Gartner: Software development will cease to exist

Gartner: Software development will cease to exist

Summary: Perhaps Gartner research director Darryl Plummer should have tried his message out on the folks across the street at NetBeans day (a prelude to JavaOne) before going out on a bit of a limb by saying software development will cease to exist.  I'm rather certain based on the people that I bumped into, roaming around the argent hotel, packing rooms with demonstrations of development technologies like Matisse and Maven, that there might have been a riot.


Perhaps Gartner research director Darryl Plummer should have tried his message out on the folks across the street at NetBeans day (a prelude to JavaOne) before going out on a bit of a limb by saying software development will cease to exist.  I'm rather certain based on the people that I bumped into, roaming around the argent hotel, packing rooms with demonstrations of development technologies like Matisse and Maven, that there might have been a riot.  Meanwhile, over at the far more subdued (there was deadly lack of any energy) Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, no one seemed to dispute Plummer's conclusions.  Particularly after he very clearly advised Gartner attendees to rent software as a part of a Software as a Service approach to software delivery.  Said Plummer as a part of Gartner's explanation of a strategic IT trend pair (software delivery and development styles):

Software as a service is a delivery style that's about three guiding principles:

  • don't own, rent
  • don't buy applications. buy solutions based on service.
  • don't buy features. Buy capabilities.

Plummer's explanation was a bit windy for me as got into the semantics of capabilities versus features and eventually ended up describing -- without mentioning the word mashup -- how business value and agility will evolve and improve as the result of the ability to mix and match service-oriented software components into a final solution that solves a business problem.  Plummer drew a picture of a world -- using eBay as an example -- where non-programming mortals used granualar modules of software to align the final solution with their business needs:

Most people don't realize that people putting their auctions up on eBay can change the look and feel of feel of their auction at will.  They can change the payment mechanism.  They change the way pictures are displayed.  They can change how you actually pay for it, what kind of credit services you use at check out. All those things with no programming required.  Certainly the community is evolving eBay on its own. This creates a virtuous cycle. The virtuous cycle starts at new delivery models and new development styles and ends at self-evolving communities.  This represents the consumerization and the commoditization of development and programming...ultimately, development itself will cease to exist. 

The idea that the need for programmers will go away has always been a bit far fetched to me.  If for example, you buy Plummer's pitch about seeking out capabilty versus features (do we really need to speak abstractly about "I need a credit card processing component), sooner or later, someone has to develop that capability.  The value at the end of the software chain is very much programmer driven... probably by one of the programmers across the street at NetBeans day.  Will development get easier? Yes. Will mere mortals be able to do it wthout coding? To some extent, yes.  For example, in the mashup world, enablers like and can help mortals to bridge a skill gap that before seemed unbridgable.  And, actually, I think Plummer's intra-domain example of how end users can do a little tuning to their auctions was a super bad example of the promise of componentized architectures and the mixing and matching of capabilities that he described.  Far more interesting to me, and I think to businesses of all types, is how such capabilities can cross domains to deliver real business value that, as Plummer pointed out, creates new opportunities. 

The better example I'm thinking of is how outfits like and leverage PayPal's componentry to deliver business value in the form of customer loyalty to small businesses in a way they never could before (loyalty programs are typically the domain of large retailers).  That's an easy-to-leverage capability that's driven by multi-domain componentry with the caveat that the business processes that MyStoreRewards and Paycodes have "digitized" are business processes that required a significant amount of programming before that business value could be derived. 

Finally, if software development ceases to exist, then, about the only next logical conclusion we can reach is that so too will large research analyst firms.  Personally, every time I talk to Stephen O'Grady or James Governor over at Redmonk and they very righteously disclose whether or not a company they're talking or writing about  is a client (something Gartner hardly does),  I can't help but think the days of those large outfits are pretty much over.  Redmonk is an outfit of three people whose clients read like the who's who of the IT business, probably with billings to match (not match the three person size, match Gartner's billings to those same clients).  Three people versus thousands of people.  And this (Gartner) is a company that's now about to get another round of investment in a second public offering?

Topic: Software Development

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  • Would that be a 0.9 certainty?

    "Perhaps Gartner research director Darryl Plummer should have tried his message out on the folks across the street at NetBeans day (a prelude to JavaOne) before going out on a bit of a limb by saying software development will cease to exist."

    Sounds like another failed prediction. Here's one of their predictions I commented on 4 years ago.,14179,2838761,00.html
  • Alllriiight!

    As a programmer, I can say that most companies providing worthwhile content/applications on the Internet do not work without programmers.

    Regardless of many advances in software engineering, the whole field is turning increasingly complex. It is like a pyramid upside down. More you build and commoditize, more new stuff you can build, and the whole industry is branching to numerous, increasingly more detailed sections like a fractal image.

    Secondly, most tools, regardless, are still very much like they were 20-30 years ago. On a very fundamental level, the programming problem has not gone away, nor was it ever solved, or is it significantly easier today than it was back then.

    There are more programmers now than ever before. I do not have numbers, but that number will not decline any time soon, quite the opposite.
  • No, won't work

    So here we have Gardner trying to pretend that methods that have singularly failed to make a significant impact with CORBA and DOM can suddenly be made to work by calling them "Web 2.0" or "SOA".

    It was clear to me a long time ago that reuse by putting together applications from application specific functions (or objects or modules or whatever you want to call them) is pretty much a non-starter in productivity enhancement terms. As Frederick Brooks pointed out in the new edition of the Mythical Man Month, class libraries have become as difficult to learn as natural languages. There is definitely something wrong here.

    The big steps forward in software have come from what one might term axiomatic reuse (but the mathematicians might want to jump on my terminology here) where general principles are found that are definitely NOT application specific.

    As for research firms disappearing, well as long as people want to grow roses there will always be a market for their highest volume product.
  • It could happen

    Computers eliminated typewriters - and as a result, secretarial jobs ceased to exist. This was because the actual work that secretaries did was distributed to computer users (i.e. bosses did their OWN dictation).

    Why can't services eliminate software developers? Just distribute the "work" of the developers to the computer users, and burden them with endless configurations.
    Roger Ramjet
    • Nope.

      Programmers are not secretaries. Programming jobs might move from one continent to another due to price pressures but the job itself is not going to go away.

      The reason is that programming as a job/career is a high skill profession. You can't easily replace one programmer with another.

      If I now leave, my boss can't do any of my job with anything that is available today or anywhere in distant future. None of the difficulties of software development have changed in the last 20-30 years. On a fundamental level, we are still stuck with the same problems; like overwhelming complexity of the programming task. We program different things, or the level of abstraction has changed, but the job is still the same.
    • One device, two purposes.

      Computers replaced typewriters because buying a computer was cheaper than buying a computer and a typewriter. Also easier to make corrections and copies and save records.

      Secretarial jobs were not eliminated by that change. Bosses do not type their own letters; many prove their status by not having a computer at all.

      Most important of all: secretaries can write coherently. True?
      Secretaries received a raise for their knowledge of Microsoft Word. A passport to hiring like typing quickly and being able to run large organizations while the boss is out to lunch.

      What did disappear were the sub-secretarial jobs, referred to as the typing pool. But that was at least as much the result of direct entry of data by users as of the computer's ability to create original-looking copies.
      Anton Philidor
    • Learn to count

      Secretaries do exist, they now call them PA's, and shorthand has made a comeback, have a look at your last programme.
  • For those old enough to remember...

    COBOL, when it was initially introduced, was touted as the language that would eliminate the need for professional programmers in the business world. We can all see how successful <i>that</i> was.
  • A closer look at Ning...

    Yes, Ning allows the mortals to create simple application-like tools. But if you look more closely, they have an entire section devoted to the more "technical" issues of how to integrate these items with other services, create RSS feeds from their applications, etc.

    And that section is *very* technical (and PHP-oriented). I cannot imagine a non-programmer every wanting to go that far or being able to figure it out. But they will want their simple apps to evolve, which means that they will have to turn to programmers for help.

    I agree that it is far-fetched to say that programmers will become obsolete. But I do believe that their roles will change to be more object-builders and connectors than simply line code jockeys.
    Paul C.
  • Govt will stop changing laws too

    Most of my coding is to follow the changes in
    the laws and accounting methods.
    A user can change the colors and fonts,
    but that does not get rid of programmers.
    That is like saying "Now that we have cans
    of spray paint, we wont need auto mechanics."
  • Even if users could assemble computer programs...

    ... they would not know the definitions inherent in the data provided nor when they have received the right information appro[priately formatted to answer their questions.

    Usres will still need two layers, the programmers to assure that the software does what's expected in the manner intended, and someone who knows what data helps provide answers to user-style questions and how the informationas assembled answers the questions.

    Attempts to sell users on assembling their own reports invariably concentrate on a few simple topics and results without many conditions. That's why users can do it.
    (Users defined as people with no responsibility for or great interest in software; operational.)

    An assertion: if users can design and implement a report, it's useless.

    Gartner's assumptions are groundless.
    Anton Philidor
    • Nope

      Sorry Anton but you cannot be more wrong.

      Face it, in another couple of years now all coders are going to be out of work - or at least out of jobs doing coding.

      Gartner seems to understand what large, cutting edge web based companies such as Google truly understand and are spending much time, treasure and intellectual capital to produce (and that MS is fighting tooth and nail to keep from the market). A strain of monkeys who will be able to produce code modules on demand from their arse.
      • About the monkeys

        So, if you put a thousand monkeys in front of a thousand web browsers eventually one of them will "compose" a Web 2.0 application.

        It is an interesting strategy, but even employing a first world programmer is probably cheaper than feeding all those monkeys and certainly more likely to produce reliable results(even if the monkeys smell better than many programmers).
  • We'll make nice pets

    Darryl Plummer's assertion is right, but not at all in the way he thinks. As long as humans are living in a changing world and A.I. or aliens haven't taken over everything, we'll need programmers to create and modify things.

    Of course, after the take over, we can only hope --to quote Perry Ferrell-- that "we'll make nice pets."
  • Not the first time

    An old friend of mine used to work at Oracle Consulting in the 1990s, while I was at Deloitte Consulting. He told me a number of times: "the stuff that we're doing with Oracle CASE mean that before too long no-one will be doing software development any more". Hmm, I thought.

    It wasn't true then, and it still isn't true. And it will not be true for a very long time indeed. You know what? CASE tools were great. But they were a minority sport. Many people still preferred the flexibility of building stuff using 3GLs. And even when, in a significant proportion of scenarios, enterprises procure SaaS solutions, there will still be other scenarios that people want to address with software development. And even in using SaaS solutions development will not go away.

    Mainstream enterprise app software development is getting easier all the time, but it won't go away. I predict that with a probability of 1.
  • Rubbish

    rhetorical mutterings of an UFO abductee which in devalues everything else said. Software developement will always exist. The only questions is, who or what will be doing the developement.
  • I say "get your head out of the clouds"

    Get down to Earth!

    Berlind is right that these pronouncements are just unbelievable. The thing is Berlind has done this a little himself. I can remember when he predicted the end of the PC, because everything will be on the web. Not so fast.

    Some of the people in this business can get their heads stuck so high up in the clouds they get out of touch with reality. They get into the mindset that I used to get into as a child or teenager when I would see a TV ad or see a movie. I lost track of the fact very easily that every little bit of what I was seeing was made by people, one way or another. I would somehow believe I was seeing something magical. Even if something is computer generated, people had to write the software, build the computer, build the computer systems that generated it. There's no hocus-pokus magic going on here (though as a colleague told me years ago, anything sufficiently complex looks like magic to the uninitiated--software to the ordinary user is an example).

    The reality is for any feature to exist on the internet, someone had to write that feature--a programmer, a software developer. As soon as a feature exists, some people will want that feature enhanced in some way, because we're all different. We don't all want the same thing.

    I would say the same about Berlind's past pronouncement about the end of the PC. I say "Okay smarty pants. How are you going to access the internet, then? Plug the network cable directly into your head?" Of course not. Not yet anyway.
    Mark Miller