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How to navigate increasing complexity in coding environments

Virtually every enterprise is contending with expanding software development environments. Growth in the number of necessary languages, crucial frameworks, vital tools and intended applications are supercharging and accelerating programming processes. It's important for enterprises, as well as the software developers they employ, to know how to navigate the layers of languages, devices and business logic to ensure that they have a robust, comprehensive programming platform that satisfies all end users and use cases. Success in this area merits a combination of new tools, progressive practices and a cultural change that links traditional approaches with emerging ones.

The complexity imperative
The gut reaction to complexity is to avoid it. If programming processes have been simple before, why can't they adhere to tradition? The reality of today's complex enterprise software environments prevents the legacy approach from remaining the most fruitful one.

At a basic level, there are more programming languages and development frameworks in use than ever before, each with their own specific features and functionalities. Device environments are also expanding - it's hard for many enterprise developers to stick to HTML5 for mobile Web development or consolidate their efforts to native apps for OS or Android. Enterprise application environments span a wide spectrum, and interoperability and cross-channel optimization are often critical.

Infrastructure is growing as well, with traditional servers - and server-side app development - jockeying for space with the cloud. On the front end, employees are more often expected to wield data analysis tools themselves - and we're not just talking about spreadsheets. As SD Times founding editor Alan Zeichick recently wrote, despite the overwhelming feeling complexity can carry, today's developers cannot "opt out" of emerging platforms and new techniques.

"Yes, you can choose to ignore, say, the recent advances in cloud computing, Web APIs and service virtualization, but if you do so, you're potentially missing out on huge benefits," he wrote. "Yes, technologies like software defined networking and OpenFlow may not seem applicable to you today, but odds are that they will be soon. Ignore them now and play catch-up later."

In order to avoid falling behind the pack, programmers have to embrace complexity. The sooner they do, the faster they'll be able to turn a pile of complications into a competitive advantage.

How developers can make complexity work for them
The trend in software development is to simplify increasingly complicated environments by using emerging tools and features to reduce the amount of ground work programmers have to lay. Instead of spending time going over the fundamental aspects of a project - and then repeating them at several steps due to developmental silos - programmers can now use more collaborative development tools to reduce costs and necessary resource provisioning while drastically speeding up time to market.

The waterfall method was the first software development system that seizes on parallel development and more intelligent tool sets to consume fewer resources and accelerate time to market, as Business 2 Community contributor Ian Tomlin pointed out. The agile method then replaced it, building on innovations in integrated development environments to use consolidated tool kits and application programming interfaces. This offered complexity distilled into larger building blocks, so developers could spend more time and effort working with higher level tools in the framework.

"Codeless" development is the latest step in the move toward more integrated coding projects, with the goal that they can be accomplished by relatively unskilled programmers with limited resources, if need be. Providing enough out-of-the-box functionality for self-service use is the logical conclusion of the building-block movement for software development.

"Codeless software has dramatically reduced the number of tools and the variety of skills needed to author applications, but its biggest impact is found in the leave-behind: resulting systems can be easily adapted as business requirements and user needs change," stated Tomlin.


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