Fear not: The “Codeless” revolution can make developers more valuable
If you’re a developer, it’s likely that the trend toward codeless development doesn’t exactly give you a “warm fuzzy” feeling. You might fear that the codeless revolution will render many in your profession redundant, victims of an incessant, unceasing march toward automation. You may even wonder if your profession might altogether disappear into the mists of history, as did these once-in-demand professions:
- Ice-Cutter: Ice-Cutters had the job of cutting and storing ice during the winter for summertime use. This job was made obsolete, obviously enough, with the development of refrigeration technology.
- Pinsetter: Once upon a time, pinsetters did the job of those nifty machines that reset the pins in modern bowling alleys.
The term “codeless” certainly implies, at the least, that there may be less demand for your skillset, just as demand faded for the above once-important jobs.
Not to fear; the codeless revolution shouldn’t transform your profession into an anachronism. Instead, the trend toward codeless is likely to make your job more enjoyable and satisfying, while simultaneously generating even more demand for your most important skills.
The Long-Sought Holy Grail of Software Development
The desire to automate the process of code development is nothing new. Codeless development has been a goal since the days of the UNIVAC. And there have been many fledgling attempts to achieve that goal. Apple’s HyperCard, which debuted in 1987, was one example. It was a visual tool that allowed people who weren’t programmers to create applications, albeit quite basic ones.
Other similar tools were developed that attempted to bypass the developer’s desk. While some of these early tools met with limited success, none were truly capable of creating anything beyond the most basic applications. If you wanted to create an application that could do what everybody else was doing, you could use a codeless tool. But if you wanted to do something unique, you still needed to code. In truth, these early codeless tools often generated code that was quite bad.
There’s been a dramatic turnaround in the past five to 10 years. Codeless tools—some of them, at least—have become very capable. RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools, for example, can now eliminate large chunks of manual coding in the application development process. Current leaders in the codeless field include the following platforms:
- Cherwell Software’s IT Service Management (ITSM) platform can be customized without code using a unique metadata design architecture. No code is generated from the visual designers. Instead, customizations are abstracted from the code base and stored separately as metadata in the customer’s database.
- Configure.it and Appery.io are rapid development platforms that seek to quickly enable mobile app development using robust visual integrated development environments (IDEs), visual data bindings, and automated cross-platform building. They empower their users to build professional mobile applications in literally minutes with no prior coding experience.
- Zudy’s Vinyl™ Rapid Application Development (RAD) platform shows the promise of delivering a true no-code RAD environment that can take the guesswork out of different database technologies and deploy across web and mobile seamlessly.
The capabilities of these codeless tools have expanded to the point where a true codeless environment is a possibility for the development of many applications. But that shouldn’t make you squirm in your seat with discomfort, because quite simply…
Codeless Tools Can’t Do What You Do
Yes, these tools can do the job of synthesizing syntax and churning out code. But that’s not really what you do, is it? The coding is just a means of applying what you do to paper, so to speak. What you really do is think. You problem-solve. You devise algorithms. You create.
Code generating tools are just code generating tools. They can’t create. They’re simply the tools of creation—the artist’s brush, or the novelist’s pen. Syntax, after all, is just a language. Anybody can learn a language. The thoughts, creativity, and applied logic that the language of syntax expresses is not something that a machine can do—at least not yet. That’s all you.
It’s true that your ability to slog through the tedium of writing syntax should not be needed as much in the future, as codeless tools do more of that grunt work. Your ability to think and create and problem-solve will continue to be essential to the development process. Perhaps somewhat ironically, codeless tools can even help to increase the demand for your skillset by sparking a global acceleration in the rate of application development.
A Developer Is a Developer
Right now, you might be thought of as a Java developer, or a C# developer, or a PHP developer. Whatever your programming language of experience, that narrow classification of your skillsets limits your opportunities. A shop that needs an experienced Java developer, for example, isn’t likely to consider an experienced C# developer as their first choice. They want someone who can hit the ground running with his or her Java experience. They don’t want to invest time bringing the new hire up to speed with a new and unfamiliar syntax.
The codeless revolution will likely change that, as those classifications that currently box you into a narrow range of potential opportunities begin to vanish. Companies won’t be looking for experienced Java developers, or C# developers, or PHP developers. Instead, they’ll just be looking for experienced developers; they’ll be looking for people who can think, create, and problem-solve. The code generating tools will handle the tedium of translating your work into the language du jour.
Imagine a world in which you could walk into any development shop on the planet and become an instant contributor, regardless of your experience with any specific programming language. That’s the world that the codeless revolution is creating.
The Bell Tolls for Thee…Not
A poem from a few centuries ago famously advised: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” That bell has figuratively tolled many a time in years past marking the demise of countless once-in-demand professions. No doubt that bell is tolling right now for many current professions that will soon fade into obscurity. But if you’re a software developer, and you think you hear that bell tolling, fear not.
It does NOT toll for thee.