BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Software development jobs are in a state of flux. Mobile computing is compressing Agile's already weekslong-shortened development cycles into mere days. DevOps entwined app development with operations. No-code/low-code tools yanked app building from the ranks of professional programmers, empowering so-called citizen developers.
What does 2017 hold in store for application developers? We asked John Carione, who previously worked at EMC, RSA and Adobe, and is currently a product and corporate marketing leader at no-code/low-code vendor QuickBase Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass. Software development is changing, and that means changes for developers. Did the June 1961 Twilight Zone episode, "The Obsolete Man," correctly anticipate this trend?
With the rise of microservices, containers, and no-code/low-code development tools, what is happening to software engineer and software development jobs?
John Carione: In 2017, we'll see hiring managers redefine the term developers and developer job roles, and start thinking outside the box to help fill their organizations' development needs. This will be fueled by the continuing shortage of skilled developers, an increase in popularity of tools that allow for the development of software with little to no code and greater familiarity with these tools among job candidates.
Does this trend mean pure coding skills are playing a diminished role in what it means to be an application developer?
Carione: Coding skills will continue to be important, but in many cases will no longer be the be-all, end-all for recruiters looking to fill development needs for the business. Managers are looking for a programmer or developer 'mindset' versus only relying on technical skills.
That brings us to the developer who lives outside of IT, what we used to call shadow IT and is now often referred to as citizen developers. Doesn't that change the scope of software development jobs?
Carione: That's right. While the definition of developer won't change overnight, 2017 is likely to mark the onset. Even Gartner predicts that by 2020, 60% of all fast-mode application development projects will be done outside of formal IT teams. In the process, new challenges will emerge for technical hiring managers. How do you identify good developers? And what should their performance be measured by?
If we go on the premise that there will always be a need for professional developers within IT to handle complex or security-related software development jobs, just what is it that citizen developers are developing?
Carione: As citizen development becomes mainstream and companies get more comfortable using low-code tools internally, they'll more frequently experiment with creating apps that are external-facing. Citizen developers will still be creating these apps, but the use case will more often focus on serving partners and customers for tasks like asset tracking or joint project management. In a recent survey we conducted of citizen developers, 35% create customer-facing apps, up from 27% in 2015.
What you're alluding to is transactional apps, not just ones that extract read-only data for reporting or presentation purposes.
John Carioneproduct and corporate marketing leader, QuickBase
Carione: For partners and customers, this shift will mean they're likely to receive greater access to information they need on the fly through app-based solutions that serve their needs specifically.
Is the decentralization of app development to departmental citizen developers the inevitable result of the Agile movement?
Carione: Agile methodologies changed how companies evaluate and implement technology. In 2017, we'll see a new wave of Agile thinking enter the enterprise -- this time with a focus on helping enterprises make strategic decisions more quickly. The days of lengthy research projects and teams of management consultants are numbered.
What, exactly, will become more Agile?
Carione: Employees -- whether in IT, operations or a marketing department -- will be able to use rapid application development and automated research tools to run quick tests and answer questions on their own. By more quickly understanding which processes and strategies are working and which are not, employees can be empowered to make intelligent decisions and adjust their business approaches on the fly.
This is all part of what we've come to know as digital transformation. What remains to be digitally transformed besides those doing software development jobs?
Carione: In the last decade, digital transformation has changed the way marketing and IT work, but there are still key areas of the business that remain relatively untransformed by digital. In 2017, digital transformation will finally hit a third critical department in the enterprise -- operations.
Our survey showed that 23% of non-IT staff in operations business units are already developing the apps they need to make digital transformation in their departments a reality. We expect that figure to rise -- in large part driven by a shift in budgets and a commitment to serving customers better. Forrester recently reported that compared with the amount they have traditionally spent to transform customer experiences, enterprises like The Home Depot and Unilever will spend four times more on digitizing their operations.
With software development jobs changing as citizen development becomes more commonplace, where does that trend continue through 2017 and beyond?
Carione: I believe that 2017 will lead to the rise of the 'citizen employee' -- those who have not had formal training for specialized skills, but who can complete tasks with the aid of tech tools. We've seen that with citizen app development, citizen video marketing, citizen website construction and even citizen data science. As technology democratizes specialized skill sets, more citizen job opportunities are likely to emerge. This includes the citizen data integrator, whose emergence will be driven -- like the citizen data scientist -- by the growth of enterprise data and companies looking for more efficient ways to harness it.
Is automation making your job obsolete?
Citizen developers? Don't bother; they're here.
No-code/low-code tools are no fad