What are the software development trends for the second half of 2020? It’s clear that this is a year like no other. The current crisis has turned the world upside down, forcing companies to manage new technology challenges and review their digital strategies. Digital has become the main (and, in some cases, only) channel of interaction and engagement with customers. Therefore, businesses with digital projects designed to be implemented in the next one to three years need to accelerate their initiatives.

At this unique point in history, software development has never been more important, and developers are essential to enterprise innovation. Companies are relying on developer problem-solving prowess to help differentiate their companies by designing and delivering more apps that improve operational performance and customer experiences.

Here are the 10 software development trends that will help organizations become more competitive in this new era.

#1: AI-Assisted Development

Some development platforms have added AI capabilities to increase the speed and ease of developing. In the case of OutSystems, we fuse AI seamlessly into the user and developer experience with AIFusion™.

AIFusion guides developers so they don’t get stuck, checks code, and increases speed. Developers save time when creating new or editing existing apps with expertise, learned from over 15 million anonymized patterns and apps, that suggests what to add to logic flows. It also detects when a developer is stuck and offers just-in-time help, orientation, and knowledge right in the platform so that there’s no break in the process.

AIFusion ensures that AI serves developers as a mentor. It observes what each developer is trying to do and provides guidance along the way. With the help of AI, new, amateur, and advanced developers alike become more proficient.

#2: AI for Applications

AI use is a competitive differentiator today. It can expedite an outcome, enable more informed decision-making, and deliver more relevant and meaningful customer experiences. So, the prediction that the growth of using AI to power business processes and CXs will be enormous is spot on.

Large and small industry players, from tech giants like Microsoft to startups like Narrative Science, are making great strides in this software engineering trend, as is OutSystems. The ability to add cutting-edge AI capabilities to projects easily is critical for the second half of 2020. OutSystems has an AI for apps portfolio that spans the top use cases and enables developers to innovate and increase the business value of their applications.

#3: Robotic Process Automation

Many organizations are implementing RPA to achieve higher levels of efficiency. Specifically, they're using RPA for rote, repetitive tasks that are better suited to machines than people. An example is contract review or employee onboarding. They're also using RPA to supplement the speed and volume of work humans do.

But the biggest value proposition of RPA is that, through automation and bots, it frees everyone to be more strategic and boost innovation.

#4: Progressive Web Apps

PWAs are hot right now. This type of app combines the functions of native apps and website accessibility without involving the app stores. Like native apps, PWAs can work offline, send push notifications, and access device hardware, such as cameras or GPS. The user experiences are similar to native apps on mobile and desktop devices without downloading or updating hassles.

PWAs can be developed faster than native apps, and they are easier to maintain. Unlike native apps, they use one codebase for all devices, they’re searchable by search engines, and they are light (often under 1MB). Because they are lightweight, they take up less space on a mobile device.

#5: Continuous Integration and Delivery

With CI/CD, IT teams can automate the process of integrating and testing changes as they are developed. This way, they can speed up the flow of delivering software changes to production environments and amplify the feedback loops in the delivery pipeline. As a result, they catch problems early in the development stage and act on them quickly.

When digital is the new normal, CI/CD can have a big impact on the way your IT team works by accelerating delivery cycles and on the experience of your customers by speeding up the implementation of changes and feedback loops. You can learn more about CI/CD and DevOps automation in these articles.

#6: Rapid Prototyping and Innovation

Disrupters know that innovation can come from anywhere in their organizations, so they encourage and even reward their employees accordingly. More companies will follow suit because they'll fall behind their competitors if they continue to limit innovation to a handful of people or a single department. To help facilitate more innovation, many organizations have increased their adoption of technologies like low-code platforms and prototyping tools. These technologies quickly transform ideas into demos, minimum viable products (MVPs), and even entire applications.

#7: Digital Transformation Enablers

Organizations are pressured, because of the times we’re living in, to digitize everything they can, from operations to customer experiences. Digital transformation is the process of converting traditionally analog "things" and manual, human-centric tasks into their digital equivalents. With digital transformation, new and cool ideas will proliferate, but there needs to be a mechanism in place to transform them into bottom-line benefits.

The speed of implementation is critical. While digital transformation is a multi-year process, competitors and disruptors are continually changing the rules of the game. To keep up the pace demanded by the market, companies need to invest in tools that facilitate faster innovation cycles and enable higher levels of organizational agility. To learn more about what technologies and approaches companies are investing to accelerate their app development, check out the Speed of Change report, based on the answers from 2,200 IT professionals and senior IT leaders worldwide. 

#8: Low-Code Development

Developers have been skeptical of low-code platforms because they spent many years in school and at work learning their craft. As a result, many doubt that low-code platforms can be taken seriously since a lot of human knowledge and skill have been required to build a great application, historically. Yet, entire development teams are embracing low-code today.

Not all low-code platforms are alike. Some low-code platforms target professional developers, some target web developers, and some target citizen developers.

Enterprise-grade platforms like OutSystems allow developers to write applications an order of magnitude faster than before (e.g., in hours versus days, days versus weeks, weeks versus months, etc.). They then have more time to innovate and attack the backlog. They can also reduce technical debt and avoid accumulating more of it in the future.

#9: "Future-Proof" Applications

New application languages and frameworks are emerging all the time commercially and in open-source communities. Companies can't afford to rewrite their applications every time a new technology comes down the pike. On the other hand, they can't afford to lag behind competitors technologically.

Companies need to invest in platforms and tools that can help shield them from technological change. Some OutSystems customers, for example, have weathered more than 14 years of technology evolution and innovation without rewriting their applications.

#10: New Dual Speed Development

In many organizations, software development is progressing at dual speeds. While one software development team is using tools to accelerate application delivery, another team continues operating as it always has. While there's nothing "wrong" with that and there may be good reasons for it, particularly in highly regulated companies, creating "haves" and "have-nots" is likely to cause cultural tension in an organization.

Executives and boards of directors are noticing the dual-speed phenomenon and wondering why the tortoises aren't keeping up with the hares. Some software development organizations and teams are mandating the use of low-code to accelerate application release velocity. Others, such as health insurance company Humana, have made participation optional, with designers opting to work on compelling low-code projects in their free time. Project successes have fueled the funding of new projects at Humana and more designers are clamoring to work on the emerging projects.

Get Ready for 2021 

These are just a few topics that we discussed  at NextStep, our annual event, that is now available on-demand! Take a look and enjoy a variety of tracks with real innovation stories, disruptive thinking, and jaw-dropping technology for free!