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Top 12 Tech Tools of the Year: Our Essential Picks for 2024

Top 12 Tech Tools of the Year

I'm often described as a tinkerer at heart. My passion lies in exploring emerging technologies and platforms, often spending late nights immersed in research. This hobby has tailored my Google app's feed to become a dynamic showcase of the latest tech developments. It's filled with updates about new startups securing funding, groundbreaking feature releases, and companies making significant strides in the tech industry.

Here are my top 12 tech tools from this year's research, with tips on applying them in your organization for better efficiency and innovation. This list emphasizes Developer Experience, an area I'm incredibly passionate about. We should be leveraging the right tools and automation to make life easier for developers, enabling them to solve business problems quickly while cutting down on the unnecessary complications of their day-to-day life.

I discovered Vercel while developing an internal tool that required frontend expertise — a field outside my usual domain of backend system architecture. My primary goal was to find a solution that offered a robust free tier and streamlined the deployment and configuration process as much as possible. Vercel's automated workflows and ease of use made it an ideal choice for someone primarily experienced in backend development, like myself.

My experience with Vercel was nothing short of transformative. Their platform boasts an impressive array of features, including seamless CI/CD integration, global edge distribution for apps, convenient preview environments, efficient built-in caching, and robust blob storage — and that's just the beginning. The platform's capabilities enabled me to craft a significant and functional User Interface in just a matter of days, and it worked flawlessly right from the start. The ease and efficiency of the process were remarkable, reflecting Vercel’s commitment to streamlining web development.

For organizations engaged in custom app development, Vercel is a platform worth exploring. It's not just about improving the developer experience; it's about revolutionizing it. With Vercel, you can accelerate the product development cycle, enabling faster builds and quicker feedback loops. This efficiency can be a game-changer, helping your team deliver high-quality applications more rapidly than ever before.

While working on the aforementioned app, I stumbled upon Supabase, a platform drawing inspiration from Firebase, with which I was already familiar from my years of setting up databases across various major cloud providers. I was intrigued by the possibility of exploring new and emerging database technologies, seeking to broaden my experience beyond the conventional options. Supabase caught my attention as a promising alternative, offering a fresh perspective in the world of database solutions.

Supabase, building on my preferred database, Postgres, which I've used for over a decade, offers a distinct experience. Its edge over traditional cloud Postgres databases lies in its rich feature set. The out-of-the-box complete user management system, enabling quick creation of engaging login interfaces with email magic links and social media integrations, was particularly impressive. Additionally, Supabase's serverless object store for versatile file types and edge functions for deploying custom code effortlessly enhance its functionality.

Planning to build a new application in 2024? I recommend trying Supabase. It’s likely to launch you into a realm of efficiency and scalability, offering a significant boost to your development process.

While exploring databases, I came across PlanetScale, often hailed as the world’s most advanced MySQL platform. From my experience, they have a solid foundation for such a claim. PlanetScale stands out for its ability to relieve developers from concerns like sharding, ensuring high availability, and managing read-write replicas. It's a game-changer, offering a seamless, worry-free database deployment experience.

PlanetScale's two standout features for me were its adoption of GIT workflow principles for database schema management and its unique approach to database branching. Instead of creating separate databases for each environment, you can branch from the main database, akin to how code branches are managed in tools like GitHub. This setup allows for opening pull requests for migration changes, enabling a clear visualization of PRs and conflicts. It's a familiar, developer-friendly approach that leverages the proven practices of software version control.

PlanetScale also introduced a noteworthy product named 'PlanetScale Boost', which claims to significantly enhance query speeds, potentially up to 1,000 times faster, with just a few simple clicks. This remarkable improvement in query performance highlights the company's innovative approach to database management.

For a deeper understanding of how PlanetScale engineered this solution reference the blog post below.

In our approach to developing backend APIs and event-driven platforms, we typically begin by setting up an API Gateway. This gateway serves as the primary conduit for requests directed to serverless functions, message queues, and similar components. We favor this architectural pattern because it offers serverless flexibility and allows us to shift responsibilities like authentication and throttling to the API gateway level. This setup enables our developers to focus on crafting serverless functions that are dedicated to performing a single task exceptionally well.

When deploying applications in different cloud environments, the challenge often lies in adapting to various services, SDKs, and architectural nuances. Nitric’s “Cloud Aware Application Framework” addresses this by enabling multicloud deployments without requiring code changes. This means applications built with Nitric can be seamlessly deployed across major cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, allowing developers to choose or switch providers based on their needs, without the hassle of rewriting code for different cloud environments.

We often talk about vendor lock in when selecting architectures and proposing solutions, Nitric’s flexibility allows you to focus on implementation and will make those architecture decisions for you based on the cloud you are wanting to deploy in. 

In product development, emphasis on customer-facing elements often overshadows the critical need for robust backend administrative functionality. Delaying its development to the later stages can result in unfinished admin features, encouraging risky practices such as direct database interactions for updates. To ensure smooth internal operations and uphold system integrity, prioritizing and fully developing admin features from the outset is imperative.

BaseDash tackles a crucial issue, and from my perspective, it does so more effectively than any other solution I've encountered. By simply connecting your database to BaseDash, it utilizes AI to generate intuitive admin interfaces, enabling you to visualize, explore, and edit your data with ease. Moreover, BaseDash comes equipped with ready-to-use dashboards and a feature called 'actions', which facilitates the creation of automated workflows capable of calling external APIs, streamlining your administrative tasks significantly.

Envision a scenario where deactivating a user involves more than merely toggling a Boolean in a database table. Such an action might necessitate updates to billing systems, triggering email notifications, and other complex tasks. BaseDash empowers you to construct these intricate workflows, enabling your support team to initiate them effortlessly with just the click of a button.

For anyone developing a custom application, I strongly suggest exploring BaseDash as a solution to manage all your administrative functionalities. This allows you to concentrate on adding value for your end customers, while BaseDash ensures that your internal operations remain efficient and streamlined.

Almost every application globally requires efficient User Management. Clerk is dedicated to offering comprehensive solutions for user management, authentication, and session management right out of the box. They supply an array of prebuilt user components that seamlessly integrate into your application, including Sign In/Sign Up boxes, User Profiles, and Organization Switchers. The best part? It's not just a promise – it works!

In just thirty minutes, I successfully implemented comprehensive user authentication, including email magic links, password resets, and OAuth logins – functionalities that could typically occupy a development team for weeks or even months. Additionally, having this advanced level of user management available from the outset was immensely beneficial. It saved us from having to repeatedly reassess our approach to user handling as the complexity of our application scaled up.

Building on the theme of enhancing the developer experience, delegating your user management strategy to Clerk allows your team to redirect their focus towards developing revenue-generating features that have a positive impact on your customer base. This shift not only streamlines your development process but also aligns your resources with customer-centric innovations.

As a company with a strong commitment to automation, we've successfully completed numerous projects involving data integration and workflow automation between various systems. While we've utilized a range of standard iPaaS and RPA tools effectively, our recent exploration of Pipedream marked a significant shift in our approach. Pipedream stood out not just for its efficiency but also for offering an exceptionally user-friendly experience, which is paramount in our line of work. Its intuitive interface and robust functionality have streamlined our processes, enabling us to deliver solutions with greater speed and precision. This aligns perfectly with our goal to be at the forefront of intelligent automation, continually enhancing the services we provide to our clients.

Pipedream stands out for its exceptional blend of features, including robust authentication management, a flexible coding environment that caters to both low-code and traditional coding, and a vast selection of prebuilt integrations. This unique combination facilitated the rapid development of a Slack bot by me, accomplished in less than an hour. The bot was designed to send surveys and collect responses through intuitive thumbs up or down reactions. The development process in Pipedream is impressively user-centric, guiding you through each phase with a focus on functionality and efficiency. This approach not only speeds up the development timeline but also ensures the high reliability of the final product, reflecting our commitment to innovative and effective automation solutions.

If your business is facing challenges with slow integration processes or has a growing list of pending integration tasks, Pipedream could be the solution you need. It's a user-friendly platform designed to accelerate and simplify the process of connecting systems and data, helping teams efficiently tackle their integration workload.

Impower was born as an automation company, adopting leading RPA solutions very early on to solve critical business problems we were identifying as bottlenecks to organizations scaling. Over the last five years, the RPA industry has witnessed exponential growth, consistently enhancing organizational efficiency by automating repetitive, manual tasks. This shift has resulted in substantial savings of manual work hours for organizations, often in the tens of thousands annually, thereby freeing employees to focus on more strategic and creative endeavors.

In the realm of technological innovation, disruptors often emerge to challenge the established norms. Kognitos represents such a disruption in the RPA industry, traditionally dominated by low code interfaces or programming languages. Kognitos revolutionizes this by enabling the creation of business process automations through natural language. It excels particularly in exception handling; instead of requiring developer intervention for each anomaly, Kognitos allows users to describe the issue and the remediation steps in plain English. Impressively, Kognitos learns from these interactions. Futhermore, it autonomously resolves similar exceptions in the future, enhancing efficiency and adaptability in automation processes.

Kognitos is just getting started in their journey, however they are positioned to be a significant disruptor in the RPA space and I will be following them closely in 2024.

Last year, we evaluated our internal tools and started planning our technology roadmap for the next few years. This included a review of various traditional CRMs, drawing on our experience with several migration and implementation projects.

We explored Attio as a potential CRM solution and were immediately impressed during the free trial. Attio stands out as an ideal CRM with its lightweight, responsive design, eliminating long loading times and frustration. Its customizable framework adapts effortlessly to any business flow, allowing for the creation of custom objects and boards. Furthermore, Attio's AI-driven data enrichment adds significant power and insight to the CRM experience, offering out-of-the-box functionality that enhances its utility.

Attio also impresses with its open platform, featuring APIs, webhooks, email sync, and more, enabling seamless creation of automated workflows and effortless data syncing. Regardless of whether you're currently seeking a new CRM, I recommend spending an hour on Attio's free trial. The team at Attio is innovatively redefining the traditional CRM landscape for the better.

Modern application development involves a complex ecosystem of external tools, each serving distinct purposes such as analytics, user engagement, surveys, and feature flagging. Typically, this results in organizations subscribing to, integrating, and managing a myriad of applications, often exceeding ten or more, for these diverse functionalities. This not only compounds the cost but also adds layers of complexity in managing and harmonizing these tools effectively within the development workflow.

Posthog is revolutionizing the way organizations understand and interact with their data by integrating multiple analytical functionalities into a single, user-friendly platform. Its ease of implementation is matched by the depth and breadth of insights it offers. With Posthog, you gain access to detailed analytics that go beyond mere data collection; you can delve into product analytics to understand user interactions and behaviors deeply. Additionally, the platform offers session replays, providing a visual and practical way to observe real user experiences. Feature flags are another critical component, allowing for safer, more controlled rollouts of new features. Moreover, Posthog's robust A/B testing capabilities enable you to make data-driven decisions, optimizing your product's performance and user satisfaction.

Should you or your organization grapple with centralizing crucial data points or integrating a multitude of tools, consider exploring Posthog. Renowned for its generous free tier and rapid setup process, Posthog offers a streamlined solution to unify and manage your analytical needs effectively and efficiently. It could be the game-changer you need to simplify and enhance your data management and application development processes.

11. Sleuth

In the dynamic landscape of software development, understanding and improving engineering practices is crucial. Enter DORA metrics: a set of performance indicators that have become a standard for measuring engineering excellence. These metrics offer a comprehensive snapshot of an engineering organization's performance by focusing on key areas such as Deployment Frequency, Lead Time for Changes, Change Failure Rate, and Time to Restore Service. However, DORA extends beyond mere internal assessment; it compares your performance with industry standards, providing a clear benchmark for success.

We recognize the value of DORA metrics but acknowledge the challenges of manual tracking. Tools like Sleuth offer a solution by integrating with our code base and tools to analyze the performance of our engineering practices. Rather than highlighting shortcomings, Sleuth provides a baseline, enabling engineering teams to incrementally refine their development process. It helps validate whether changes have a positive or negative impact on software delivery, thus fostering a culture of continuous improvement in engineering practices.

Sleuth's power is amplified by its extensive library of automations designed to address common engineering challenges. These pre-built solutions, like limiting the number of changed files in a PR or sending notifications for stagnant PRs, are readily available out of the box. This means your organization can avoid the time and effort of custom-building such automations. Implementing these Sleuth features can immediately revolutionize your engineering processes, offering streamlined operations and enhanced productivity without the need for bespoke solutions.

12. Pulumi

Leveraging Infrastructure as Code is core to everything we build. No one should be manually creating any resources in any cloud related to the applications we build. This has been a space owned by Terraform for a long time. In 2023 I explored another tool in the space called Pulumi. 

Pulumi distinguishes itself in the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) arena by offering SDKs across multiple programming languages, thus bypassing the reliance on proprietary YAML syntax. This shift allows developers to define and manage infrastructure using the languages and syntax they already know, streamlining the process and increasing productivity. Additionally, Pulumi enhances the cloud management experience with features like a graphical representation of resource configurations, git diffs for infrastructure updates, and a comprehensive view of all organizational stacks, making infrastructure management more intuitive and transparent.

In the transformative era of AI, Pulumi has introduced Pulumi AI, accessible via the command line or a web GUI. With this feature, developers can simply describe the desired infrastructure, and Pulumi AI generates the corresponding code. This innovation not only streamlines infrastructure creation but, with appropriate governance, significantly empowers developers to take greater ownership of the infrastructure necessary for building and scaling applications, marking a substantial leap forward in infrastructure management and developer autonomy.

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