Pivotal/Tanzu Labs

This article is the first in a five-part series.

Modern Application Developers know the secret to successfully building modern apps in today’s competitive market is learning how to use building blocks in a bottom-up collaborative environment.


To get the most out of this series, take some time to learn more about modern application principles and practices.

What You Will Learn

In this first article, you will learn how to:

  • Explain the context of modern application development.
  • Describe the types of building blocks that comprise modern application development.
  • Describe how a modern application developer must continually consider trade offs and technical debt.

Modern Application Principles and Practices

Modern Application Development improves your organization’s ability to maintain, plan to build, or modernize existing software products that:

  • Achieve a market fit. Provide long-term value to your organization and customers.
  • Are subject to continual change.
  • Allow changes to be done quickly, safely, and sustainably.
  • Allow persistent product teams to build, evolve and maintain software.

If none of these apply, you can stop reading now.

Still here?


Older legacy application development practices include a lot of formal processes, bureaucracy, and a separation of skill sets with the logic that it is necessary to use formalized structure to force discipline top-down to deliver software.

Modern application development practices require just as much, if not more discipline, than legacy processes.

Now that you have an idea about the context, let us discuss the major types of building blocks that form the foundation of modern application development.

Building Blocks

There are five building block categories that support the Modern Application Development process:

  1. Principles
  2. Practices
  3. Patterns
  4. Methods and Techniques
  5. Tools and Technologies

You can view building block examples in each of the upcoming articles:


Principles are foundational rules that help modern application developers select the best practices to use to accomplish a specific task. For example, why it is a good idea to combine the some of the principles in this article that are similar in belief or behavior.

Principles are proven success factors that remain relevant for long periods of time.

At Pivotal/Tanzu Labs, following foundational principles makes it possible to:

  • ⚡️ Empower teams.
  • 🌱 Start simple.
  • 🦋 Embrace change.
  • 🚀 Deliver early and often.
  • 🔬 Improve continuously.
  • ❤️ Give back.

To find out more about Tanzu foundational principles click here.

There are two engineering principles that you may find particularly useful. They are:

As you collaborate with other experienced modern application development practitioners, make sure to ask why they do work in a specific way, and what principles they use to guide their work.



A practice is a specific way the developer works to accomplish a goal, according to their work context principles. Think of practices as a high level method of how work is done without specifying the exact steps.

The lifetime of principles is tied to the relevance of the context in which they live.

A Modern App Developer may use multiple practices during their daily workflow to solve problems efficiently and safely.

Practices in this series include:

Methods and Techniques

Methods and Techniques are processes or procedures that facilitate the performance of the relevant practices.

Though not broad enough to be considered practices, methods and techniques form the detailed how in the practitioners’ work in very specific scenarios that support the relevant practices.

Some of the methods and techniques you will see in this series includes:

Software Patterns

Software patterns are known solutions used to solve common types of development problem. They are an excellent resource for providing solutions to new and recurring software problems.

Patterns are also long-lived, similar to practices.

Think of patterns as one of the high level whats of building software.

Software patterns are discovered over time, then published so that other developers may also share and collaborate their findings.


Anti-patterns are code patterns that do not provide a solution to fix a new or recurring software problem.

Tools and Technologies

Tools and Technologies facilitate the use of solution pattern methods and practices, as well as the implementation of solution patterns, where appropriate.

As you know, the most popular tools, technologies and frameworks available on the market today, can quickly be replaced and considered outdated tomorrow. One way to ensure the tools and technologies that you select are going to be the most productive is to refer to your organization’s support for standards to collect tool selection criteria.

It’s also a good idea to become proficient in how each of the tools and technologies work, as this is the best way to minimize friction in the Modern Apps Practitioner Workflow, which is the next page in this Learning Path.

Trade Offs, Costs and Technical Debt

Selecting the best building blocks to run your daily work can be a challenge.

Every activity you do, and every building block you select and use, will have trade offs, and associated costs.

Associated costs are measured in time, money or opportunities lost.

There are three types of costs to manage:

  • Upfront Costs
  • Taxes
  • Debt

Trade offs, Costs and Technical Debt

Upfront Costs

Upfront costs are incurred whenever a software product teams plans, estimates, and builds new features, or fixes defects.

Upfront costs are also incurred when the team spends time doing activities.

Resources are another upfront cost. Resource costs includes compute, storage and other infrastructures specific to the activities.

As a Modern App Developer, you can do your part in keeping your organization’s upfront costs down by working with minimal designs. Although this is a proven cost-effective solution, there are drawbacks that can sometimes cause Technical Debt.


The term tax describes the ongoing costs of authoring and maintaining software products.

Taxes are compulsory charges imposed to fund activities over time.

Examples of software taxes include:

  • Software maintenance such as keeping the application codebases clean.

  • Use of Platforms or Middleware.

  • Tools license or subscription costs.

  • Third party dependency upgrades.

  • Developer continual learning.

It’s never a good idea to avoid paying taxes for these products because the associated software product team may be impacted by the consequences.

Technical Debt

Technical Debt is the concept where:

  • A software product team, or developer, chooses to take a shortcut, in a feature or design implementation, for an immediate benefit.

    You can expect the team or developer to remediate, or repay for taking the shortcut at a later time.

  • The more shortcuts that are taken without remediating, or replaying them, the more accumulation of “debt” will have consequences for the product team. Most of the time this results in the team slowing down.

A common example of accumulation of technical debt is when:

  • A developer chooses to deviate from software development principles as a short cut to move faster in the moment.

  • A developer should remediate the deviation as part of an ongoing code maintenance activity.

  • Development teams that continually deviate from development principles ultimately put the software codebase in a state that becomes hard to maintain and change.

Always repay your technical debt!


In this article, you learned about:

  • Modern application development.
  • The types of building blocks that comprise modern application development.
  • Trade offs, Costs and Technical Debt