1. Developer productivity tools become more important than ever
In 2024, I anticipate that “developer efficiency” will continue to be a major theme. 2023 saw an unfortunate number of layoffs and a general pullback from the varied bets companies were making, moving away from exploring side ventures that aren’t part of core offerings. This means teams are trying to maintain efficiency with a reduced headcount and significant budget cuts. As a result, developers have felt the need to scale themselves as much as possible. And, it turns out, that this is now more achievable than ever before.
Senior developers have said for decades that it isn’t expertise in a language that makes you valuable; it’s the ability to solve problems and to break down the needs of customers into smaller, achievable engineering tasks. And then to execute those tasks. Minimizing the amount of time spent on execution lets developers focus on the areas where they are truly irreplaceable: determining how to translate ill-defined problems into programmatic solutions.
What does that mean for trends? It means focusing on tools that will help developers write good code faster. That means frameworks that minimize the need to set up project scaffolding like building and bundling. That means leveraging shared marketplaces for commonplace solutions like GitHub Actions. And yes, that means bolstering Google searches with AI assistants like ChatGPT and Copilot.
In 2024, companies are going to look to use developer productivity tools as much as they can in order to allow their smaller teams to fulfill bigger missions. That way, they can ensure that developers are able to deliver in the areas that require their expertise.
2. Venture capital will be difficult but not impossible to find
I was at AWS re:Invent in late November. It was my first time at re:Invent, but one of my colleagues observed that the balance of small to large booths at the expo had shifted noticeably from past years. Established players like Datadog, HashiCorp, and MongoDB had their glitzy encampments, but the vast majority of exhibitors were in small booths or even smaller kiosks. Growth stage companies who might’ve splurged for a flashy presence as an arrival moment in years past were instead mostly on the fringes of the show floor (if they had a booth at all).
This hints at a tough dynamic that will dominate the tech landscape in 2024: new investment will continue to be very difficult for established companies to find. Venture capital (VC) funds do have capital to deploy, but those investments are going to companies that have found profitability and growth through strong product-market fit and efficient operations.
Even when companies meet profitable and growing criteria, many new rounds of financing are “down rounds,” meaning they come with significantly reduced company valuations to correct for the inflated valuations driven by nearly free money in the zero-interest rate years. In the year to come, we’re likely to see lots of down rounds, many acquisitions, and an unfortunate number of companies unable to find any path forward at all, all driven by scarcity of new capital for existing businesses.
The slightly better news is that VC funds do have capital, and while requirements are tougher than in the past few years, founders are having some luck raising early rounds of investment. As companies fail, new ones will spring up in their wake.
Other indicators of growth appear in the form of some big tech companies who look to be resuming mass hiring as continued demand growth for their products makes it clear that they overcorrected on headcount. So, while 2024 promises to be tough in many ways, I’m hopeful that we’ll see some positives emerge to help balance things out.
3. We take the necessary steps to make generative AI ethical and inclusive
2023 was the year when it seemed like all we talked about was generative AI. There were discussions among engineering leaders about whether to purchase tools like Copilot to help developers write more code. Elsewhere, there were prolonged writer and actor strikes in America that were largely in reaction to generative AI and how it could affect artists and their intellectual property. And, of course, we’ve all had a lot of fun asking ChatGPT all kinds of questions.
My prediction for 2024 is that there will be an increased focus on how to ensure that generative AI is inclusive and ethical. The role that we play as technologists is to ensure that the technology is being used to help bring us together as humans, regardless of our differences. I believe there will be attention paid to the ethics of generative AI and perhaps even legislation – and it will be driven by and informed by technologists and not politicians.
With all of the conflicts ongoing around the world, I also think we will see increased applications of generative AI to help locate and assist those impacted by war or natural disasters, as well as assist in healthcare – both physical and mental.
As the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. 2023 showed us the power of GenAI, and in 2024 I hope we focus on the responsibility we have to use it properly.
4. And AI continues to top the charts
It would be impossible to ignore the impact that AI has had over the last year on technology, society, and the roadmaps of all companies, big and small.
The largest technology companies are observing an AI arms race, ranging from the rapid development of new models and algorithms, to the acquisition of AI start-ups, to the hiring of the best AI talent at a significant premium. In addition to developing new products to attract people to their ecosystems, a proliferation of tools for engineers to build AI-powered products is ensuring AI features populate everyone's roadmaps, from the smallest start-ups to the largest enterprises. The floor is rising on what consumers expect in predictive and generative text, image and video recognition and generation, and automations that get their work done faster.
Therefore, the trend for 2024 is more of the above, with an industry accelerating toward AI. But for the 99% of the industry that is not working for the big five, the question is how to ride various lines; lines that divide hype and reality, usefulness and fads, and also doing all of the above whilst keeping costs under control. You don't want your entire round of seed funding to be spent on GPT-4 calls.
This is why it's important to remember that underneath any trend or prediction, by me, or anyone else for that matter, is that you fundamentally should obsess over what your customers want and deliver that to them. If that involves using AI, then great. If it doesn't, then that's fine too. Obsess over your customers’ needs, not the technology. That’s how you stick around for the long term.
5. Finding joy in the midst of change
2024 continues the evergreen balancing act between differing responsibilities: to myself, to my team, and to my family. In 2024, I’m intentionally introducing some chaos by starting a new role. I’m extremely excited about that change, but cognizant that it also upends my balance. I predict that I’ll spend a lot of time shifting my attention to this new position – learning about everyone involved, the business problems, and the technologies we use to tackle them. And when the pendulum swings too far in favor of work, I’ll shift my attention back to my family and then to myself.
I predict it might be a little easier for me to prepare an onboarding checklist of people to meet and documents to read than it will be for me to find time to contemplate what all that new knowledge means. But I’ll no doubt adapt.
I’ll try all the new technologies to help undo any mistakes: AI that unblurs my photos, organizes my calendar efficiently, and structures my thoughts more clearly. I predict that very few of those solutions will make it to 2025, but something else will follow, building on those foundations.
To avoid falling behind, I predict I’ll try all the old technologies to reduce making those mistakes, too: being more patient with my photography, more thoughtful about where to invest my available time, and painstakingly revising my thoughts until they’re clear to my audience. I’ve observed this approach in our industry for years, and I don’t predict that it will change any time soon.
I think 2024 is going to allow for a lot of personal growth. I’ll continue to experiment – in the kitchen, with watercolors, and with highly collaborative software development. I’ll find the time to celebrate my successes, learn through my failures, and find time for joy in either case.
It’s going to be a very good year.