5 min

Hello World! It’s not going away, but soon, this rite of passage first-line of code that every developer writes when they first cut code might change. Rather than programming an instruction to display those two time-honoured words on screen, fledgling developers could be instructing a bot, calling an API or simply initiating some pre-architected sequence to write those instructions for them.

Perhaps now it’ll be a case of: Hello Automation World!

Spoiler alert. In truth, it won’t, obviously. Rookie developers will still (for now at least) need to start their first line of code manually, otherwise, what’s the point in them being here in the first place? We still need humans (for now) to direct the acceleration and automation engines that we can now draw upon to code faster with the new breed of low-code no-code tools (LC/NC) that now exist.

It’s a zany developer world

All said and done though. It’s a pretty zany time to be a developer. With low-code spiralling and no-code promising change, with generative AI in its meteoric ascendancy, with Machine Learning (ML) a solid reality and with cloud orchestration technologies driving the backbone of a new API-first world of software application development, there is much to consider.

Possibly one of the major considerations to now think about is, just how far will traditional hardcoding practices now face increasing disruptions to set practices – and how much time will it take to change our work methods?

Shomron Jacob is head of applied machine mearning & platform at Iterate.ai, a company that specialises in custom-built AI generated via low-code. He suggests that getting this new era of automation correct unlocks access for a broader set of developers to harness more specialized technologies. 

“Developers can now tap into new automation to spin up applications with capabilities that would otherwise be outside of their expertise, which would have been all but impossible with more traditional manual coding methods,” said Jacob.

While developers may vary in their keenness to adopt new practices that enable automation, many in the industry argue that – generally – they will appreciate the improved developer experience at the end of that road. As we know, low-code development environments equip developers with pre-packaged code modules and drag-and-drop UIs to assemble those modules, like building blocks, into complete applications. 

We have automation, come work for us!

“This more automated development process frees developers from the tedious manual block-and-tackle tasks associated with just about any traditional application project. The result is a more agile and expedited process with fewer errors and less developer frustration. To that end, we can even expect more businesses to tout automation to attract developer talent,” suggests Jacob.

Working with low-code technologies at his current employer and elsewhere, Jacob says he has seen application development accelerated by a minimum of 10x compared to traditional methods. He points to abstracted low-code modules that provide developers with plug-and-play access to specialized technologies outside their hardcoding expertise, such as AI/ML, big data, IoT, voice, blockchain and APIs. 

“Generative AI, in particular, is an extraordinarily exciting emerging technology that development teams can apply to achieve automation goals on its own or alongside low-code,” he said. “For example, GitHub Copilot already enables developers to generate code automatically and receive assistive suggestions throughout development. Developers can also enlist generative AI tooling such as GPT-4’s search and conversation engine to provide training, support, and answers to their coding questions – including questions about using low-code.”

Developers’ roles in automation strategy

As much as we talk up the benefits of automation, there is no such thing as a free lunch and there will be trade-offs and costs here. Developers will need to ‘build new automation skillsets’ that may not previously have existed at all. The Iterate.ai tech leader also reminds us that automation will impact organisations’ needs around securing IT systems, maintaining new tools and hardware while also integrating new data capabilities. 

The reality, he admits, is that there will be winners and losers in this new paradigm. 

“Developers should be empowered and aligned with an automation strategy that not only improves their efficiency but also shifts their responsibilities toward high-value work. As organisations and their data become more complex, developer automation strategies should deliver the latest innovations, repeatable and scalable processes and adaptability to new business and technology changes,” said Jacob.

He proposes that the foundational building blocks of a robust automation strategy should include a sound data infrastructure, along with data integrity. The strategy should also include AI/ML capabilities built on that data, and automate tasks beyond direct development (for example, data entry in document processing). Finally, he asserts, an automation strategy should ensure that developers’ tools are prepared to expand automation use cases going forward, and that developers can deploy customized applications that leverage automation-driven features.

Automation & data accessibility

“Importantly, application development automation calls for processes that more efficiently gather data, make it accessible, allow feedback loops for continuous improvement and ultimately enable greater scalability,” said Jacob. “From these building blocks, developers can introduce automation-backed applications that require vast real-time data inputs – IoT, computer vision, robotic capabilities, etc. – and do so with all the infrastructure and organisational support necessary to scale and grow quickly going forward.”

Low-code automation stands to play a major role in the future of modernised data-driven application development. There are just 60,000 data scientist engineers available worldwide and just 300,000 AI engineers with the know-how to turn data into desired application functionality, such as contextualised customer responses. With low-code’s abstracted code modules democratising access to data and AI capabilities, we may now be looking at a future where any developer can harness data and build apps that showcase those more advanced features.

“Developers ready to embrace new skillsets and ride the disruptive wave of automation tooling at their disposal will rapidly transform their daily activities and their contributions. Tedious hardcoding is out, as are barriers to leveraging data and advanced technologies. In? A superior developer experience focused on the most exciting parts of the job,” concluded Iterate.ai’s Jacob.

Overall, it’s an interesting inflexion point that we may be at. Developers now need to show automation skills on their resumes – and, equally, organisations now need to showcase automation tools as ‘in use’ and deployed in their IT shops if they are going to attract the right talent. All of that… and it’s actually new machine power that we’re talking about here in terms of how it manifests itself at the human level.

Hello World! Over to you automation.

Free image source: Wikimedia Commons