For Developers

Software Development: Is Complexity Killing it?

is software development hard

From monolithic applications to multiple microservices containing multiple services have increased the complexity of the overall development process. To reduce the degree of complexity, developers have come up with open-source frameworks, libraries, and cloud-based services, etc. making it more complex than ever. To provide a better consumer experience, highly optimized UI, and advanced features with enhanced security, the developers invest a hefty amount of time and energy to produce such complex ecosystems with intense complexity. In this blog, we discussed the complexity of software development and what resulted in the complexity of software development.

What resulted in the complexity of software development?

Since this evolution, software developers are churning out supporting technologies to facilitate software development to offer better functionality and usability. In the current scenario, companies and developers want rapid software development turnaround time. This goal may seem practical to accomplish with the availability of multiple open-source tools and supporting platforms, but in reality, it is not. The developers work hard to plan new software and build it to be superior to the competition.

The most dominant factor behind the increased complexity of software development is the increased expectations from developers in terms of functionalities and features. Modern Users heavily rely on software compared to the 90s and early 20s.

This reliance germinates software complexity was further divided into essential and accidental complexity by Fred Brooks.

Essential complexity

Businesses invest in software development to find a solution to their business problems. Essential complexity arises when developers build software to address business problems. It will not be wrong to say that essential complexity plays a catalyst role in development of new software and make upgrades.

Accidental complexity

Accidental complexity originates on the developers' end when they try to solve a problem but end up intensifying the development challenges. Accidental complexity remains highly technical and results from incorporating technologies other than their expertise due to the need of the project.

For example, if a web-based developer works on developing a mobile device UI, he will work on the technical end by trying to incorporate new technologies that support the development of UI for mobile devices. This will ultimately result in accidental complexity as the developer is not skilled with the mobile UI technologies.

The approach to dealing with complexity

To reduce the degree of complexity, the modern software development industry has built open-source frameworks, libraries, and cloud-based services that contribute to advancing and fastening the development process. However, the availability of these technologies further complicates the process for a majority of developers.

The developers are expected to work on these diverse technologies for any given project irrespective of the fact that they may not be efficient in working with all of them. To address these challenges, industry-wide efforts have been made to introduce open-source resources and managed platforms to help developers in simplifying the process and finish every project successfully.

All this has been done to reduce custom code usage in developing new software with the help of segregated programming languages. These languages include JavaScript, Ruby, and Python, which require less than half the code compared to C for including any given functionality.

The evolution of these open-source software is one of the most significant achievements in the software development industry. These open-source software were built only due to the sheer efforts of individuals and companies who invested their money in software and made it accessible to the community for free.

These technologies offer help in software development and enable developers to focus on crafting solutions for businesses rather than struggling with the infrastructure.

Does open-source software address the issue?

Open-source software is choosable for developing software without doing everything from scratch. LibreOffice, GIMP, Linux, PHP, and Python are some of such open-source software and projects to consider.

However, such software offers solutions to the issues which is faced by a large group of people. This doesn't work for every development project as businesses evolve to become more complex and want customized software as per their business requirements; open-source projects center around popular niches or generic projects.

That is why, a developer still needs to work on building the user interface and the back-end requirements to fit individual business needs. So even with this open-source software, developers are left to work on the interface, business logic, and workflow, which collectively form an application that requires a ton of work.

Developments to reduce software complexity?

Software development with visual tools

In this era of modern software development techniques, developers feel stuck if they have to work on everything including interfaces, logic, and workflow that all come together to build an application. However, there are a few possibilities for a developer to explore. Most developers rely heavily on code to develop software but can try out visual tools for software development help.

Tools like Visual Foxpro, PowerBuilder, VB, Access, and Delphi offer immense design capabilities. These tools allow developers to build infrastructure and user interfaces without putting their hands-on code.

Some arguments go against visual tools as they majorly work on the UI of the software and the developer still needs to invest a major portion of their time working on the code to form the application logic. So either way, the developer has to spend time writing custom code for the software as these visual tools are bound to remain static.

Introduction of cloud-based development

Small companies and new ventures still ask for these tools as they make room for productivity as compared to the traditional style and also decrease the development cost. This demand resulted in a new approach to software development which is low code development.

Low code development relies on visual developments to optimize the entire development process and offer faster delivery. This approach uses drag and drop software development tools to accelerate product delivery by increasing the speed of development.

The low code approach enables cloud-based developers to automate the steps of the software development lifecycle and come up with an appealing UI within a short duration.

What differentiates these development tools from their predecessors is that these new versions are web-based and are offered as platforms hosted in the cloud. The vendors of such low code products such as Outsystems, Salesforce (App Cloud), Kony, and Mendix offer room for developing applications way faster than the traditional development methods. However, there are multiple drawbacks on the technical end that refrain developers and companies from choosing them.

Why not low code development?

Skilled and experienced developers do not rely on low code development technologies. Here is why!

  • Clients and businesses hire experienced developers because they want unique and real software to solve their business problems by writing high-end custom code. This is because when the core element of a product is technology, it can be a nightmare to rely on these tools to address the complexities of a business. So, if developers use low code or no code methods of development, then they are bound to lose their market reputation. If a client hires a developer to create business solutions in high-end software that complies with security standards, they would not compromise with a low-quality development process, no matter how fast it is.

  • Another factor that stands against low code development is the concern for updates. It is better to built an application from the core by using the technologies of the open-source ecosystem. This is because the community regularly updates and maintains these frameworks and libraries. So, there is no hassle in keeping an application or software up to date.

  • If the vendors of low code development choose not to update their offering from time to time, one cannot do anything but wait for the update to roll out on the vendor’s end. There were also instances when customers chose a vendor to develop a platform and in a few years, the platform closed down. In such a situation, one can do nothing else than rewrite the entire software code from scratch.

These are some unavoidable reasons why developers stick to custom software development i.e. via coding irrespective of the associated complexities. So, even if some businesses choose to opt for these tempting software creation platforms, the complexity of software development remains as they are not choosable for the masses.

Is there a need for change?

At this point, it is extremely difficult for the industry to decrease the complexity of software development by bringing in productive platforms of development. Whether it is the high-end clients, businesses, or software developers, every section of the industry prefers to go with developing software via code irrespective of its complexity.

Developers strive for innovation in software development. However, is it worth doing it for every project when they have open-source technologies to support development?

One thing that remains constant for every development process is that every product needs complicated logic, smooth workflows, and a solid architecture but this doesn't mean that all the applications need microservices to be developed to their full potential. Some projects may simply not need that complexity.

Developers need to understand it and plan development for every product as per the business needs and requirements. Software developers can opt for more integrated tech stacks to come up with tools that help them in creating software efficiently. As an industry, it is important to find a solution to simply software development without ignoring the essential complexities of businesses.

What is the way out?

Is software development hard? The thing is that if the developers place a major focus on simplifying development, the core value of software development will be at stake. Simplifying the development process is possible only if the developer has a complete understanding of all the complexities involved in the process.

The new age developers cannot escape the complex, well-distributed, and scalable systems. However, they can strive for simplification by understanding every aspect of the project and evaluating each area that requires complete involvement and which areas can be supported with open-source technologies.

As a developer, it is important to have experience with how systems work and how architecture is done from the core to the finishing layer of the product. The first step of the development process for every developer or a team of developers is to plan the process and identify the areas that require expertise and a major chunk of their involvement and where they may waste their time by emphasizing unnecessary involvement.

Dealing with complexities can get more simplified if the clients and companies recognize their core business problem which will ultimately save the developer from indulging in how things will work out for the business and focus on the actual task of building the software.

It will not be wrong to say that, a few years ago there were less complexities and less availability of choices for the developers as compared to now. But this abundance sometimes comes with restrictions of choices on the developer’s end. After all, it's all about what requirements a product has to fulfill and how the businesses or clients want it to be approached.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are several reasons behind software complexity and these include the emphasis on improving code quality, reducing development cost, the need of meeting architectural standards, etc.

The best way to deal with software complexity is to divide the entire development project into small counterparts. The idea is to break complex processes into a series of small and achievable tasks to reduce complexity.

There are various measures of software complexity one of the most common one is the McCabe essential complexity metric.

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