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Automation, UX among top software development goals for 2020

New Year's resolutions are a way to take stock of where we are, and where we want to be. Programmers, QA testers, UX designers and others share their software dev goals for 2020.

Software development is a race without a finish line. Iterative, continuous development processes paired with the digitization of both customer-facing and back-office business keep developers plenty busy.

With that in mind, we asked professionals from all corners of the industry about their software development goals and objectives for 2020. Consider these New Year's resolutions -- none of which involve leafy greens or 6 a.m. jogs.

As senior UX researcher at Saggezza, a technology consulting company, Anne Vieyra will set her focus for 2020 on scale. Specifically, she will determine how to do UX research work within the cadence of a Lean, Scrum-centered, scaled-up Agile development framework. Her objectives include building out the user research aspect of the team a­nd finding the right tools for Agile velocity and scale. She also has a goal to get people to think of UX not just as a pretty interface, but as how the user engages with the product and how developers deliver the right thing for that target user.

It's not just UX researchers who will think about the user. An enterprise application manager at a major defense contractor in the U.S. will make the UI his major software development objective in 2020, particularly mobile functionality. The defense contractor limits the ­corporate data allowed on devices, even though mobile applications would greatly benefit shop floor workers. "We need to overcome the security obstacle, because the users want mobile apps, and the executives want it too," he said. "But mobile apps are tricky because you're putting our data on a device that's potentially not connecting to our network, and there are so many different mobile devices in play." In 2020, his goal is to collaborate with security professionals at the company to find a way to give workers the applications they need, in the format they need them.

In another tightly regulated space -- insurance -- Ashley Grealish has her sights set on UX through multi- or omni-channel communication. She's aiming for omni-channel, meaning not only can the company's customers interact with them via media from paper to video, but also that the experience is consistent from one channel to another. Grealish will dig into the architecture and integrations needed for the initiative, and how to roll it out without affecting mission-critical operations.

Automation is another major software development goal, especially for Sadi Hossain, who supervises QA testing, ITIL projects and other IT initiatives for the New Jersey Judiciary Court System. "We have a lot of paper forms and legacy applications, so automation will make a big difference," he said. Software developers have their pick of methods -- robotic process automation, CI/CD, APIs -- to update and bring legacy systems into modern workflows. To digitize paper forms, organizations might turn to optical character recognition tools, but that's just the start of making legacy data identifiable, accurate, secure and useable.

Developers also have cloud goals for 2020. While some organizations start out cloud-native, most enterprises must evaluate existing dedicated infrastructure against cloud resources and set the best strategy for cloud-native applications and cloud migrations. "My main focus for the next year is on moving some applications to the cloud," said Susan Philip, an application manager. Security is a major concern, and the company has always relied on the single-tenant setup of data centers. While it isn't clear yet how far they will go with cloud adoption, Philip's objective in 2020 is to analyze cloud providers and select one to work with, evaluating the ways in which they can use its offerings.

Agile teams might ask a series of questions as part of their software development goals going into the new year: Why do we do retrospectives, sprints and the daily Scrum? Are we getting the intent of Agile correct? Are we solving problems? Dominic Price, work futurist at Atlassian, a development collaboration tools vendor, wants software developers to focus on the rationale and the goal of Agile, then use ceremonies and frameworks in ways that benefit them. He also tasks developers to make their objectives extend beyond code delivery. "It's easy to get busy just doing [technical] stuff," he said, but it's better to consider business value and the entire chain of a software rollout, from funding through to marketing.

Brian Martynowicz, support and service manager at Login VSI, agrees. He's determined to make the energy that he puts into his work matter. Automation won't make your job go away, he said. "You can spend [the same hours] working on interesting and fascinating projects." Martynowicz's team operates within an ITIL framework, and collaborates with developers that follow Agile tenets. His goal for 2020 is to increase his involvement in the broader tech community and bring that perspective into his work to create value, rather than just complete tasks. His objective is to meet interesting people, have conversations and interact, he said. It's a way to be more productive, not busier, in the coming year.  

Work objectives and personal career goals often mix. Vincent Tober, an application manager at the General Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. government, is focused on the team's application modernization division. He aims to gain his supervisor's trust to help shape the modernization roadmap. "I will give my technical expertise, and translate it into what decisions we make," he said.

Among these diverse development industry professionals, one common career goal popped up over and over again: to be involved in big, strategic projects that shape the future of the company. Development teams don't just want to be busy in 2020 -- they want to make a difference.

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