With AI, organizations are now seeing software developers as great collaborators

Great software code comes through a productive developer experience that's built on collaboration and artificial intelligence.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
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The popular perception of software developers for decades has been that of brainy and somewhat introverted types who do their best work alone. However, research suggests today's software professionals are actually extraverted, preferring to work as actively as possible within broad teams and with end users. What's more, with artificial intelligence (AI) sweeping through IT shops, opportunities for higher-level advisory roles will only accelerate.

Generative AI will open up development processes to their businesses just as profoundly as methodologies such as Agile and DevOps, KPMG predicts. "In terms of how corporations develop and maintain software, it will prompt changes as big as, and likely even more impactful than, those created by Agile development methods, which enable rapid responses to changing software requirements and customer feedback."

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For starters, by automatically generating and testing code written in any language and running on any platform, developers will be freed up to move from project to project, and thus expand their agency across the breadth of their enterprises. "Rapidly onboard large groups of developers to accelerate new features or major changes to software," KPMG analysts advise. "These developers would be productive quickly and require less guidance from existing developers."   

Developers themselves also see potential for wider collaboration with their business and technology counterparts, according to a survey of 500 developers by code-hosting platform GitHub. "Developers thrive in collaborative environments," writes Inbal Shani, chief product officer at GitHub. The bottom line is that "developers want to upskill, design solutions, get feedback from end users, and be evaluated on their communication skills."

More than four out of five developers expect AI coding tools will make their team more collaborative. Most also believe collaboration and communication should be just as important as code quality in terms of performance measures, yet only 33% report that their companies use collaboration and communication as a performance metric.

The survey shows that developers work with an average of 21 other developers on a typical project, and 52% report working with other teams daily or weekly. They rank regular touchpoints as the most important factor for effective collaboration. Yet developers also say they spend too much time on builds and tests, and current performance metrics do not adequately represent the contributions they make to their organizations.

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Shani believes developer experience should be just as much of a priority to organizations as customer experience and user experience. The best path to code quality is through a productive developer experience that is built on collaboration across the board.

"Too many pings and messages can affect flow, but there's still a need to stay in touch," she observes. "In our survey, developers say effective collaboration results in improved test coverage and faster, cleaner, more secure code writing -- which are best practices for any development team. This shows that when developers work effectively with others, they believe they build better and more secure software."

AI now plays a role in freeing up developer time and resources to pursue greater collaboration, the GitHub survey finds. Industry leaders concur that AI -- in particular, generative AI -- has the potential to elevate developer roles within their enterprises to that of advisors and business advocates. "As generative AI tools become more commonplace, we expect demand for IT professionals to shift from a builder role to a facilitator role," says Patrick Stokes, executive VP and general manager for Salesforce Platform.

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The automated development and deployment of software made possible through AI "has expanded the remit of conventional IT pros, agrees Rajesh Kumar R., CIO at LTIMindtree. "The hyper-automated environment has freed up the bandwidth of IT pros, enabling them to actively engage in mindful innovation and invention, solve complex business problems swiftly, and enhance the usability of software, rather than spending time on repetitive tasks," he says.

The CIO adds, "In its current form, generative AI stands to enhance developer productivity as it builds codes on demand for simpler and proven algorithms, increases code quality in test cases, and improves maintainability as it documents the code." 

Developments in generative AI "represent a massive step forward in this journey because almost anyone can ask an AI to produce a functioning program," says Stokes. "Instead of spending hours writing that code, they can spend that time testing it, securing it, and tweaking its interfaces to satisfy its users best. The outcome is higher quality apps in much less time produced by people who will inevitably be even closer to the end-user experience."

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