I recently ran across an Information Week article called The Future of Programming that forecasts a drop in the demand for programmers along with a drop in their stature withing companies. They described off-shoring and the fall-off of the Internet Boom as reasons for the decline.
I’ve been programming for a long time. Most recently I worked for a company that implemented a new platform for getting student leads to colleges and universities. The platform we built there worked so well that the company was sold after less than three years in existence for over $100 Million.
That doesn’t seem to me to be evidence of the decline in the value of custom-programmed business solutions.
In fact it seems evidence of the opposite — given the speed of business today, being able to implement a new business platform quickly has increasingly greater value. And creating new business platforms is the work of programmers.
Off-shoring can work, but it’s much more risky for a lot of reasons. And some things are much harder to off-shore. More importantly, however, off-shoring a project slows it development pace in almost all cases. To go fast and ‘do it right the first time’, the best bet is to have programmers local and embedded directly in the business.
In the end, there will always be competitive advantage to be had by companies ‘rolling their own’ applications — otherwise you can only get the same features that everyone else has.
And those who embed application developers in the business units so that they understand the business and are long-term members of the business will have an advantage over those who look at programming as a commodity.
For my part, I think that off-shoring in many ways has been a boon since there are many development projects that otherwise would be too expensive to develop.
A great programmer/programming team embedded in a business unit that has the vision to lead an industry will continue to be the source of real innovation for the foreseeable future.