Apps

What's your biggest challenge in 2009?

Developers, do you think your biggest challenge this year will be having to do more with less, trying to keep pace with changes, or worrying about the economy? Let us know in this quick poll.

Each year brings its own set of challenges to developers. In hard economic times, we are often told that we need to do more with less, which is ironic, because few development shops ever seem to have enough resources even in flush times. Other developers are trying to keep up with the pace of change in the industry, which seems to be picking up. Of course, many people are very worried about the economy, and how it will directly impact them and their jobs. What do you think will be your toughest hurdle this year?

J.Ja

Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

35 comments
mattohare
mattohare

For me, It's still 'systems' that are fragmented and don't work together naturally. Like getting the different object models in .NET to work together. Or the PHP/CSS/XHTML mix. Then throw regular expressions and DOM into either of the mixes.

Justin James
Justin James

In 2008, I implemented a ton of new systems (the entire Microsoft "enterprise stack", with the exception of the Dynamics stuff... we do have CRM coming in though). Unfortunately, it took the whole year to do it, and it looks like this year I will be putting on my developer hat much more. As a result, I won't get much of a chance to really integrate these systems together or into our business processes, and they will languish. Ah well, at least everyone is using Exchange now. :) J.Ja

mattohare
mattohare

well, every work session, I think of getting some mates together and writing an integrated package of tools that actually integrate. And I'd target them to data scrubbing and analysis. Seems everything is targeted to the shallowest use while pretending to be good for the deepest, most complicated.

gavin
gavin

I think everyone is concerned about job security... even the self employed (no work, no pay). Contracts are being cancelled, and no new contracts are being opened. This will not be the year for the spendthrift and with nobody spending, nobody will be earning.

Just64
Just64

My biggest to challenge is to complete my "becoming windows free" transition to Linux and open source solutions I started late last year. I just had enough coughing up the thousands of $$$ to M$ and propriety software vendors for the rubish I keep paying for.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

Doing more with less is often necessary to compete with others in a difficult economy. Particularly in my line of business where a lot of the Big Players (large companies/corporations) tend to bid low, even to the point of losing money on a project, to get their foot in the door with a new customer. Then once they've got them hooked, they later jack up the prices. A common practice in my world. They have the advantage of deep pockets. Can afford to wait a while to actually turn a profit on a particular account. Periods of economic downturn is when they most like to employ this tactic. Keeping pace with changes in my particular specialty is also an issue. Change happens fast and frequently in my world. With one of the problems being that of trying to predict which new technology will actually succeed and be embraced by some significant portion of our customers. We've had the experience before of jumping into the supposedly latest and greatest in developments with both feet. Investing a lot of time and effort in learning to use and deploy said supposedly GREAT new thing. Just to find out that it soon went to the wayside, was surpassed by something else, or its benefits and features just weren't all that interesting to that many customers. In short, trying to figure out WHICH changes to pursue and put efforts into is often more difficult than the learning curve of the changes themselves. Yah can't keep up on EVERYTHING, so which is the best investment of your time and efforts. And of course, the economy is a concern. Oh, downturns in the economy are nothing new. BTDT on several occasions. But it sucks. One wonders just how much one will lose before things turn around and you start making up your losses. Last financial statement I got reporting how my 401 investments and such were doing looked miserable. Latest estimate on the value of my home was way down. I've taken quite a considerable hit all around. And I'm not a wealthy man. Not poor either, was doing pretty decent. But worked HARD and LONG for what I've got. Now, if we go into the tank much further and I get a layoff, haven't much in the reserves. Would probably have to give up the lake place, the new boat, and the new RV trailer. All of which are modest, nothing fancy or expensive. Like I said, I'm not a wealthy man. OWN those things at the lake, paid cash for em. But if layoff happens, with my reserves now depleted, being able to pay the taxes on the property, pay the costs of going to the lake, operating my TOYS, etc ... may not be possible. I am getting up there in years and had been looking forward to summer days on the lake with my grandkids teaching em how to fish and such. And was in a position to turn down extra work, and spend more time with the family. I may well lose what was for me a long time dream. Oh, I'll survive, have before, will again. I've no doubts about that. And I'm just plain too dumb and hard headed to give up. I started out in this world dirt poor, as in third world poor. So I know how to get by with very little. Ah well, that's life. I'll just keep on keeping on. And will deal with any future troubles as they occur. Have dealt with past disasters, am still here.

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

Because I know that what I learn by reading books (Groovy, Ruby, ...) will not "stick". Maybe contributing to an open source project. We'll see... JS

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Reading about language theory and technique doesn't teach you as well as having to work through a real problem and coming to understand why the approach you adopted doesn't work.

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

To be really efficient at it at my job I find that doing additional work at home is very beneficial. Most of the language I look at I choose to solve problems on the job first. However, under a tight schedule at work it is very tempting for me to go back to old tools unless I have the additional practice on "home projects". Home projects are also essential when opportunities to use a language (or other techinique) at work don't occur and I run the risk of getting out of shape. JS

Justin James
Justin James

... but in the current environment (heck, even when the money is there, project deadlines rarely allow it), the smart folks are going to be learning on their own time. :( Today, I spent about 4 hours in training on a product that I probably won't touch for 6 months. I am sure that I will have forgotten all of the training by then. It's not the kind of thing I can work on at home, either. I agree that the hands on part of it is critical, and not only is that a huge impediment to learning in general, but it is where most training courses fall flat. J.Ja

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

I work very hard to convince managers that training is profitable. One area where I have obtained concrete results is book acquisition. Having people send to actual seminar and training is more difficult but I have not given-up. It's an uphill battle though and 2009 will not be an easy year for people wanting their employer to invest in intangible. All of this however does not alter my intention of doing home projects. Maybe I'm a special case but it turns out that in addition to being a reliable way to earn money programming is also one of my hobbies and I don't intent to abandon it. JS

Justin James
Justin James

I am of the same mind. However, I have met a good deal of people who (and I think they have some valid points) say that learning new things and continued education should be the employer's responsibility. I think there is some merit there. I think that maybe a sports comparison makes sense... your typical athelete trains on his employer's time with his employer's money. But the top tier atheletes are the ones who spend a few extra hours practicing when everyone goes home. Of course, the ratios of training time to actual competition are much different from learning compared to work. But I do also think that employers really need to be providing more educational and learning opportunities for employees. Yes,it costs money, and yes, it takes time. I would be willing to bet that the average developers loses 5 - 10 hours per week in avoidable meetings, reading/answering emails that are not pertinent to them, and so on. Heck, I have had jobs where poor conference calling systems and screen sharing systems were losing a few hours a week for me! So I think that the time is there, and honestly, it really doesn't cost much money. I think what is missing is the will to stop being inefficient with some things, and really make it happen. J.Ja

kkopp
kkopp

I got to figure out what I need to do for income, since my source dried up.

joeller
joeller

The Department of Defense is always hopping and defense contractors need developers. But you will probably need to be able to get a clearence.

kkopp
kkopp

Unfortunately, I don't think that I'm cut out for development. I've got such a wide range of things that I can do without jumping into that that I get turned down for jobs now. I'll stick to Pc's, servers, installations, configurations, AutoCAD, Phone systems, hardware firewalls, on and on and on...

Justin James
Justin James

Sorry to hear that! The current economic downturn has not been pretty so far... I know a substantial number of people who have lost their jobs due to layoffs, and none of them are having an easy time finding work. I try to not dwell on it, but at the same time, I remember being unemployed during the dot-com crash, too. It took my career about 4 years to fully recover. J.Ja

jck
jck

geographically. I gotta determine if, in a couple years i'm financially set, I will go to another state or move out of the country totally. good luck with yours, kkopp

jck
jck

It is a nightmare. Insurance this, permit that, license this, bonding that. I am getting the LLC paperwork done now, and going to submit that as soon as I have my initial software package completed. Then, I have to get all my registrations done with all the appropriate local, county, state and federal agencies...pay through the nose...and hopefully, sell a few hundred copies of my software. In the meantime, I'm going to start picking up a lot of PC repair work and building custom gaming systems. I won't even mess with a base PC. I'll tell people "you're better off buying one from Dell, or getting one online and letting me maintain it after the warranty runs out." because the profit margin on a basic PC is so low without the discount power like Dell has buying in quantity. Hopefully, I'll get things rolling and be retired by the end of 2010. Then, I'll be travelling more and spending less time in an office...which I have come to discover in 15 years of work...I abhor being indoors. Too bad I love computers so much. lol

fredscomprepair
fredscomprepair

I'm into computer repair. I have recently discovered a whole new set of customer's. The apple crowd is starting to use small business computer repair shops. So, I have purchased a used Imac 17" and enrolled into apples' cerification program. Hopefully they will let me use their online service manual's so I can figure out how to take them a part. I actually had to turn a customer away because Mac/Apple would not let me use the service manual for that particular Imac? They are peculiar about who they trust to repair their computers. Hopefully armed with the Apple cerificate they will see fit to let me work on their fine computers??

Justin James
Justin James

I didn't know you were starting your own business, good luck with that! I know what you mean about the hardware business. A few years ago, I was working for a small computer shop, building base PCs was miserable. There was no way were could sell it for what Dell, HP, whoever does and make a profit. The only way we could do so, was custom things, like say, something with a RAID in it and an upscale video card, and most folks interested in that could build it themselves. The real money was repairs, especially replacing modems after a lightning storm, we'd get to do 5 at a decent profit each time it rained. :) J.Ja

jck
jck

Well, I can build a base system as cheap or cheaper than Dell. That's not the issue really...until you combine that with the time it takes to assemble and load it. If I got the parts cheap as Dell, then it would make up for the man hours. Guess I misstated what I meant previously. I could probably find a group who'd send me pre-assembled barebones units...and pre-loaded drives...but, I like putting things together and making sure they're installed right. And yeah, you can make money on modems...network cards...motherboards. Just troubleshooting them is a hassle sometimes. Thank God for bench fees, eh? :^0 But yeah, hardware will be my extra income til I get the software done. Hopefully once I have the software out, it will drum up enough business (I figure 100 to make it viable...200-300 to give me independent work and maybe retire). I gotta program the thing in modules though, so that I can have a basic info tracking main package, add-on accounting package, add-on imaging package. Later, i'll add in the capability to go live online and e-file stuff over the internet to service providers of various types. I got big plans. Just hope I can crank them all out and get them sold. My hope is to get enough market share that I attract a bigger company to want to buy my software out as a profit-loss-prevention method. And if that happens, happy retirement to me :)

jck
jck

I like those. There are some good pointers in there, although that is pretty focused toward a business who will be investment-driven. I do like the ideas and the plans for how to look at things tho. That gives me something to use on the corkboard at the house to keep myself on track and what to look at. Thanks for your help. I really appreciate that.

jck
jck

actually, I will develop everything until it gets so big that I can't roll out fixes in a timely fashion along with version updates at the same time. I actually put the white board on the wall in my spare room (4' x 6') where my programming PC is so I could diagram things. Hopefully, I won't be in the software business more than 2 years...and hopefully, it will be because someone like Sage or some other big company wants to keep me out of their client base by buying me out. :)

Justin James
Justin James

... let me know. I know a few really good developers (and an entry level one too) who are in need to something to fill their days. J.Ja

Fregeus
Fregeus

Although I am already working, I am not happy where I am and therefore I'm looking. I just hope I can find something interesting. TCB

Chandra
Chandra

Having been on the other side of job hunting, namely interviewing candidates, I'd say the biggest mistake you can make is not applying for a job just because you do not have everything they require or wish in a candidate. We have committees that take managements wish list and interview candidates. Many times, we take those who come close. I recently had a family member appy for a job that he didn't feel he was qualified for but he got the interview and even though he had no experience, he hit it off with the hiring manager (they had tons in common). The hiring manager "had a good feeling about him" and hired him. Just apply, apply, apply. If you start seeing a pattern in job skills like a new software, see if you can learn it on the side.

Justin James
Justin James

So true about that! A number of times, what happpens is that the people putting together the ad (HR, the recruiter, or someone else who probably is not a technical person) has a really hard time translating what the manager said they need in the new hire into things to go into an ad. Especially as ads become computerized, and rely more and more on "binary choices" driven by drop downs, check boxes, etc., that simply have no "fuzzyness" to the way they do their selection. For example, if I tell HR we need an "intermediate VB.Net developer", what I call "intermediate" and what HR or the job board call it can all differ. HR may have a standard definition of "intermediate", usually driven by "how many years using the skill". So lets say my request gets translated to "3 - 7 years VB.Net coding". Which is REDICULOUS. Depending on what they are doing, someone could have 10 years with VB.Net (well, not really, since it hasn't been around that long) and still never get past the "Hello World" stage, while someone else could be doing some really intense projects, and be "intermediate" with 6 months' usage. And who can judge the level of skill that an experienced coder has when they trnasition to a new language or system? Some developers can have 5 years experience, move to a new system/language, and in a few months, be just as effective as before. Others can't do that. On top of that, there is the similarity to take into account! Someone with Java experience will transition nicely to C#. Someone with VB.Net experience will trnasition even more nicely to C#, since 80% of working in .Net is knowing the framework itself, and the other 20% is actually the language. Overall, while I love these job boards for the ease of search, and the ability to easily apply for jobs, I hate what they've done to our industry. :( J.Ja

gregnich
gregnich

At the moment it is to successfuly download OxygenOffice Professional. So that I can get my teeth into the vast array of properties it offers.I used to be in engineering so the programme will help with things that I may have become a little rusty in. Yours Sincerely Greg Nicholas

gregnich
gregnich

At the moment it is to successfuly download OxygenOffice Professional. So that I can get my teeth into the vast array of properties it offers.I used to be in engineering so the programme will help with things that I may have become a little rusty in. Yours Sincerely Greg Nicholas

clearmiddle
clearmiddle

I would say "worrying about the economy," but in a professional capacity. The association I work for is having to focus on helping our member organizations weather the storm, and that determines my priorities as a database developer.

kiran.smooth
kiran.smooth

Reply on what ever you have just be free. we are the one who will loose everything and fall in problems if we expect more just be cool and calm. see whatever things happening in the world thats why dont act to everything.