Enterprise Software First Principles: What Is Going to Happen to Software Development in the Next Decade?

Dennis Byron

On CNet August 4, Dave Rosenberg said that that the program development environment is all about to change. He wrote:

It's not "which OS should I write to?" anymore. It's now "which Web-centric tool will help me develop the best application?" From the perspective of the developer, this is a much friendlier environment.

Dave's post reminded me that I need to follow up on my July 6 post, "How Many Software Developers Does It Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?" Hopefully you understood that I used that headline because I was going to make an electricity analogy and not a bad ethnic joke. I am looking into the question as a part of a first-principles series because of its IT investment implications. But the answer affects you as well in terms of IT managerial and staff professional development.


In the early part of the last century, many enterprises and organizations employed a lot of electricians because they needed to generate their own power and manage its use. There were various types of electricians, old guys who knew how to wire an electric motor and feed the dynamo's power into the company's system as well as those younger guys just beginning to learn about the concept of replaceable electric parts, and of the existence of an electricity grid. Increasingly both the old guys and the need for a company to generate its own electricity, build its own motors, and so forth faded away.


The same has been true of enterprise software in enterprises and organization in its relatively short history. Until recently it has taken very specific technical knowledge of multiple platforms, techniques, technology and languages to develop software. So it has taken a lot of "developers to change the light bulb." There were architects, analysts, coders, Q & A guys, lab rats and more. Many of you have probably done all of the above in your career. This is the world I think Dave Roseberg is writing about.


But increasingly over the 2010-2019 decade there are going to be fewer and fewer program developers employed in industry in general. There will be more employed in IT provider companies, in the three categories described in "Enterprise Software First Principles: What Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP Will Do Next Decade?". And there will be more employed in companies that embed software into the appliances and manufactured goods of all types. They will be the guys who finally turn software into a mass-produced entity instead of the cottage industry it still is.


Back to the light bulb analogy -- there will be fewer and fewer "electricians" employed at enterprises and organizations running individual dynamos and wiring their own electric motors. All companies will need are guys to screw in light bulbs. They may not even need to be electricians.


So I agree with Rosenberg about near-term change, but not for the reasons he gives. The environment is about to change for most program development personnel during 2010-2019 in enterprises and organizations because there will be a need for fewer of you. (The good news demographically will be that there will be fewer people competing for the jobs as well.) The result will be a friendlier environment for the enterprise or organization, but not necessarily the developer. He or she will have to learn a lot more about advanced software techniques and concepts.


Of course this has all kinds of implications for the open source terms and conditions trend and the cloud computing trend and other major program development issues. But I leave those for other posts.

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