Despite businesses’ reliance on their skills, developers are still relatively hard to come by. The talk of a skills gap refuses to die, and today, demand continues to outstrip supply. According to the UK Visa Bureau, software development and IT are among the professions with the biggest skills shortages.
However, software developers know this seller’s market won’t last forever. As more people learn to code and tooling becomes more user-friendly, the barrier to entry will lower and the industry will evolve and impact the value of code. Like anything that is abundant, it simply won’t be worth as much. This will see the role of the software developer changing. Software development will become less about taught technical skills and more about analytical and creative skills such as problem-solving in order to achieve tangible business objectives.
While for many of us the software industry may seem well established, it is really in its infancy. This is especially apparent when you compare it to an industry like construction where processes and techniques continue to be refined over hundreds, or even thousands of years.
It’s not just a matter of today’s school curriculums generating the developers of tomorrow. As technology evolves and becomes ever more intuitive and accessible, the rise of the ‘citizen developer’ will continue apace, spawning users who create new business apps for consumption by using other development and runtime environments.
These individuals do not have a traditional developer background or possess an in-depth knowledge of coding and it doesn’t matter as their output is facilitated by the use of shared services, fourth-generation language (4GL)-style development platforms and cloud computing services. As software evolves, these users increasingly have the ability to quickly build productivity-based apps that solve business problems, as typically 80% of the code is already written. It is a case of drag and drop, which does not need advanced coding skills as the blueprint is already there.
This leaves more advanced developers needing to shift their perspective. As citizen developers learn basic coding skills, combined with the ability to achieve rapid application at scale with relative ease, the onus will be on the skilled developer to start thinking about how their role aligns with business objectives. It requires a more holistic view of the business process in order for development teams to better align with business needs. This is not to suggest that skilled developers are being phased out. On the contrary, it will represent an elevation of their place within the enterprise, as they move up the stack to serve business problems more directly.
The role of the skilled software developer is clearly still crucial. There is a clear and present need for developers to carry out current functions such as designing, deploying, testing and maintaining software.
But the challenge now is to deliver a consistent and seamless experience across each function as businesses adopt an omnichannel approach, to fit the desired business outcome. This will call for ‘developer hybrids’ – professionals who possess a combination of business and technical skills. Essentially, developers will need to consider the bigger picture and understand not only what they are coding but why they are coding it. Every decision needs to be made in the context of the resultant business impact, assessing the consequences of all choices in relation to the broader business goals.
This change of perspective is crucial in order to stay ahead in today’s competitive marketplace. Appetite for apps can be rapidly influenced by a range of market forces, including competitor apps and new platform and device releases. This can often mean that by the time an app is ready for the market, the business need or industry landscape may have changed.
To ensure development teams keep up with ever-changing demand and requirements, developers will need to take a more centralised role within the organisation in order to create more successful, nimble operations which will deliver the common business outcome: faster delivery of digital products and services and improved customer experiences.
It is a cross-disciplinary effort, with each individual bringing their own insight and skills to the decision-making process. Software developers will find they are able to deliver stronger business insight and impact by helping other departments to present a clear, actionable plan that will help to reduce code rework and reduce debugging. The latter leads to wasted time and wasted code, resulting in increased development costs, code refactoring and potential customer and revenue loss. All of which delays time to market, at a time when delivering engaging customer experiences that meet the speed of business at a global scale is crucial to retaining a competitive edge.
It is evident that skilled developers are still in demand. But it will be the developers who are able to understand the business implications of their technical decisions who will be most in demand in the future.