Software development has evolved dramatically in recent years. No longer thought of as an essential for only the biggest, richest, most innovative companies in the world, software development is now an essential element to the majority of businesses, large and small.

In a global economy that is becoming increasingly service-based, software is central to business survival and growth.

Unsurprisingly, software development has its challenges, some larger than others. And the depth of those challenges will often depend on a myriad of factors. But what are the biggest challenge facing software developers? Below, we consider two of the biggest issues.

Closing the skills gap

Despite the undoubted necessity for software development in today’s business world, there is still a huge gap between the skills needed to fulfil project requirements and the number of highly-skilled talent available, particularly in the UK. According to The Telegraph, just 10% of the UK population has basic coding skills. And a large portion of the remaining 90% don’t even know what coding is, or say they have absolutely no interest in the field.

Coding was introduced to the national school curriculum by the UK government in 2014 in an attempt to bridge the gap between the industry requirement and education. Addressing education does move towards a long-term solution, but is of no use to software developers needing skilled workers now.

UK software developers are also struggling to attract what talent there is available. According to Forbes, software engineers in London earn 38% less than their counterparts in Silicon Valley and 35% less than those in New York. And yet, a separate study by O2 estimates 750,000 new digital jobs will need to be filled in the UK by 2020, and 2.3 million people will need to be trained to keep up with demand.

There is also the issue of Brexit to consider. Forbes reports that a third of workers in the UK’s tech sector come from European countries. Companies use highly-skilled European talent to supplement the lack of homegrown talent coming from the education system. Uncertainty over Freedom of Movement puts into doubt organisations’ ability to attract the best and brightest talent available to them from Europe.

Innovation vs adoption

Humans, by nature, are creatures of habit. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but we like routine, we like things the way they are. Big change doesn’t come naturally to us. Therein lies a mountain-sized problem for software developers.

Innovation isn’t just central to a software development company if it wants to thrive, it’s central if it wants to merely survive in a competitive market. Innovation is centred around change.

The issue for software developers is that users, and even clients, often don’t realise they want or need something until they have it. But in order to have it, their norm has to be challenged. Think of smartphones. No one knew we wanted or needed phones with touchscreens capable of accessing the internet, navigating us to a destination, paying for goods and services, word processing, video editing and countless other possibilities. Now we have it, we know we want and need it.

Developers must balance the quest for innovation with the reality of users’ reluctance to change. While an organisation may be capable of producing software that provides a service far in excess of what users currently experience, it must consider if users are prepared for such a big change. Should ultimate innovation be the goal, or should some innovation be sacrificed to encourage higher adoption rates?

That is a crucial question software developers need to ask.

Nick Thompson, managing director at DCSL Software, said: "A constant challenge for software developers is keeping up with the rate of technological change. It is impossible for it to stand still long enough for it to be fully adopted. But with giant corporations like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple headlining the innovation drive, so many smaller businesses and individuals are making incredible progress.

"Once adopted, developers create the next version and refined model and everything moves on again. At the same time the phenomenon of public cloud along with ever-evolving computer operating systems (for example, Windows, Android and iOS) are changing the way we write software and users adopt it. Software development firms like DCSL Software are being kept very busy!"

Like any business, software development companies face constant challenges from all around. Addressing the issue of balancing innovation with software adoption is one that organisations are always going to face because innovation won’t stop.

However, the skills gap is a more ‘here and now’ challenge, but no less important for developers to consider. In order to survive, let alone thrive, software development businesses need to think about how they are going to attract the talent they need to meet requirements. And they need to do it now.

By Stephen White, Amplified Business Content