Developers influence technology decisions 

I once had the opportunity to work for a large digital company that was preparing to modernise its infrastructure by choosing a new cloud platform vendor. A small team of six developers was tasked with organising a proof-of-concept (POC) to demonstrate the feasibility of this endeavour. After six weeks of intensive work, some developers began expressing their dissatisfaction with the new platform’s cumbersome interface. Suddenly, a multimillion-dollar commitment hung in the balance, relying on the opinions of a few hands-on experts.

Over a span of three years, ending in Q1 2021, we conducted six surveys to track developers’ engagement with and adoption of various technologies. To assess engagement and adoption, we asked developers if they were working on, learning about, interested in, or uninterested in different emerging technologies. We continuously updated the list as new innovations emerged. Adoption was measured by the proportion of engaged developers actively working on a technology. To provide context, each technology was categorized based on whether its engagement and adoption rates were above or below the median, resulting in four quadrants:

1. High engagement/High adoption: These technologies captivate the imagination of numerous developers and have demonstrated commercial success.

2. High engagement/Low adoption: These technologies generate significant interest among developers but have yet to make a substantial commercial impact.

3. Low engagement/Low adoption: These fringe technologies do not attract much interest from developers, and their commercial value is yet to be proven.

4. Low engagement/High adoption: These technologies might not appeal to many developers, but for those interested, commercial adoption is high.

In our analysis, after excluding DevOps from our emerging technology tracker, robotics, mini apps (apps embedded within another app), and computer vision emerged as the most engaging technologies for developers. Approximately half of the developers expressed that they were working on, learning about, or interested in each of these technologies. While professional developers showed the highest adoption rate for mini apps, robotics piqued the interest of hobbyists and students. However, of the developers engaged with mini apps, nearly a quarter were actively working on the technology, whereas for computer vision, this figure dropped to 15%, and for robotics, it was only 10%. Despite similar levels of engagement, mini apps’ practical applications were widely recognized by developers, as adoption increased by four percentage points over the past year, representing one of the largest increases observed.

64% of developer team leads are influencing decision makers or making recommendations

Developers influence technology decisions

Cryptocurrencies garnered the highest engagement among developers, with almost three in ten engaged developers expressing interest in learning about them. Other blockchain applications closely followed at 26%. However, the academic interest in these technologies has yet to directly translate into adoption, as only 14% and 12% of engaged developers are actively working on projects involving cryptocurrencies and other blockchain applications, respectively. 

More than 40% of these developers are professionally involved in web apps/Software as a Service (SaaS), and a third are engaged in mobile development. Nevertheless, adoption increased for both cryptocurrencies (by 5 percentage points) and other blockchain applications (by 4 percentage points) in the past year, indicating ongoing exploration of practical applications. As demonstrated by companies like Maersk incorporating blockchain technology into their logistics management systems in recent years, broader adoption is inevitable.

Quantum computing and self-driving cars continue to have limited adoption rates but capture the imagination of some developers, with over two in five engaged with these technologies. However, fewer than one in ten of these engaged developers are actively working on each of these technologies. Although engagement decreased over the past year, adoption increased for both quantum computing (by 4 percentage points) and self-driving cars (by 2 percentage points). A similar pattern emerged with brain/body computer interfaces, anew technology added in the most recent survey, where many developers expressed engagement, but due to its cutting-edge nature, very few are actively working on it.

Recently, we added hearables, DNA computing/storage, and haptic feedback to our list of emerging technologies. Engagement with these technologies remains low, similar to fog/edge computing, with a quarter to a third of developers showing interest. Among the engaged developers, approximately one in ten are actively working on these nascent technologies, while two in ten are learning about them. 

For each of the discussed emerging technologies, there are various barriers preventing widespread adoption. Technological hurdles are prominent, as advances required for mainstream implementation of quantum or DNA computing are still several years away. Additionally, social, cultural, and even legislative barriers can impede progress. While developers play a crucial role, they are only one piece of the puzzle.


The lasting effects of COVID-19 on how developers work and learn

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people work and learn across industries, and developers are no exception to that. Although in the grand scheme of things, our data indicates that many developers have been weathering well the repercussions of an unprecedented crisis, there is much more to tell. 

The findings shared in this post are based on our Developer Economics 20th edition survey, which ran from December 2020 to February 2021 and reached 19,000 developers. Previously we reviewed how developers’ needs were changing due to COVID-19. Now we’ve taken a deep dive into our latest survey data to find which developer groups and regional communities were affected the most by the pandemic and in what ways. 

Before you dive into the data, our new global developer survey is live now. We have updated it with questions relevant for developers in 2021 – check it out and take part for a chance to leave your mark on the upcoming trends and win prizes.

How the COVID-19 pandemic affected the way developers work or study

In our survey, we asked developers to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way they work or learn. In perhaps the most salient category, 7% of developers said that they had lost their job in the aftermath of the pandemic and 9% had dropped out of their studies. Notwithstanding the severity of becoming unemployed in times of crisis, the IT sector is still seen as one of the least impacted sectors in terms of hiring during the global pandemic, with an almost unwavering demand for professionals in software and hardware segments.

How the COVID-19 pandemic affected the way developers work or study

Which developers were impacted the most?

Arguably, not every developer has been affected by their company’s decision to enforce remote working to the same extent. For example, does a working parent who juggles the daily demands of commutes and childcare embrace the opportunity of working remotely as a means of having a better work-life balance? On the other hand, if asked, how many pre-pandemic graduates would have, at the time of their study, agreed to go fully remote and potentially miss out on exploring the rich social life that a university offers to young people? Let’s take a closer look at some of our distinct developer groups to understand which factors have been having the greatest impact on ways of working and learning. 

When looking at how the pandemic affected developers of different experience levels, we find that the more experienced developers were also more affected in the way they work. For instance, 40% of developers with less than one year of work experience say they were unaffected in their ways of working, compared to 35% of developers with six or more years of experience. While the gap is not particularly large, junior developers appear to have switched to remote working to a lesser extent. This may be, in part, due to younger people and new hires wanting to go to the office, get to know their colleagues, and connect with their peers.

Developers working for large organisations were the most likely to go fully-remote during the pandemic

Next, we evaluated COVID-19’s impact with respect to company size. We find that developers working for larger companies were clearly more affected in their ways of working by the pandemic. While 42% of developers in small companies between two and 50 employees say they were not affected, the number plummets to less than 30% for developers in companies of over 50 employees. Large enterprises with more than 5,000 employees have been battling the repercussions of the pandemic at the frontlines; 51% of developers here went fully remote compared to just 29% of developers in companies with between two and 50 employees.

Developers in small companies were less affected by the pandemic.

Note that, except for small companies, switching to fully-remote working was the most likely outcome in our survey. There are good reasons for this: large business organisations are naturally more risk-averse and commonly need large contiguous office spaces that have to be fully closed for all of their employees to effectively contain the spread of the virus. On the other hand, many small companies had more remote-friendly organisational structures to begin with. In particular, start-ups have been known to promote a remote-first culture due to the apparent benefits of lower seed capital and broader options to recruit and pool talents together.

Twice as many developers in Western Europe compared to East Asia went fully remote.

Switching to remote working has been more common in Western regions.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise when looking at different regions to find a substantial gap between the East and the West. Our data shows that the Western regions, such as Western Europe and the Americas, have more readily facilitated remote working for their employees. For instance, 41% of Western European developers went fully remote, as opposed to only 20% in East Asia. This could be due to a combination of different factors. For example, pundits argue that many Asian countries score low for having the technological infrastructure deemed necessary to adapt to remote working conditions, such as having poor home-office equipment or internet connectivity that is sensitive to traffic surges. Yes, social factors may have partly played a role, as higher average household sizes and smaller apartments in emerging regions pose roadblocks to their own for employees to balance their work and home life.

The pandemic took a heavier toll on young learners.

Lastly, we looked at COVID-19’s impact on learners. 39% of 18- to 24-year olds stated that the way they study has not been affected during the pandemic. On the contrary, among those students aged 25 and over, 50% or more were not affected. Thus, an interesting trend emerges here, that especially younger learners had to adapt by becoming partly or fully remote. Our data offers one possible clue for this; younger learners are more likely enrolled in a formal degree program than older learners, who are more likely to be self-taught and are to be found burning the midnight oil with online courses and boot camps that have traditionally fostered remote ways of studying.