Aussie developers spending more time addressing technical debt than on projects: report

- October 2, 2018 2 MIN READ

Almost two thirds of Australian companies are finding it difficult to find qualified developers to hire, a new report has found.

The Developer Coefficient report, based on a survey of almost 1,500 developers and tech leaders globally conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Stripe, found Australian businesses have some of the leanest in-house development teams in the world, with just 80 percent of companies employing in-house developers.

Almost two thirds of respondents stated they have come across a lack of qualified developers with the skills they require, while 46 percent said it’s difficult to find developers that work on the tech that matters to them. Of course, competition is also a factor, with 46 percent of respondents citing ‘intense competition’ as a challenge.

For those that manage to find talent, the benefits can be significant: 68 percent of Australian businesses stated that revenue from developer-driven products has increased over the last few years, with 83 percent saying their ability to launch products is reliant on software engineers.

Seventy-four percent of Australians surveyed added that a ‘great deal’ or ‘moderate’ amount of weight is placed on developer input when their company makes major strategic decisions, ahead of the US at 68 percent and UK at 71 percent.

Despite the potential of developers to help companies innovate and grow, 66 percent of Australian respondents reported their developers are often spending more of their time addressing technical debt than on strategic projects; here Australia ranks second to just Singapore with 70 percent.

Globally, developers are spending an average of four hours a week on bad code, and 17 hours a week on maintenance issues.

Mac Wang, head of Australia and New Zealand at Stripe, said the impact developers are having in Australia is “remarkable” given the nation has the highest shortage of developers globally.

“Despite this scarcity, developer time is still being wasted on maintaining legacy systems and cleaning up bad code, which is compounding the strain on developer resources,” Wang said.

“There’s a real opportunity for businesses to boost growth and innovation by investing in API-driven models that provide more agility, freeing up developer time to maximise their abilities, and ultimately, their impact.”

Almost three quarters of respondents stated they are slower to develop new products and features because they use legacy systems, while 60 percent said their organisation’s use of legacy systems is inhibiting its ability to effectively compete with emerging challengers.

Part of the issue is management, with 71 percent of developers saying they have ‘conflicting priorities’ with non-tech management when it comes to their company’s tech stack: reliability and security are the top priorities for developers across small, mid-size, and large companies, however cost savings and long term gains are often the key priorities for non-tech management.

However, 87 percent of respondents surveyed stated that implementing and maintaining a modern tech stack is now a priority for their organisation looking forward.

Image source: City of Melbourne/That Startup Show/Photographer Wren Steiner