In the comments to my post yesterday (comments meaning the only one I got), my friend and coworker Richard Lowe pointed out that working with new technology also adds business value. I have to agree with him. Staying up to date with technology, whatever technology you use day to day, does increase business value. I took that as a given because, in my opinion, if you don't stay up to date then you become technically irrelevant and technical irrelevancy adds negative business value.
Negative business value? Yeah, negative business value. You actually becoming a liability to the company by not introducing new technology. Tool sets, frameworks and programming languages all have an expiration date (within reason. I know COBOL is still alive and kicking). When they expire, your company is now in a horrible situation (especially if that expired technology is running a core business application). Staying technically relevant removes that liability.
"So Ryan? What is technically relevant?"
Glad you asked! In my opinion there are a few things that every developer should be aware of right now. Take note that I didn't say you should be using, you should know or you should be competent in. These are things that should have at least crossed your radar so if somebody talked to you about it you would have some basis for discussion.
1.) Unit Testing
Unit testing is pretty much beyond mainstream. The tools to do unit testing are now shipping with Visual Studio.
These patterns have been around a long, long time (so long in fact that they have been renamed, but nobody goes by those names yet). A lot of web and windows frameworks that are coming out (or in the Java world have been out for a long time) use these patterns.
3.) Object-Relational Mapping
I don't care what tools you use. If you are a developer you owe it to yourself to at least know about O/RM. It will save you boatloads of time and money. (See: NHibernate, LINQ to Entities, LLBLGEN, iBatis, etc.)
4.) Dynamic versus Static languages
With languages like Ruby and Python being mainstream, C# adding dynamic support (Dynamic via Static) and the addition of the DLR to the .NET runtime, you need to have some understanding of why people even cared about the issue to begin with.
With the push to create isolated systems and cloud computing being "The Next Big Thing", messaging and messaging patterns are starting to get more press.
These 5 things are items that I feel that developers need to have at least heard of. I'm not claiming to be a guru in any of these (especially messaging!) and I'm sure other developers have the 5 areas that they feel everybody should be aware of. What technologies am I missing?