Tony Harris - December 10, 2020
Developer at computer show digital transformation

Businesses of all sizes and industries are increasingly turning to digital transformations in order to make smarter, data-driven decisions, thereby gaining a competitive advantage over their competitors and better serving their customers. Yet as more and more companies adopt this forward-looking stance, what’s the role of developers in this new world of digital transformation? Below, we’ll discuss 3 topics that organizations should consider when it comes to developers and digital transformation.

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1. In-house vs. external

Digital transformations inherently rely on bringing new technologies into the enterprise—but where will these new technologies come from? You might decide to build a solution with your in-house developers, hire an external team to do the work for you, or purchase a pre-built third-party solution, depending on your business needs and objectives.

Organizations going through a digital transformation need to successfully navigate this tension between the resources and skill set needed to achieve their given objectives, and their existing in-house teams. Developers should ask questions such as:

  • Does our in-house developer team have the knowledge, time, and resources we need to build this solution ourselves?
  • If the in-house team is lacking in one or more respects, can we hire the talent necessary to complete the job?
  • What will the timeline and budget be if we decide to work with an external team? 
  • If we buy a pre-built solution, will we be able to customize it enough to fit our needs?
  • What are the tradeoffs between all three options? The most important components of a digital transformation may merit the custom-built treatment, while less important aspects can often be obtained with an off-the-shelf solution.

2. Software architecture

If you decide to build a digital transformation solution from scratch (either internally or externally), the next question is which software architecture to use.

Traditionally, applications have been built using a monolithic architecture: a software design pattern that treats an application as a single, coherent entity composed in one piece. For example, code for the application’s user interface may be bundled together with code for its business logic, integrations, and more. As such, changes to one part of the application’s code base risk making changes to other parts as well (often unintentionally).

In recent years, however, many organizations have been seeing the benefits of a microservices-based model for building software applications. In the microservices architecture, software is decomposed into multiple interlocking yet discrete entities called “microservices,” each one with its own business logic and processes. Microservices applications have benefits such as greater flexibility and increased scalability—for example, if one of the microservices goes down, the rest of the application can continue functioning independently.

The question of monolithic vs. microservices is one that every organization undergoing digital transformation needs to consider. In many cases, businesses can realize significant improvements simply by breaking down a monolithic application into microservices. Developers have a key digital transformation role in navigating this consideration on behalf of organisations.

3. Agile and DevOps

Digital transformation requires developers to make quick responses to bugs and feature requests, especially for customer-facing applications. This means that companies building software for their digital transformation initiatives need to consider not only the software’s internal architecture (i.e. monolithic vs. microservices), but also the way in which it’s built by developers.

Recent years have seen developers moving away from the traditional “waterfall” software development model, in which applications are built progressively in stages without being able to return to a previous stage. Instead, more and more organizations are adopting software development practices such as DevOps and the agile methodology, which are frequently deployed in combination:

  • Agile software development emphasizes quick, iterative collaboration by self-organizing, cross-functional teams that focuses on meeting users’ needs.
  • DevOps, meanwhile, seeks to more tightly integrate developers and IT operations teams in order to shorten the development life cycle while increasing applications’ quality and reliability.

While agile and DevOps can have a profound impact on software development projects, organizations considering them need to tread carefully. According to IT research and advisory firm Gartner: “Through 2023, human rather than technical factors will cause 90 percent of agile/DevOps initiatives to miss expectations of higher customer value and faster product delivery.” To avoid meeting the same fate, Gartner suggests that companies should invest heavily in automation, continuous testing, and a high-quality user experience.

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Conclusion

As many tech visionaries will tell you, digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Because the business landscape is constantly shifting, digital transformation is much more about changing developers’ mindset and the organizational culture, rather than enacting any single piece of technology.

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Interested in reading more about digital transformation? Try these:

Digital Transformation: What Does It Mean for Different Industries?

5 Digital Transformation Trends for 2021