Three Surprises in Software Development in 2012

‘Tis the season to make unsupportable predictions for the future.  Despite my prior record (and I remain surprised that we don’t yet have personal jet packs) I’d still like to share a long-range weather forecast for the software industry.

You’ve been warned.  From here on, you’re on your own.

Prediction 1: Everyone Will Claim They Are Agile

And 50% of them will be wrong, just based on the Nokia test.  And of the rest, half won’t get any value from it.

There are a lot, and here I really need to underline a lot, of bad development practices out there.  For every organization that is killing it with Agile, there are five (my agilesta friends say ten) organizations that are limping along, delivering buggy code to their customers, late, and missing committed functionality.  And often all three.

This “Going Agile Without Knowing How” problem is probably an inevitable result of the success the early-adopter teams had with Agile methods.  For instance, when I watch The Olympics, figure skaters make skating look effortless.  When I do it, I look like a drunken hippo and hurt my butt.  It’s hard to stop and remember that these athletes, in addition to good genetics, spent years at the rink with their coaches learning, trying, failing, and improving, before they got in front of the TV cameras.

Agile has crossed the chasm, and the great majority of organizations have too few people, with too little coaching, and hardly any tooling.  Sure, your boss doesn’t realize how useless your stand-up meetings are, or that your code isn’t fully tested at the end of a sprint, but she’ll eventually see that your customers are not happy.

Prediction 2: Development for Mobile Devices Will Still be Small

Yes, Mobile is really big, and moving fast.  It’s just that the great majority of the work to support useful mobile apps remains in the back office.  When we’re finished inventing new ways to swipe our coffee-stained fingers across our screens, the value of the great majority of our apps is back in the glass house, running Java and C++ on big ‘ole honking (virtualized) servers.

The development problem in the era of proliferating small platforms, remains the problem of dealing with large, complex, data and it’s interactions.

Sleep well, Larry Ellison.

Prediction 3: The Gap Between Pros And Amateurs Will Grow

Every new software technology “spike” rewards the early adopters with higher productivity, which can level the playing field for the “newbie” or occasional software developer.  But as application complexity grows, as the platforms become more complex and development environments become richer, the professional advantage becomes more significant.

There isn’t much of a disadvantage in time-to-market for the young developer, maybe working on his laptop with open source tools and no identifiable process. The difference between them and a team of experienced professionals, working with industrial strength tools and procedures, and building apps that run businesses on virtualized hardware in a web connected world, is in “value created.”

Created Value is a concept that we’ve all been learning during the past ten years of Agile evangelism.  Created Value is measured at the customer side, and primarily by the classic metrics of software: how does the software help me get my job done better and faster?

There was a time when the lowest cost labour source for a software project was the key criteria.  Over the past two years, software projects have been revisiting their decisions as they’ve seen the crippling effects of buggy, unmaintainable, badly architected products.  We’ve seen the evidence with a hiring boom in the US for developers and QA alike.

In short, in 2012, we’ll see a renewed focus on quality of development, over quantity.  And a better appreciation for the talent, tools, and techniques, that create it.


Posted in: Agile, Best Practices, News

Leave a Comment (4) ↓


  1. Scott Stribrny December 22, 2011

    Lorne, While I agree with all three predictions I especially support prediction one. I’m presenting “How Agile Projects Measure Up: Two Landmark Studies” in Chicago on January 24 ( May I quote you on my slide #1? (i.e, “Everyone Will Claim They Are Agile And 50% of them will be wrong, just based on the Nokia test. And of the rest, half won’t get any value from it…”)

  2. Ron December 22, 2011

    I would bet out of all of the organizations that are killing it, the difference between them is that management understands the values of the practices and buys into it – it isn’t the practices themselves.

    Agile (lean, etc) is a philosophy about software development that comes with tools and practices that may or may not be useful for a particular team.

    The key to successful agile implementations (and I would welcome feedback from your “agilesta friends” is that if it works, almost always the “customer” or “business partner” buys into the value proposition (as does the team). If this is absent, its no wonder so may organizations fail.

  3. Lorne Cooper January 4, 2012

    Steve, sure, quote away. Unlike Charles Barkley, I can’t claim to have been mis quoted by my own blog post.

    Ron, I agree and would generalize your claim about the importance of management support: it’s critical to any initiative to improve, or even change. The organization. We who have given up the power to create have retained the power to destroy.

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