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How Citizen Developers Will Change the Role of DevOps — and Why It Will Be Better for Everyone

New AI-powered technologies being embraced by the enterprise provides all staff levels with capabilities previously restricted to IT. Among these new capabilities is the new role of citizen developers, where most anyone in an organization can develop  applications using self-coding programs. This is a good thing on the whole, but as with any other revolution, it comes with challenges and potential drawbacks, which CIOs and their teams will need to address.

Of course, nobody can predict for certain how this all will ultimately shakeout — the struggle of many organizations to upgrade existing legacy systems to meet the demands of new technologies and ever-more fickle customers seems daunting, if not impossible. But, at GeneXus, we have a model that likely provides a good indicator as to what the role of IT will be in the digital transformation process companies are undergoing. Hardware leads software, as we developers are restricted by the capabilities of machines – no limit to what we would like to do, if only we had the processing capacity. And, system administrators, who are responsible for maintaining networks, PCs, peripherals, etc. have already experienced what might be expected by developers, with the advent of self-coding and self-maintaining software.

The Road to Transformation, Step-by-Step

Not so long ago, system administrators spent their days resolving conflicts on computers while attempting to load new software, visited cubicles to diagnose and repair PCs, were the only ones in the office who dared change toner in a printer and engaging in other hands-on activities. Those days are long gone. Today, systems install updates automatically, passwords reset/recover is an automated process, PCs with problems can be diagnosed remotely, and most any staff member can and will change toner in a printer.

What has now happened is that system administrators have become less technician and more engineer/consultant. Facilities require fewer of them, but they have assumed much more prominent and visible roles in operations. Admins still go hands-on, when necessary, but that is far less often than days gone by. Instead, an administrator is more likely to engage in strategic planning, with senior managers of every department, for disaster recovery and mitigation. Many work extensively with cloud coordination, ensuring that resources are not being wasted, monitoring and advising for adherence to security policy, and educating staff on cloud best practices. More of a people and planning role than the earlier wrenching and key-pecking position.

Overlaying the system admin hardware model on our own product provides a guide as to how developers and other IT staff can continue to help groom employees into digital citizens. With GeneXus, this can occur before acquisition. Somebody within an organization will have to identify the need for a self-coding and self-maintaining application within the operation, and there is probably nobody better suited for this than a developer. After having recognized the opportunity and securing authorization to evaluate, it should also be the development team that undertakes the study, and determines which application will work best within the firm.

After having acquired GeneXus, the development team should also take the lead in adoption. With their existing knowledge of coding and existing tasks of their own in queue, they should be among the first to roll out a new application, using the technology. DevOps and others should also play a key role in determining what training initiatives are needed and help in communicating the new capabilities across the company.

Once an organization has a good handle on our self-coding self-maintaining mobile application, there becomes a need to manage/control releases. With a choice of multiple languages to write the application, staff will in many cases need some guidance on which one is best for their particular job. Most will tap into at least one database, so users need to know what exists and how to access. And of course, with so many more folks and programs working with this data, somebody will need to ensure that assets are not being overwritten or needlessly duplicated. Here again, ideal lead for all of this is IT.

IT will also need to become more of a cop-on-the-beat, when employees start cranking out new applications wholesale. Security issues will only increase, and somebody will have to ensure that all assets remain protected. Regulations and the need to comply with them seems certain to grow. More team members capable of creating more applications translates to more components to account for in a disaster recovery plan. Sounding a bit like a broken parrot at this point, but these are all jobs for IT.

Those are just some ideas. Every installation is unique and will require a unique approach. Training, evangelizing, communicating, planning and even henpecking at times may all be a part of empowering employees to become true digital citizens. This is a changing role for many coders, who have in many cases survived in a siloed position cranking out code as needed. That just won’t cut it for a lot of them going forward and they will need to deepen their skills in technology, communication and management, at least if they wish to remain relevant.

A recent blog post by John Pavely (SVP of Software Development at Viacom), who will be joining us as guest speaker at our upcoming event, The Sacrifices , discusses how the engineering role is evolving. One quote that really seems to capture the essence of the new position, in his post, is “In small organizations, the voices of the engineers are very audible. In large organizations, the engineers need an authority figure, someone with gravitas and political power, to make sure their voices are heard and understood by everyone demanding their time and attention.” In other words, step up and in, and make some noise.

Good news is that developers and others in IT are accustomed to change, as tech does that almost daily, and for those who embrace this change wholeheartedly they will become a more indispensable resource for their employer. Conversely, those who choose to resist may find themselves in another line of work.

For a deeper discussion on this changing role, please join us for our upcoming webinar “Automation Architect”, on October 12th. We are also hosting a live meetup, “The Sacrifices C-Suite Executives and Employees Need to Make for True Digital Transformation”, in New York on September 26, where these and other ideas will be explored.

Thanks, as always, for reading,

Nicolas

 

Thanks for reading,

Antonio Julio
ajulio@genexus.com
Twitter: @antoniojuliogx

 

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