Skip to content

2021 Trends in Software Development

December 8, 2020

This post is part of G2's 2021 digital trends series. Read more about G2’s perspective on digital transformation trends in an introduction from Michael Fauscette, G2's chief research officer and Tom Pringle, VP, market research, and additional coverage on trends identified by G2’s analysts.

Emerging software development and DevOps trends in 2021

As is always and obviously the case, the software development and DevOps space will surely undergo major changes in the coming year. Some of the upcoming changes have been catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shift to remote work, while some are long overdue. Of course, it’s impossible to say with certainty whether any of the trends we anticipate will actually come to pass, but it’s fun to indulge the analysts’ version of a god complex.

Here are three major trends I anticipate for the software development space in 2021.

A codeless convergence: no-code, low-code, and business process management

No-code and low-code development platforms have historically allowed nontechnical users (or “citizen developers,” if you’re a masochist) to build applications. The functionality has long been deemed too basic for mission-critical business needs, and these products have found themselves in limbo between the nontechnical and developer personas, as overviewed as part of our 2020 software development trends. However, the shift to remote work has solidified a strong use case for the software: a collaborative hub by which users can not only build enterprise applications but also perform custom business process management (BPM).

BPM software helps define, automate, and report on processes that are intended to help optimize businesses to deliver on company goals. The overlap of BPM software with no-code and low-code platforms comes in at the “define and automate” stage: using visual interfaces, nontechnical users can build entire processes and set up automations and functionalities from scratch. This means that the guardrails and templates associated with conventional BPM become much more flexible or disappear altogether, giving users full control to modernize their business processes in a way that suits their companies’ specific needs. That would be some incredible functionality to leverage if, say, a global disaster suddenly required businesses to adapt to a completely new reality.

Related: Low-Code Development Platforms: Understanding Personas Amid Popularity Surge

The convergence of no-code and low-code platforms with BPM software is already apparent—at the time of writing, 5 of the top 10 BPM products on G2 (based on reviews gathered from our user community, as well as data aggregated from online sources and social networks) are also categorized as either no-code or low-code development platforms. 

We expect to see this trend continue as these software tools become the central hub at the heart of modern businesses. Now that companies have been quite forcibly shoved off the cliff of digital transformation, the coming year will reveal the full potential for these platforms. Soon, businesses will be run almost entirely on robust low-code platforms that allow the most nontechnical users to easily collaborate with full-fledged software engineers, each able to leverage their own skillsets in harmony. 

Code automation blasts off

With no-code and low-code platforms skewing more towards nontechnical personas, one use case appears to be left behind: leveraging visual editors as a way to alleviate programming workloads. 

Some low-code products still go to market as full integrated development environments (IDE) with automated functionality for filling in common code syntax. This idea of “low-code” stands in contrast to drag-and-drop interfaces; it may appeal more strongly to developers who enjoy the freedom and control offered by good ol’ fashioned programming but hate writing some of the repetitive elements of their programs.

Signs of an imminent and strong trend towards code automation have begun to pop up in 2020, and we will likely see code automation software hit the market in a major way in 2021. Automated code review, an emerging space validated by AWS’s release of CodeGuru earlier this year, leverages machine learning to streamline peer code review. This step toward easing development workloads, while still shy of a software engineering AI, shows major progress towards a code automation future. Code review as a process has always relied on critical, even subjective feedback rooted in human discourse; that machine learning can even begin to augment this process is promising. Whether it’s more bearable to receive critique from a piece of software than a human colleague might be a point of contention. 

The coming trend toward robust, outright code automation shouldn’t raise any alarm bells for developers. Automation strides start by supplementing simpler, repetitive coding tasks with AI and machine learning, then progressing from there. This does not spell some inevitable end for human developers, but rather freedom to focus on the most human aspect of programming: creative problem solving. The skill floor for some roles may rise, but a landscape with more automation will only mean that developers can utilize the best of their skillsets without being bogged down in tedium.

Our analysts reveal what's big right now in their 2021 Digital Trends reports.     See our predictions here →

WebOps platforms will create new roles for developers

WebOps platforms unite development and content management teams within the same hub to bring DevOps capabilities to website development and management. The result is a more agile approach to web presence, allowing teams to sync their content marketing initiatives with backend tasks and ensure consistency. 

At G2, we’ve noticed that the collaborative benefits offered by these platforms seem to have drawn the attention of buyers in the midst of the shift to remote work. Check out the increasing traffic trends for G2’s WebOps Platforms software category page as of October 2020:

WebOps platforms pageviews on G2 from october 2019 through july 2020

With WebOps platforms becoming more popular, some web developers can expect new role opportunities and shifts to their existing roles. This is because many WebOps platforms focus on nontechnical users, giving them the tools to handle backend changes without knowing code. This means that content management and marketing teams can have both hands on the wheel when rolling out new campaigns, for example. However, the majority of these products maintain code extensibility and promote developer input. Users can assign tasks to development teams throughout the timeline for a content push, allowing developers to assess for quality and improve upon implementation and deployment when necessary.

Interested in breaking down silos between web developers and marketing teams? Explore the best WebOps platforms on G2.

WebOps Platforms ➜

This setup likely means that more web developers will find themselves serving a supplementary role within digital experience workflows, acting as advisors along the way. This would free them up to handle more complex web development tasks without sacrificing the integrity of the backend work associated with content management. Most importantly, WebOps platforms will help buyers break down the proverbial language barriers between developers and content teams, meaning, less virtual-meeting fatigue and more productivity.

Development...developments?

Predicting the software development trends for 2021 can feel a little silly given the completely unpredictable year buyers have just experienced. It is tempting to say that exciting new market spaces like code automation will take off without a doubt—and it would certainly make this analyst look great if that came to pass. 

However, as with any year, the path ahead remains uncertain. Perhaps it’s best to say that, based on G2 data and the current landscapes of these spaces, it seems likely that these trends will show up one way or another over the next year. That sounds reasonable enough to ward off any angry tweets, at least.

Don’t fall behind.

Subscribe to the latest software news & updates from the expert analysts at G2.

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to receive marketing communications from G2.