From the advent of WWW to software-powered driverless cars screeching the roads of The United States, and intelligent drones humming in the sky, software engineering has come a long way, conquering every challenge that crossed its path over the years.
Yet, there are software engineering challenges, which even the most experienced, skilled, well-managed, and elite teams grapple with. Such software engineering challenges are less external and more intrinsic to the field and the teams themselves, which if not addressed can derail projects and sprints, create chaos, and hurt the bottom line.
Read this insight to understand the pressing software engineering challenges of the new-age engineering teams, and their potential solutions.
1. Lack of Workflow Visibility
You can’t fully control the external events that impact your software development. But you can be in complete control of the internal factors and prepare your team to be highly resilient and respond to all sorts of challenges.
A lot of development teams suffer because of a vague understanding of the engineering processes within their organization. Many don’t have clarity about the status of the projects, the activities and challenges of the individuals, and whatnot.
All these stem from ineffective communication, lack of effective team collaboration, and broken SDLC processes. The domino effect of this is detrimental to your engineering efficiency, and the overall success of the organization.
Lack of visibility is a critical software engineering challenge. Fail to acknowledge the visibility issue or brush it aside, and in no time your team may get beset by a plethora of business and software engineering challenges that sprout due to lack of visibility:
- Misalignment between business goals & tech effort
- Delayed projects & increased costs
- Inefficient resource allocation & utilization
- Software performance challenges
- Siloed communication
- Software security vulnerabilities
- Upset stakeholders
How to Combat Lack of Visibility in Development Teams?
Invest in tools that empower your teams to make data-driven decisions:
- Project management tools
- Observability & monitoring tools
For instance, project managers can estimate timelines that are evidence-based and feasible. Engineering managers can evenly allocate work to software engineers based on individual capacity, workload, and expertise. Thus, saving your champions from the dreaded burnout while optimally utilizing their talent.
On another note, an engineering management platform like Hatica works by integrating with your existing tools stack using Connectors (Git, Jira, Slack, Pagerduty, Circle CI, etc.), pulls data from it, processes it, and serves you with actionable and visual engineering dashboards rich with metrics & insights gained from the mulled data.
It helps in 360 degree visualization of both your health, and depth of engineering systems, so you can unearth blockers that are currently reducing the effectiveness of your engineering team.
Meanwhile, a metric-driven culture helps senior executives to measure the impact of engineering work, and even help bring alignment to teams crippled with lack of visibility, and communication debt.
We’ve comprehensively covered how cycle time, maker time, deployment velocity, change failure rate, and other key engineering metrics improve engineering visibility, and empower engineering managers to be more effective.
2. Broken SDLC Processes
Your software development processes can be broken at multiple levels. It could be any of the following-
- Poor requirement gathering
- Scope creep
- Code smells
- Improper code reviews
- Unhelpful documentation
- Inefficient CI/CD pipelines
- Inadequate testing or test coverage
- Ineffective observability & monitoring
- Lack of compliance & regulatory alignment
- Poor crisis response operating procedures, etcetera.
How to Improve Your SDLC Process?
These are execution challenges that cripple many engineering teams. These software engineering challenges creep in when you do not define processes/procedures. Lack of documentation and training could also be a reason.
To preserve the integrity of your SDLC process, here are 9 SDLC best practices that your engineering team can follow, and streamline development. From workflow management, to how to scope iterations accurately using data-driven insights, find it all!
The other type of solution to such engineering challenges is harder, but goes a long way in removing those persistent SDLC blockers by inspecting, detecting, and fixing the root cause.
For instance, is code reviews a challenge? But why are your code reviews slow? Is it because of a lack of pair programming initiatives, or the reviewer picks up the codebase too late?
Use an engineering management platform to analyze higher PR reviews, and PR ratio, and identify optimal review workload for your team. The higher the ratio, the better your chance to understand how overburdened your devs are, or if they are compromising on their review time over other non-core tasks.
We have also put together a list of 11 Engineering KPIs that boost engineering productivity. Download here.
3. Lack of Predictability In Software Delivery
If you’ve spent enough time in the software industry, you would know that it’s unpredictable. The requirements may change resulting in scope creep and an exponential increase in the project budget, a sudden storm of APIs & third-party library updates can easily morph into dependency hell and bring the entire cadence to a standstill (especially when external libraries get deprecated), bugs can multiply at the rate you see zombies multiply in movies and infest your code to completely mess up the customer experience, and an invisible technical debt until yesterday could be threatening you to blow your digital infrastructure to bits if you ignore it.
In short, one of the biggest software engineering challenges is that you’re constantly firefighting because you lack predictability.
How To Improve Accuracy And Predictability In Software Engineering?
- Minimize external dependability, especially, avoid getting locked in the cloud.
- Switch to DevOps and agile software development methodologies to tackle the challenge of fluid software requirements.
- Make your SDLC processes robust with adequate code review, testing, quality & performance analysis.
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC) technologies, GitOps, and AIOps to automate infrastructure orchestration and management.
- Infrastructure monitoring & observability tools to keep a pulse of the infrastructure health, and proactively respond to infrastructure-related software engineering challenges.
Another good solution for making the software development lifecycle (SDLC) more predictable is to equip your engineering team(s) with engineering analytics tools that improve visibility into the SDLC processes and your overall engineering health. Use a platform that comes with actionable insights to:
- Track software delivery metrics to understand your delivery status, and visualize how each variable can impact your delivery timelines.
- Run data-driven effort estimation for tasks and projects at hand. Connect each IC contribution with the overall development pipeline.
- Improve your planning accuracy by tightening your grip on scope creep, and check whether your engineering team can accommodate any more “new” requests based on effort estimation.
4. The Problems With Development Velocity
You need to be continuously shipping new features to the market, either to catch up with the competition or to stay ahead of them. Consumer demands keep evolving. To meet the always-increasing expectations of the consumer, a lot of things should fall in place to have a healthy and sustainable rate of software development.
The development speed decelerates if your engineering team is affected by developer churn/attrition, inadequate code reviews, unnecessary meetings, dependency hell, infrastructure bottlenecks, scope creep, and more.
How To Speed Up Software Development, and Reduce Time To Market?
Use an engineering management platform to visualize your engineering progress, improve visibility, and make delivery trends and patterns easily identifiable:
- Use cycle time metric to visualize engineering velocity, and understand where your developers are blocked in the pipeline.
- Early detection and fixing of bugs saves time and effort later. Track defect rate by phase (e.g., development, testing, production) to pinpoint areas for improvement.
- Frequent, low-risk deployments enable faster feedback and iteration. Streamline deployment processes with deployment frequency.
5. Scalability, Security, and Performance Challenges
A software application must always be designed for scalability, security, and usability. However, different engineers have different expertise and coding styles. Some don’t comment on their code enough, and some comment excessively. Some adhere to the best coding practices, and some write programs that stink of ‘code smell’.
In short, code quality may vary a lot if you do not have organization-level benchmarks defined for coding, if your developers have low maker time and active coding days, if your code review processes are flawed, if your software testing process is ineffective, or if the code is not well documented. Poor code quality often leads to scalability, security, or performance-related software engineering challenges.
It’s not the only culprit, inappropriate access management can lead to security vulnerabilities, poor infrastructure configuration can lead to performance and scalability challenges, and so on. It’s not about blaming a particular process, individual, or product. Scalability, security, and performance are more about practices, culture, tools, and their implementation.
How to Improve Software Scalability, Performance, and Security?
- Define coding standards to write scalable code
- Adopt tools like SonarQube which empowers development teams to perform code quality reviews, and static analysis of the code to detect bugs and code smells.
- Implement infrastructure observability and monitoring tools for enhanced performance
- Use security testing tools & platforms for enhanced security
- Adhere to compliances & regulations for better security
- Consider a bug bounty program to detect vulnerabilities early on.
Read more about accelerating velocity and shipping software faster.
6. Developer Burnout, and a Struggling People Well-Being
Developer attrition is a major software engineering challenge that many organizations are struggling with today. A high employee turnover rate could force organizations into a state where they are constrained by resource availability.
In another survey, developers were asked about their burnout state and the reasons behind. The results were staggering. 83% of developers have reported to face burnout, and the reasons they mentioned include: high workload, inefficient processes and poorly-defined project goals and targets. Other “hidden” reasons to a deteriorating developer well-being includes:
- Frequent firefighting where they spent too many hours working outside official time, and poor work-life balance
- A bad overall developer experience
- More time is spent in meetings, ad-hoc tasks over coding
- Regressive sprint meetings and retro sessions
- Lack of data-driven decision making to arrive at conclusions
A friction in people's health, and too many blockers in a developer’s workday results in missed opportunities, and not-so-good customer experiences.
At the core of all of this could be a sense of not being able to achieve maximum performance with the given resources.
How To Prevent Burnout, and Take Care Of Your Developer’s Well-Being?
- Tracking, and acting on maker time can help engineering managers to minimize distractions, reduce cognitive clutter, and improve focus time of their direct reports. It is also directly correlated to happy and productive engineers.
- Invest in DevEx (again, Hatica could be your secret tool to win this).
- Invest in a culture of learning & reward (off time, recognition, and performance-based increments).
- Working towards promoting alignment within and outside teams.
- Fostering a culture of developer well-being (and building it into your organization’s DNA).
- Deploy DevEx surveys to capture developers feelings, opinion, and comfort with the current engineering paradigm.
Tackling Software Engineering Challenges Head On!
With great power comes great responsibility, and greater challenges too.
As software teams grow in size and complexity, so too will the challenges they face. Without strategic resource allocation, streamlined delivery processes, and a focus on code quality, these challenges can quickly multiply. The issues of predictability, visibility, SDLC processes, and engineering culture can create a ripple effect of deteriorating software delivery, and losing out on competitive edge.
All these challenges plaguing your development pipeline can be resolved if engineering teams have 360-degree workflow visibility. Hatica enables engineering teams to handle all of that with a single-pane view
We have seen customers improve their software delivery by 2x, and engineering productivity by 30% using data-driven decision making.
Keep reading Hatica blogs for more insightful engineering excellence-related insights.