people with minimal software development experience – such as citizen developers – may inadvertently introduce flaws. Therefore, everyone involved in software development should be aware of security risks and their responsibilities in mitigating those risks. Clearly defined processes are also needed so that individuals cannot bypass security measures. Code reviews, automated testing, and AI-enhanced testing can all help.
The intelligent use of software development resources must be a priority for today’s businesses. By making development roles as attractive and engaging as possible, built around the right processes within an organization, companies can attract, retain and better utilize available talent.