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Five years of software trends: What businesses need to know

In the world of technology- now moving faster than ever before - staying ahead of the game is critical to business success. This also involves being able to take action fast to implement and employ new tools and resources to keep up with customer demand and remain competitive.

At ThoughtWorks, we have developed the Tech Radar to identify important changes in software development that organisations should pay attention to and consider using in projects.

A key trend that has emerged from the Radar over the past several reports is the enablement of more adaptable and manoeuvrable architectures.

For example, techniques like Continuous Delivery and DevOps alongside tools like Chef and Puppet have driven the ability to do cheap and repeatable automated deployments, meaning that testing and evaluation are quicker and simpler, speeding up the time to product delivery.

As customer demand evolves so rapidly, scaling easily and with reduced risk is increasingly important. Containerisation, immutable servers, and phoenix environments have driven flexibility in where and how we deploy code, allowing for quick, low-risk deployments.

From technology to great works of art, speed and quality are not typically known to go hand-in-hand. However, innovations in automated testing tools and techniques mean we can move more quickly without sacrificing quality, while monitoring and metrics tools mean we can know exactly what is happening with our solutions.

Thanks to the increasing numbers of supporting frameworks and tools, many organisations are changing their approach to enterprise architecture and how they organise their teams. Flexibility and manoeuvrability now matter far more than a five-year architecture roadmap or policing corporate standards.

It’s critical that the traditional approach to enterprise architecture evolves. This usually involves building a three-to-five year plan and then having everyone drive to that plan. This is built on several faulty misconceptions about the world of business as it is today; not least the idea that we can see into the future! I spoke to a company that had a 10 year technology roadmap to get them caught up with their competitors, as if their competitors would sit still for 10 years to let them catch up! Expecting a competitor to do nothing for even a month is a now a massive risk.

Unfortunately too many organisations still select technologies through a “paper” process, which doesn’t allow them to be properly test-driven. At ThoughtWorks, we don’t recommend adopting or trialling a solution on the Radar unless we have projects that have used them in production. It’s amazing how often technologies are rolled out in an organisation based on some sort of procurement “scoring” spreadsheet or because an architect has played with them for a few weeks. We need to drive tech choice based on what is actually working for our teams and not what a software vendor sales representative has sold to the CTO or Chief Architect.

If my involvement in putting the Tech Radar together over the last five years has taught me anything, it is that the pace of change is getting faster and faster. If you look for manoeuvrability and flexibility over predictability and stability you stand a much better chance of surviving.

Ian Cartwright, co-head of technology, Europe, ThoughtWorks