Dear developers, it’s time for a user upgrade

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/KrulUA)

We need more developers. Seriously. The appetite for apps is insatiable. Apps that are mobile. Apps that are social. Apps that are connected. Apps that are intelligent. It’s not that business users are making these requests for laughs. For businesses to thrive, they are focusing on their customers’ needs, ensuring customer satisfaction today and preparing for success in the future. IT teams and developers are drowning in these requests and we need help – but where are we going to find it?

IDC says there are 18.5 million developers out there coding for the world. But, with the market demanding all these apps, the need for developers continues to grow at a rapid pace. So what are our options to fix the supply problem? A 3D printer that churns out developer after developer would be rad, but it has yet to be invented so we’ll have to look elsewhere. We could look to the academic world but, while the revitalisation of coding amongst the younger generation is fantastic, it will take a few years for the next gen to enter the workforce. If we are going to fix this supply problem in the short term we need to think differently and we have to cast the net far and wide.

What about the users? They outnumber developers by a massive factor. What if, rather than flooding IT departments with requests, they were empowered to help themselves? While they wouldn’t be expected to support complex requests, we could give them the tools to ‘self-serve’ parts of the app development process. In short, we can upgrade the user.

To do this, we need to give them two things: a platform for app building; and the knowledge to do so.

The latter is actually an enormous and complex undertaking. There’s definitely a gap in the digital skills of most of the working population – in fact, the latest digital skills Parliamentary report illustrates that 12.6 million UK adults lack basic digital skills. To bridge the skills gap we need a scalable way to teach a wide range of people how to build apps. These people still have day jobs, so the learning needs to be self-paced and flexible, at any time and any place. Learners will also need guidance on which path to take so they can reach their individual goals. Finally. the whole experience should be fun – most people won’t stick with a course if it feels like a chore. 

It’s encouraging to see a number of free educational solutions out there that can help. For example, Treehouse offers thousands of hours of content on a wide range of programming languages like JavaScript and Python; TechDegrees has students complete a series of projects that form a portfolio for future employers; and Udemy, one of the biggest players in online learning, now offers courses on programming in addition to things like coffee making and art.

In addition, big tech companies are making their own online resources and training programs available to anyone with a desire to learn, including the likes of Google, Amazon, and Salesforce. 

The best of these programs offer a gamified experience, rewarding users who successfully complete certain challenges with badges and other distinctions – helping keep learners engaged, and making it easier for those in the tech industry to spot real trail blazers.

By upgrading our users, we can empower them to join the app development cycle. The torrent of app requests eases down to a trickle because business users are equipped to build the apps they need. As developers, we can then have more room to focus on developing next generation apps that unlock business value in ways never before possible – harnessing the power of nascent technology like Natural Language Processing and mixed reality. In doing so, we can ensure the development team itself is empowered to deliver technical innovation for customer success.

Do you think it's time for an 'upgrade' of users? Let us know in the comments.

Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications

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