It comes as no surprise that software development best practices are constantly changing and evolving. As new technologies are invented and society changes, the tools and techniques used to create software also change. In 2021, the trends of software development are changing in interesting and dramatic ways. There’s a heavy focus on cloud technologies, containerization, and artificial intelligence. A continued shift toward software-as-a-service models, smart devices, and agile development strategies is behind these recent trends. By understanding these shifts and planning ahead, you’ll be able to negotiate the unique challenges these changes in focus bring to your dev team.

Cloud Services Continue to Grow and Scale

Cloud services were growing in popularity prior to 2020, but the 2020 pandemic demonstrated the need for cloud services that can scale as required. The analytics company Gartner reports that spending on cloud services increased in 2020 by approximately 6.3%. This stands in contrast to the global IT market, which saw a contraction. Furthermore, 70% of businesses using cloud services plan to increase their cloud spending in 2021 and beyond. These cloud services facilitated a shift to remote workers. Companies that were able to scale their cloud platforms according to demand could avoid paying for unnecessary data services and data centers.

Many companies are attracted to this scalable model, and these organizations will likely switch their operations to the cloud in 2021 and beyond. Cloud services are especially critical for software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) technologies.

By thinking ahead about your reliability and scaling needs, you’ll be able to choose the right type of cloud services for your company.

Containers and Microservices Proliferate

As companies grow and their apps become more complex, they’re more likely to use containers and microservice architectures. A container is a type of software that combines the code and dependencies needed to run into one package, so it can run in different environments. A microservice architecture encourages the creation of simple, functional modules joined together into a group of small services. The main tool for managing containers and microservices is Kubernetes.

Statista found that around 54% of businesses made use of Kubernetes in 2020, for tasks like experimentation, development and testing, and production. MarketWatch expects that the market size of the global cloud microservice market will reach approximately $1.6 billion by 2026. Containerization and cloud-based microservices will both help make apps secure, scalable, and available. Think ahead on if your development strategy is more suited to a monolithic or microservice architecture, and if you can make containers out of any app components.

The Continued Growth of AI

Research and investments into AI have continued growing during the past few years, and the industry is poised to keep growing in 2021 and beyond. Advances in natural language processing and computer vision are constantly unlocking new applications for AI, and as the industry matures, companies will continue to invest in AI technologies.

Approximately 68% of companies have invested in AI during 2020 and into 2021, with 75% of respondents to a recent Gartner poll indicating they planned to start new AI projects in the next six to nine months. Consider your company’s needs ahead of time to determine which tasks (like fraud detection or chatbot creation) are well suited to AI, and which are not.

An Increased Use of CI/CD

The modern software development life cycle relies on continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD). The CI/CD development strategy is used to ensure that changes are delivered quickly and reliably. CI tools and strategies help guarantee changes that developers make to the codebase are integrated into the software itself. CD helps deliver features and bug fixes in a reliable, sustainable fashion.

The use of CI/CD tools is expected to grow throughout 2021, meeting the demands of companies delivering more complex apps in shorter time frames. The research firm Markets and Markets predicts that the market for CI tools will grow to approximately $1.1 billion dollars by 2023, up from approximately $400 million in 2017. Meanwhile, the continuous delivery market is expected to grow by around 20% between 2020 to 2025. Deciding which CI/CD tools to use before development begins will save your developers a lot of time and energy.

Python and JavaScript Grow in Popularity

The Python and JavaScript programming languages are becoming more popular than ever thanks to their versatility and ease of use. Python is the most commonly used programming language for data science tasks, while JavaScript is the most popular programming language in general as it’s commonly used for web and mobile apps.

As Statista found, around 68% of all software engineers code use JavaScript in some capacity. Python comes in second with a respectable 44% of responders saying they use Python. The third most popular language is Java, which 40.2% of all respondents say they use. It’s likely that as AI and data science applications become more prevalent, Python’s popularity will continue to grow as well. Think about if Python or JavaScript can meet your development needs over a different, less widely used language.

More Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are applications made available to users through the web. PWAs ensure a consistent, straightforward, and reliable experience for users of an app, even across platforms. A progressive web application makes use of languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that can operate on any platform, eliminating the need to build separate mobile apps for different operating systems. For this reason, the use of progressive web apps is only likely to increase throughout 2021. You’ll want to think about your customer’s needs and decide if services are better provided as a progressive web app or a standalone app on mobile devices.

More Companies Turn to Native App Development

While cross-platform development will remain popular and useful, native mobile applications are faster, smoother, and more consistent than cross-platform apps. As a result, many companies will focus on native app creation in 2021.

Mobile apps are constantly becoming more important. More people than ever have smartphones and choose to use smartphone apps for daily activities like banking, shopping, entertainment, and more. In order for software development teams to create applications with high performance and flexibility, they are increasingly turning to native app development.

Native app development is the creation of different app versions targeted at different mobile operating systems. While it’s more expensive than cross-platform app development, for the companies that can afford to, it ensures optimal performance and a great user experience. Consider the size of your organization, the needs of your customers, and the resources available to you when choosing between native and cross-platform development strategies.

IoT Technologies Are Rapidly Expanding

The Internet of Things (IoT) field is growing dramatically as the number of smart, internet-enabled devices increases. IoT devices are proliferating in a wide variety of industries like manufacturing, shipping, agriculture, and healthcare. The home IoT market itself is predicted to become a $53.45 billion dollar industry by next year, while companies are expected to invest over a trillion dollars into the research and development of IoT devices by 2023.

All of these new IoT devices will need software capable of responding to inputs and generating outputs. This has dramatically increased the need for software engineers capable of writing these applications. These software engineers will have to deal with the security challenges inherent to IoT devices, preventing each device from becoming susceptible to hackers.

UX Remains Important

Software needs to be usable and appealing in addition to being functional. Users should be able to easily navigate your environment and find the functions they want to use, regardless of how complex the app becomes. For this reason, User Experience (UX) has become a major business consideration and investment for software development companies in recent years.

UX will continue to influence how companies present their services and products. Engineers will be required to consider UX elements as they develop software in 2021 and beyond. Give thought to your UX requirements and determine if you’ll need to hire UX specialists for your apps before you begin the development process.

Investigating Low-Code/No-Code Development

Companies need more software engineers than ever before, so much so that demand is outstripping supply. To solve this problem companies are pursuing low-code/no-code programming options. This lets people with little or no training in computer programming to develop apps for agile operations. Low-code development strategies also let developers create apps much faster than traditional development strategies.

As software engineering moves towards abstraction and simplification, around half of tech companies plan to invest in these development frameworks, according to a survey taken in 2020. Consider how complex your software needs to be and if low-code/no-code solutions can work for your company, doing so could save on resources.


The effects of a greater reliance on cloud services throughout 2020 and 2021 have rippled out to kickstart other trends, like increased investments in containers and the CI/CD technologies that support cloud development. IoT technologies, AI devices, and edge computing are technologies that are intertwined with each other and are leading to the creation of smart devices linked together through a common network. With the trends mentioned above, thinking ahead will put your company in the best position to take advantage of opportunities and handle any challenges related to the trend.