aNewDomain.net—Last month, Ant Pruitt made the case there is still money in programming. In 2010, TechRepublic announced we were entering the Decade of the Developer. For now, that may be true. However, three trends are emerging which will turn programming into a commodity, making programmers interchangeable and driving down wages. Developers will still be a necessary and valuable member of any organization, but their role will be more akin to other white-collar positions such as civil engineers and accountants. Here’s why.
When most people started cottoning on to the Internet in the mid-nineties, there was a mad dash to create the digital infrastructure of the Information Superhighway. Programmers were the hot shots who had the arcane knowledge to build this vast, mystical wonderland.
Fast-forward 20 years: baby boomers Skype and Hangout with the grandkids, business owners have a handle on how technology fits into the strategic business plan, and most of the digital frontier has been explored. More valuable than getting the most avant-garde technology now is ensuring growth, stability, and security. What most businesses need now is not the trailblazer, but the settler; not a cowboy, but a rancher.
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Frameworks and Open Source
Let’s face it: Apache ruined the profession. Back in the day, programmers (many of whom were also the server admin) were the Merlin to the organization’s Arthur. Early adopters threw money at the burgeoning IT group and spent anxious weekends hoping the basic digital services stayed running. Today, everyone has an expectation of 99.9% uptime and robust functionality. And we have it, thanks to the growth and amazing capabilities of open source systems and development frameworks.
From ERP systems (such as Apache’s OFBiz to websites to fast and scalable databases, open-source software provide 80-90% of a majority of the functionality needed for most organizations. Even when businesses need a custom app, frameworks are available for all the major languages to handle most of the system structure, leaving it to the developers to complete the business logic portions.
Moving forward, most developers can expect accretive work: incremental code adding to a robust foundation of functionality.
Do you remember when trying to outsource development work overseas was a nightmare of poor communication and confusing code? If you’re under 30, probably not. Eastern Europe and India have grown into reliable sources for programming. And watch out: China, Asia Pacific, and even parts of Africa are starting to catch up.
Of course, there will always be opportunities for exceptional developers to find high-paying jobs building the next generation of applications and tools. And I’m not suggesting that the bottom will fall out of the market for development work. However, the easy availability of existing solutions and the rapidly growing population of programmers will continue to put downward pressure on wages for a long time.