Developers say they work for tech-focused companies, but the data may not support it

Image: monsitj/Adobe Stock

More than 3,700 front-end development professionals responded to The Software House’s front-end software development survey, but only 82% believe they work for a technology-focused company.

I only say because if we’ve learned anything over the past decade, it’s that every organization needs to be serious about software. That’s not to say that software is the only thing organizations need to worry about, but these survey results make me worry that while the bulk of survey respondents think software is at the heart of their activities, other data shows that very few non-software companies do software very well.

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How quickly are front-end developers adopting new frameworks?

It’s possible that the survey simply represents an unrepresentative sample of the overall population of front-end developers: that is, it favors people who think technology is important.

As the report’s authors note, “82% identified as working in a software development company, development agency, or technology or digital-focused businesses.” These are unlike traditional companies like Chevron, PepsiCo or DR Horton, and government organizations are completely separated in the survey results.

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So again, it’s hard to say if the survey didn’t reach people who work in more traditional companies, or if there really are more engineers working in places where software is at heart of the business. I suspect it’s more of the former than the latter, but hopefully we’re getting smarter about technology, in general.

Still, one way to gauge the level of geekiness (in the best sense of the word) in the front end community is how quickly they are adopting relatively new frameworks like Next.js.

In Figure Athe lighter bars on the right represent the 2020 results of this same survey, compared to the darker 2022 results on the left.

Figure A

Image: Matt Asay/TechRepublic.

Although React held its own, it’s telling that relatively new meta-frameworks like Next.js and Gatsby are climbing the popularity charts.

At the same time, in the area of ​​libraries, 40% of the developers surveyed want to use Apollo to connect to GraphQL, and “more and more people [are] moving their development online, which also suggests an increased general interest in cloud development,” according to Ives van Hoorne, co-founder of CodeSandbox.

There is also a growing belief that TypeScript is here to stay. From these results and other surveys, it’s clear that front-end developers are happily racing towards a shiny new web future, which suggests, to me, that there’s a healthy respect for the power of software in the within this group.

It’s not necessarily new. Frontal development has traditionally been characterized by an almost frantic march toward the shiny and the new, but to me, that feels different. We now see a healthy balance between the new and the old.

And yet, we can believe that the software counts without being good in this field, as this study by McKinsey illustrates.

Software engineering must be part of a company’s DNA

For example, according to McKinsey’s survey of business decision makers, companies are betting big that digital solutions will impact their revenue. In the last 12 months, 27% of respondents believe that digital solutions were responsible for more than 50% of business revenue, while this percentage climbs to 38% by 2023. Similarly, 27% see responsible digital from 25% to 50% over the last year, but 39% see responsible digital from 25% to 50% by 2023.

In other words, in 2023, no less than 77% of business decision makers believe that digital will represent at least 25% of their income.

While that sounds great, if we look at the $500 billion in global software revenue, non-IT companies are only responsible for 6% of that, according to McKinsey. Clearly, there’s a big gap between aspiration and reality, with four myths that keep non-IT businesses from fully becoming an IT-centric business.

Perhaps the most important of the myths McKinsey identifies is that “digital transformation” simply requires adding engineering talent, rather than redesigning the way the business operates and sells. Software engineering must become part of the company’s DNA, not an add-on.

The same goes for machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. 30% of respondents felt that machine learning would have a big impact on their business, but only 10% saw significant returns on investment.

In other words, it’s nice that front-end engineers surveyed by The Software House think they work for tech-focused companies. Maybe they do. But most companies don’t fit that description — not yet, anyway — and need to figure out how to embed software talent deep into their DNA.

Disclosure: I work for MongoDB, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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