CEO at Open Weaver Inc — transforming the way the world builds digital.
When I started as a developer a couple of decades ago, we didn't have digital. It was called IT, and it was focused on providing information to the business. I knew COBOL, decent SQL programming that worked on DB2, some JCL to make the programs run and half a dozen utilities to schedule and debug. This tech could run large banks then, and some still do. In a true sense, it was full-stack programming simplified.
Then came client-server architectures. I had to expand across three to four new technologies — this meant getting to know VB, some SQL Server (Oracle if you were a part of a larger enterprise), some integration protocols. Or you could get to Java, some web server/app server, and DB and still make applications work. You could still be a full-stack developer with ease. Learn the ropes for a few months, be at it for a few more months and you'd come out a good developer with a fair shelf life.
Today, you don't go to the bank; you shop on your phone, pay on your phone and work on your PC from your PC — your office. Human productivity has increased manifold with this digital era. Digital has made life better for all of us. We have more information (not necessarily accurate), we are always connected and we have instant access to business and entertainment. Digital is the business.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates the digital economy's size to range from 4.5%-15.5% of world GDP. The U.S. digital economy, which is about 8.4% of the GDP, contributed to almost 90% of labor productivity improvements. While the digital impact on the economy is much higher than the 14.5%, global productivity improvement is a tremendous opportunity when digital spans across the global economy. The World Economic Forum estimates that 70% of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled platform business models.MORE FOR YOU
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These impressive statistics and our daily lives remind us of the amazing transformation digital is bringing to us. Now, let us flip the coin and look at the other side. How has the situation improved for the developer who is creating all these digital experiences? The developer is a consumer in all other aspects and benefits from the digital productivity boom. But looking specifically into aspects of building digital, we don't see simplicity easily. Some dimensions have become very complex, and some have become faster. We will look at some of these aspects impacting the productivity of the digital developer.
• The emergence of the full-stack developer: The developer takes pride in being a techie. Now, the emphasis on "full stack" implies that a developer knows all layers of technology and usability, business and program management. This has now become a padded term that loosely seems to mean "I'll give you some ideas today, and you do everything you can to make sure the project is live by next week." The sheer number of skills that a developer is required to have today is almost incomprehensible.
• Collaboration and agile: The agile development process has brought tremendous flexibility in delivering software releases. Paired with collaborative technologies, it empowers agile teams to discover opportunities and co-innovate with business. It has also reduced complex requirements to bite-sized user stories to simplify implementation. At the same time, Agile has also stripped away all the runway from the waterfall models, ensuring developers have to deliver every day and make releases every few weeks like an assembly line. The ITOps models have also implied that the developer is responsible for resolving defects in their code during production use. This brings in strong accountability that they have to have fair expertise in the full-stack technologies, perform every day with a high level of productivity and ensure zero defects.
• Cloud providers: The cloud providers have eliminated many weeks of wait time for developers. A developer can now deploy and test their applications immediately. While the cloud has removed dependency on infrastructure teams, every provider has its own implementation nuances. On average, there are hundreds of different services from each cloud provider that the application developer could leverage in developing, deploying and managing their applications.
• Bleeding Edge: New tech and bleeding-edge have become critical due to immense innovation and competition in digital. Technology spread is high as seen in the full-stack requirement and the technology obsolescence becoming high, the need for continuous learning is high on the developer. She has to keep abreast of new technologies and new releases in existing technologies. Given the complexity, potential employers use certification as a qualification metric that developers are forced to keep up with. There are over 30 areas of certification in tech, and Coursera lists over 1,500 courses for programming.
Given the challenges, the opportunity is vast. This is what has propelled about 56 million developers to create over 60 million repositories on GitHub in the past year. Even if this represents a dominant market share, it is possible to assume that over 100 million developers create 100s of million libraries in a year. Given this scale, there is a further significant opportunity to bring true digital-scale productivity into application development.
You may be wondering: If technology is becoming more intelligent, shouldn't application development be simpler? Over the next few articles, we will explore multiple avenues that have strong potential to drive sustainable developer productivity.
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