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They pop up every December: An endless stream of too-often questionable lists that presume to predict business trends in the coming year. Mash them up, however, and you can start to identify useful patterns, as well as continuing evidence that, yep, it’s a jungle out there. Things are speeding up, becoming more connected and evolving constantly in ways that cannot be predicted.

Many of the common threads in predictions for 2013 can be grouped under one of two broad categories:

  • Customers demand more connectivity: Customers will continue demanding engagement with businesses on every level, everywhere they are, right now. That means businesses need to constantly churn out apps of all kinds – and they need to be doing it on every platform, from iOS to Android and Windows, for desktop, mobile and tablet. Organizations whose apps are late or disappointing to customers will be left behind.
  • The pace of change quickens: One list of 2013 predictions leads off with the need for what it calls “Total Chaos Anticipation.” Indeed, technology is advancing so fast that some companies (see: Apple) are lapping themselves. Competition is sprouting from everywhere because anyone with a good idea and a few thousand dollars can get into business. The keys to business survival in this environment are speed and flexibility. Those that lack agility to keep up will be last year’s news.

Given that cumulative wisdom, we propose a business trend – or at least business goal – for 2013 that we didn’t see on any lists: Faster development of better-quality apps.

Let’s face it, the supply chain for software development is a mess. It’s like the oft-quoted description of war – Long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

According to a voke study released this week, developers on average need access to 33 systems for test and dev; they actually get access to 18. A stunning 96 percent of respondents told voke they waste time waiting for access to services they need. Developers are waiting to do their jobs, and the waiting is constant and costly.

“This is an incredible impact,” said Theresa Lanowitz, who interviewed hundreds of developers for the study. “This really impacts your time to market, your quality and your overall cost.”

To date, most businesses have confronted mounting technology pressures simply by doubling down on staffing or releasing imperfect, insufficiently tested products with predictably awful results: Cost overruns, busted schedules, damaged brands.

Just last month, the website monitoring company Panopta reported that 77 retail sites crashed during the critical Black Friday shopping period. Can you imagine the lost opportunity?

Which brings us to service virtualization, a technique that creates live-like and behaviorally accurate versions of any service needed for interaction during development. Think about it like the wind tunnels used to test new airplane wing designs. Virtual services free developers from constraints and each other, speeding up the test and dev process dramatically because you can achieve true agility.

In the voke survey, developers using service virtualization products from four solutions providers said this transformational tool has eliminated constraints and cut their cycle time by more than half in many cases. They can test earlier, better, automatically and continuously during development. Products hit the market faster, with fewer mistakes that must be patched and with less wasted employee time.

Indeed magic bullets are rare, but if the top business need for 2013 is faster, better development, then service virtualization is one.  As Lanowitz said this week, “Service virtualization is real. It works. It’s proven.”