What are the top software development priorities in 2019? That was one of the questions we sought to answer in our research on the state of application development. And we found that the top priorities related to disruption, agility, and digital transformation.

Digital transformation has dominated business strategy for several years. The quest has been to seize new market opportunities, to win, serve, and retain customers to fuel business growth, and to avoid being disrupted by competitors that are becoming more numerous and varied in nature.

As if these challenges weren’t enough, many business leaders, advisers, and even IT industry analysts are starting to worry about the global economic outlook in 2019–20. Some predict a slow down, and some fear this could even turn to recession.

Organizational agility is more important today than ever. The most agile businesses will out-compete their competitors, whether that means bringing new digital products, services, and experiences to market first or adapting to more testing market conditions. As Darwin taught us, adaptability is how species and businesses survive.

This was the backdrop to this year’s State of Application Development research, in which we asked how agile is your organization and how adaptable is your IT organization?

Over 3,300 IT professionals across the globe told us about their priorities and challenges for application development and what they’re doing to speed up application delivery in 2019. 

Get the full State of Application Development 2019 report

Top Goals for Digital Transformation

Respondents told us their top goals for digital transformation, and we found that four accounted for 68% of responses:

  • Improve agility/accelerate innovation (22%)
  • Reduce costs/improve efficiency (17%)
  • Achieve growth in new markets (15%)
  • Address evolving customer behaviors or preferences (14%) 

This chart shows the full range of digital transformation goals according to the professionals and business leaders who took part in this year’s survey:

Top Software Development Priorities - Top Goals for Digital Transformation

Three Software Development Priorities in 2019

Three priorities for application development leaders stem from challenges related to the top digital transformation goals:

  • How to meet the relentless demand for new application development?
  • How to rebalance IT so that it can focus more on innovation, rather than “keeping the lights on”
  • How to get better and faster at launching customer-facing applications 

1. Meet the Demand for Custom Applications

Innovation and differentiation don’t come from neatly packaged off-the-shelf solutions, which fuels the demand for application development. Focusing on organizations with 500 or more employees, our research found 65% have 10 or more apps planned for delivery in 2019. Thirty-eight percent have 25 or more apps planned in 2019.

Forty-two percent of companies with over 10,000 employees said they planned to develop 50 or more apps in 2019, compared to just 13% of companies with between 500 and 5,000 employees.

Top Software Development Priorities - Apps Planned for Development

The full report explores the approaches that organizations are using to meet the challenge posed by such burgeoning demand for custom software development; and which of these approaches are working to increase the delivery capacity for app dev teams.

2. Deliver More Innovation

Although three of the top priorities for digital transformation depend on innovation, our study found that most software development projects are still maintenance. As shown in Table 1, of all the apps slated for development, the majority are replacements for or updates to applications that already exist rather than innovative (net new) apps.

Software Development Priorities

The overall split is, therefore, about 35% innovation and 65% maintenance. This broadly concurs with industry analyst reports that estimate that maintenance activities typically consume around 75% of the resources in IT organizations.

Top Software Development Priorities - Estimated Split of App Dev Projects

IT leaders who want to rebalance their IT organizations so that more time is spent on innovation rather than mastering the ever-changing landscape of DevOps and cloud infrastructure, will find much food for thought in the full report. For example, 40% of low-code users said they were using such platforms to replace legacy systems.     

3. Deliver More Customer-Facing Apps

We asked respondents to describe the two most important types of application that they would develop in 2019. In first place are apps used directly by customers or business partners (68%). Apps that support internal processes and operations, including analytics, came second (63%). All responses are shown here. Responses for “Other” varied considerably. APIs, blockchain, e-commerce, ERP, and robotic process automation were among them.

Top Software Development Priorities - Two Most Importante Types od App Dev Projects

The challenge for IT leaders is how to deliver more customer and partner-facing apps that users will love to use and how to do this faster?  These kinds of application come with stringent security and scalability criteria, and delivering modern digital user experiences that users will love to use whether on desktop, mobile or tablet—is no mean feat.

In the full report you will learn that over 40% of low-code users are delivering customer/partner-facing mobile apps, and over 47% say they are delivering customer or partner-facing portals and web-based applications. Given that low-code application development is up to ten times faster than hand coding, it seems that low-code users are responding faster in the race for customers’ hearts and minds.

On the Path to Innovation: Meeting the Relentless Demand for App Dev

If you’re under pressure to deliver more applications in your organization, perhaps these statistics confirm that you are not alone in this challenge. The better news is, our research went much further than quantifying the problem.

Respondents told us what they are doing to fight back and meet demand.

And, they told us what approaches and technology they are using to increase capacity and speed up the delivery of new software applications. So, we analyzed which strategies are working best. Moreover, our analysis went deep on whether new approaches like low-code are making a difference. For the full low-down, we hope you’ll read the State of Application Development report.