By Steve Mezak
A tsunami of software development needs is rapidly approaching, even as the marketplace is dangerously stretched to meet current demand. A dearth of U.S. software engineering talent puts companies in jeopardy, if not now then at the point when the next level of growth requires quality software. The companies that will keep up with digital business and earn market share are those who can reliably source good talent to develop profitable software.
That outcome isn’t likely to happen for most U.S. businesses given the technology resources and talent we have today in this country. Sourcing good software professionals has been a challenge for quite a while already, largely because demand outstrips supply. A few voracious technology superstars gobble up the best candidates, leaving everyone else with average to good engineers—and some not-so-good—but just not enough of them.
How Can Development Keep Up?
Our modern economies can’t survive without the power of software. It fuels customer experience and business processes, competitive advantage through innovative products/applications, and enterprise digital transformation—all priorities for CTOs, CIOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and other leaders. How can development keep up with our increasingly software-dependent society? It’s a question that must be answered, but in the quest for software talent, the odds don’t look good.
Three big things already work against your enterprise. One, good developers are in short supply, as we’ve seen documented in study after study. Two, good developers can be out of reach for some companies, in terms of high salaries and benefits. And three, good developers are picky about the locations where they work—think Austin, Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley.
This short list makes the problem sound simpler than it really is. It’s an easy issue to explain, but a hard one to solve. Here’s a more detailed look at these three issues.
From No One to No Talent to No Chance
Demand for software talent now outstrips supply, as more companies stake their futures on digital products and services. Universities and other training programs can’t supply enough graduates to meet the ever-increasing demand. Some have tried alternatives to bring skill levels up faster than traditional degree programs can deliver. Full-time coding boot camps have had some success producing acceptable, hirable basic programming skills in a few months, with graduates suited for junior-level programming roles. It’s a start but much more is needed. The implications of the talent gap get serious when strategies and revenue depend on software innovation.
Big Compensation Packages Eliminate Potential Employers
The best developers command top dollar, and in the bigger markets, they get it—but sticker shock quickly sets in when it comes to mid-sized cities. If your enterprise opts for an internal team of full-time employees for software development, be prepared for a long recruiting search and large compensation packages once you find your candidates. An average developer salary is more than double the average annual wage for all U.S. occupations, which was $48,320 in 2015, according to a 2016 study from BSA/The Software Alliance, on the economic impact of software. So while companies fear the talent shortage could have damaging operational impact or delay their digital transformation or software product, they still can’t afford the professionals they need.
You’re Competing with Google
While no U.S. market is truly exempt from the shortage of software talent, the best developers are primarily interested in and tend to migrate to major tech hubs. Who wouldn’t want to head to work for a software icon like Apple, Google, or any number of others? That’s where the good developers want to be, as do a lot of average and below developers, too. That still leaves thousands of American software jobs unfilled. So if the best candidates go to these prime markets—the hottest tech centers—it leaves the less talented behind. Of course, companies may not be willing to settle for less qualified candidates. For every Boston or Silicon Valley that lures in a world-class developer, another area suffers. The by-product of technology success is a smaller pool of talent, even in the most attractive locations.
Be Worried. Be Very Worried.
As this overwhelming, self-fueling development tsunami looms, companies have to seriously consider alternatives to software strategies based on non-existent U.S.-based development talent. The software talent shortage is approaching a crisis point. Most organizations won’t be able to find software resources locally and easily in this climate of high salaries and low talent availability. You don’t want to skimp on software skills either, because that leads to only average software at best—or delays, bugs, high costs, and other issues.
With such a global appetite for software, demand for developers far outstripped supply a while back, especially as more companies stake their futures on digital transformation. There’s a pressing need for developers at all skill levels, while at the same time, there’s a shortage of world-class talent in the U.S. So your odds aren’t good, unless you’re in a preferred location or able to offer premium compensation. So how do you find the best development team to fuel the production and growth of your software and your business?
While there’s a shortage in the U.S., talented software development teams do exist, although they may be on the other side of the globe. They’re contractors, not employees, but they still become valuable members of your team. Indeed, one option is outsourcing software engineering. And more companies believe outsourcing is an ideal solution that gets them the talent they need in a flexible, affordable way with a fast ramp up. Companies that ignore outsourcing as an option may experience serious delays, high costs, or poor software from unskilled developers. SW
With more than 30 years of experience in software and technology, Steve Mezak is the founder and CEO of Accelerance, the author of Software without Borders, co-author of Outsource or Else: How a VP of Software Saved His Company. A technical entrepreneur and internationally recognized software expert and speaker, Mezak’s company connects enterprises that need software development services with the most qualified outsourcing firms around the globe. See Accelerance.com.