Will the need for someone writing code ever disappear? Perhaps the real question is not if, but when this will happen. We do things today that we would not have dreamed of just fire or six years ago. Today, our portals allow users to customize the look and feel of their interface, to provide data that is pertinent to them, to remember their personalized settings. End users can easily call complex analytical reports that took HRIT staff just a few years ago. Over the last few years, the concept of customization has slowly begun to erode as more applications including the major ERP systems have adopted configuration that is both simple and widely implemented throughout the systems.
However, at what point does the interface become so easy that even things that are customizations today (building new tables and fields) become something that any business analyst can perform without worry about upgrades or maintenance overhead? It appear that day might be closer than we originally thought. Lawson’s newly released HCM product was written on an application they are calling “Landmark.” If Lawson is to be believed, the new HCM application was developed without writing a single line of code. Instead, application designers create a live blueprint which is automatically translated into code. Again if Lawson is to be believed (no reason not to here), their goal is to roll out the Landmark application to the client base in the next few years.
It’s interesting that this direction might be introducing itself in the midst of the SaaS world, a world in which difference is not encouraged and standardization is king. And of course there are many benefits to standardization. Lawson’s model however, might be the model of the future. A degree of SaaS deployed in individual application instances to provide some of the benefits of the SaaS environment, but also some of the benefits of premise based deployments.
There are a couple benefits to this approach – obviously if code is automatically created, and the engine is reliable enough not to require extensive QA, testing, troubleshooting, etc… then time to create any amount of code drops drastically. And while I’m quite proud that I can still write PeopleCode, if there is a day when code is completely unnecessary, that will be better for all organizations. Skills in any technical language come at a cost and resources can be scarce. The possibility however is not that we’d eliminate people who know code, but that we would not need to translate ideas from the business analyst to the coder – a problem often encountered today that results in mistakes, misinterpretations and iterative processes.
I think that these continuously evolving practices is a good thing, and while I’m keen to see coding disappear, I’m all for easier and more simplicity.