Keeping Pace in Modern Web Development
Over the last years, I have been very busy to keep learning and putting my time into staying on top of the tech game in terms of web technologies. Unfortunately, as a result, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was happening around me, with my clients, customers, partners, and colleagues.
I had the feeling that web technologies evolved way more quickly than they did in the 90s or the early 2000s. New ways of developing appeared, new architectures became trendy, and coding fused with infrastructure to DevOps. However, everything had one in common: It felt more complex and challenging than before. Next, it was often advertised as more accessible and scalable than ever before but lastly became more challenging to learn, understand, and translate into production.
With reactive front-end frameworks, headless approaches, composable architectures, DevOps, microservices, and many phrases starting with “continuous”, to name a few, the developer and entrepreneurs become challenged by this new development. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to hire some web developer and have a web apache server ready somewhere.
Small companies often seem to be overwhelmed with making the right decisions.
I’ve worked with primarily small-to-medium-sized companies in different domains in the last two decades, but they were reluctant toward changes and new technologies. Instead, all those companies tried to keep the accomplished level and developed their business on this level. Of course, it is entirely correct not to spend endless money on new developments from a business perspective, but what happens if the current market and client requirements change? What if the current level is suddenly not suiting anymore and the business’s future success is uncertain?
This keeping of level happens quite often in the SME area, and it’s natural since the budgets are usually minimal. But facing adverse reactions from clients to a once-great piece of product can hit a company hard.
- A product isn’t offered as a SaaS multi-tier package
- A Product isn’t easy to acquire
- A product isn’t available as an open-source package
- A product is slow and not scalable
- A product became too expensive to obtain or maintain
- A product is only available on-premise or on desktop.
- A product is service-intensive
- A product requires a sales meeting to become a quote
Those are just a few possible problems that appear for existing legacy solutions, but they can become dangerous for small companies since their clients and customers demand at least some of them.
Then why not just improve the game — Why struggle to enhance?
There kicks in the complexity and the sometimes overwhelmingly tricky way to overcome those problems. It’s not just hard to acquire the skills as a company to create a SaaS product or move from a desktop-based application to a web app; the biggest problem I noticed was the missing understanding of modern possibilities.
As a small company, you will be confronted with things like cloud-native and containerized applications, which developers often successfully avoided beforehand. But, suddenly, they become a necessity, and the company starts wondering what that is and how this can improve its current product line.
At this point, there’s already a problem with the “why-should-I” and “how-should-I”. The Question of how to implement modern web technology into existing legacy projects can be a difficult one. It can be interesting to upgrade old platforms. Still, often it’s better to take a look into new opportunities which will become possible once the new tech level is ready for production.
Digital Transformation is an ongoing thing, but it often suddenly stops for small web dev shops.
DX describes the transition from an analog business to a digital one by utilizing modern technologies like the web. But the Digital Transformation has been an ongoing topic for many years now, and web development companies have already made steps to become digital by its nature. The Problem: Often, they just stood still for years and were not progressing in this process of digitalization. “Yesterday’s digital” for a web company isn’t the “today’s digital”.
This stand-still can be keeping an expensive data center landscape instead of a developer-driven cloud-native platform or using an old monolith business platform instead of decoupled services and progressive web apps with more reach and performance. Or it can be one of the reasons mentioned beforehand, like not being able to provide the product as a self-service SaaS.
Yesterday’s digital for a web company isn’t the today’s digital
How to utilize state-of-the-art technologies to upgrade your business
Of course, there’s no single clear answer for this. The challenges are the same for every company, whether small or large. The most crucial point is understanding what’s possible these days and how it differs from what you have already achieved and developed. Accepting changes in ways of working and thinking is another essential requirement.
The following section describes basic recommendations, which I can provide because of my failures and successes as a fractional CTO in the SME area.
Practical: Implement the skills in the team and focus on DevOps
Is DevOps an answer to DX for a web development company? Not directly, but it’s a foundation of how a team works and learns together, and learning is the essential part of becoming better to reach goals and level up.
In DevOps culture, the team unites all disciplines necessary to create a product built with a modern tech stack in the cloud. So a good way is to start to live DevOps and create an environment of continuous learning and enhancement for everyone.
Involving the whole team and creating a spirit of ownership for everyone will lead to new ideas and motivation to reach your goals eventually.
Theoretical: Read, write, learn, and talk every day.
Old but gold are the fundamental activities when it’s come to learning. So many people on this planet try to do the same thing as you are, and many are successful with it; others aren’t. The best ways to learn fast are reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching videos with value (not the Tik-Tok ones), and connecting with people in your field. Have conversations, especially with those who have already accomplished more in the area than you have done yourself.
Write down your experience or ideas, while it doesn’t matter if you publish them to the public. Do this for your team, yourself, or others who may struggle with the same problems as you are.
Get a consultant — The smart shortcut! Or not?
It’s great to be actively guided and taught by someone with good knowledge and seasoned experience. You can go this way, but most companies have a daily business to keep and a limited amount of time. Therefore, some things cannot be boosted. It would be best to consider hiring a consultant when you are already orientated in the field and have defined the direction your company needs to proceed. Otherwise, it can be wasted time and money, at least for your company, because you cannot follow or get enough out of it to translate to production.
It’s not a shortcut when your team’s range of experience is too broad. You will put more time into closing the gap than really shortcutting into some direction.
It can, for example, make sense to already understand Docker and Containerization before moving on to the fully fetched cloud-native environment. This advice applies especially to dev shops that still deploy via FTP upload.
So, is a consultant helpful for a web dev shop? Yes, but depending on your current situation, you should plan more or less time into it. It’s still a lot of learning and change, and it is not done in some sessions for sure.
The web isn’t too complex — it’s just more challenging than ever.
Since it’s more challenging, it can be more rewarding. But mastering the web today means staying on top of the game and keep learning and improving as a team and individual.
With that in mind, new products and innovations can be developed and shipped, even in years to come.
There’s much more one can do to improve their company or team. Understanding that learning and progression are fundamental will help settle everything, so old and new products can stand the test of time.
If those topics are a familiar problem to you, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or my website. I am happy to provide my opinion and recommendation.