The pace of business has continued to increase. Phrases such as “IT department struggle” are slowly being replaced with more modern phrases like "app gap", as people look to explain why they are unable to get the apps they want on their devices. Vanson Bourne’s research suggests organizations have an average of $11 million in mainframe app debt alone, which is a 29% increase from 2012. Regardless of the term used, the problem is the same: Traditional IT development struggles to keep up with demand. What’s the answer then?
We need to look at the problem differently.
A recent survey conducted by IDC indicated that there are approximately 11 million professional developers, meaning those who earn their living by building apps. There are an additional 7.5 million hobby developers worldwide. Traditional development tools and platforms have focused on servicing this market. However, the larger opportunity is the 460 million other college-educated professionals across the globe. Imagine a world where everyone can build apps. What would this world look like?
Empowering a world in which everyone can build apps would not only address the traditional app backlog faced by many organizations, but would provide 75% of the underrepresented population (according to Code.org, out of 0.7% of high school computer science enrollment, only 15% are women, and only 8% are Hispanic Americans or African Americans) with an opportunity to work in higher-paid jobs. The answer, therefore, isn’t to educate more computer scientists. The answer is to change how we develop applications. We need to shift from experts to everyone.
But how do we make this shift from experts to everyone? The following aspects of traditional software development must change:
Tools must shift from lines of code to declarative tools that allow business analysts to drag and drop processes, and users to compose apps rather than code them. With the rise of declarative tools, we will finally reach a phase in app development where we design apps in the language of humans, not computers.
Development must be collaborative across disciplines. Users expect beautiful apps. Apple showed us the way, yet approximately eight years after the launch of the iPhone, computer science degrees do not teach graphic or interface design. In order to deliver apps, you must consider the following team members and create an environment that allows them to deliver against a common goal without the traditional IT/business friction:
- Users: Users are the stakeholders of the current, or to-do, apps and processes. They understand current state, pain points and desires. They identify the business need.
- Analysts: While users know the need, they are not always able to articulate the business rules and processes, and more importantly, the why. Analysts perform critical thinking and logic based on business influences, including regulatory rules and compliance.
- Visionaries: Users and analysts often describe needs in the context of their current understanding. This may inhibit creative and revolutionary thinking. Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.” Visionaries must temper the user needs with the ability to create a new experience.
- Designers: Designers imagine the visual experience of an app. They have a deep understanding of colors, interfaces and less-tangible aspects such as emotion, empathy and feel. No matter how good an app may be at solving a business problem, people will not use it unless they enjoy it.
- Developers: Developers in many ways are the opposite of designers; they think in logic statements and rational thought. Great developers, however, know how to work hand in hand with designers. Together they make ideas come to life.
Truly revolutionary change occurs when the tools and people are combined into platforms that embrace this shift from experts to everyone. The new developer comes from all backgrounds and experiences. These new app platforms will include tools for users to compose and assemble apps, allow analysts to visually define and change processes, designers to specify styles and developers to add custom logic in any language they choose — all without ever requiring the need for the management of infrastructure and servers.
The new developer isn’t just an engineer or a computer science graduate. In order to eliminate the traditional IT backlog, app development must be a constantly iterative process that delivers business value. The shift from experts to everyone has already occurred in much of our connected lives — we blog, post, tweet, share, crop images and much more, without ever thinking of how. That’s the power of the new developer. The ability to create new experiences is a tap, or even click, away.