Is Automation the Key to the Future of Software Development?

Artificial intelligence and automation are already assisting human developers in nearly every step of the Software Development Life Cycle, but more use cases appear on the horizon.
November 26, 2021
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To keep up in the ever-evolving world of technology, companies find themselves looking for ways to speed up processes while doing their best not to compromise on the quality that their customers expect. Luckily, the technology industry itself has one main advantage over every other industry: automation. 

Tech professionals have the ability to help the other industries and make them more efficient in the long run by automating as many processes as possible. However, the idea of this rightly scares some working in the field. After all, automation sometimes means the possibility of requiring fewer human workers, which translates into fewer jobs. However, this isn’t really as clear as some may think, and coexistence between man and machine is still required. 

Developers working in the software development industry are currently just beginning to feel these changes. While artificial intelligence and automation are already assisting human developers in nearly every step of the software development life cycle, more changes remain on the horizon. From project planning and estimation to quality assurance and testing, automation continues to shake up the industry for the better.

What Can We Automate in Software Development?

The modern software developer’s role looks rather different today than it did 10 years ago— and it will look very different 10 years from now as well. However, one thing is certain at this point— technology won’t replace real human developers anytime soon. Instead, automation and artificial intelligence has and will continue to help devs address various challenges throughout the development life cycle.

For example, modern software development processes typically use distributed version control software along with a build process run on deployment. This is a perfect example of where automation fits in to expedite the processes while also containerizing them. Developers then obtain the latest version of a software product simply by accessing the version control software and running the build script.

The same general process can help with deployment to production environments as well, with minimal manual requirements to prevent human error and speed things up. Most modern software also uses many third-party libraries, APIs, frameworks, microservices, and such to build their product and function. At times, these aspects make deployment rather challenging, which is where automation helps build a standardized environment.

Another example of an excellent area for implementing automation is the testing step of the development process. Tests are absolutely vital in maintaining not only software integrity but also user experience. This is a rather tedious and repetitive process when completed by humans and also leads to burnout and human error over time. Automation helps run tests quickly to help minimize time-to-market and increases the chances of catching defects.

Other areas developers should expect to implement automation in the near future include:

  • Automated code quality review and optimization – AI for automation will become an indispensable tool for developers to optimize coding procedures during development and produce better code overall. AI-powered software automation also offers the ability to incorporate “autocomplete” practices into the development process to boost speed and accuracy during coding.
  • Automated quality assessment – Quality assurance testing is generally a time-consuming manual process with a significant amount of room for error. When using automation, developers have the ability to quickly and accurately test their code. This improves the overall development process, allows to quickly find and fix bugs, and shortens the development life cycle.
  • Code generation – Developers can use automation to generate code for tests. In these cases, they may involve simplistic logic but require a significant amount of data to run said tests. Automation allows devs to automatically generate this code via many different field inputs to test in a much quicker and more comprehensive way.
  • Test avatars – By using a “digital twin,” machines perform the functions of human testers by applying triggers in requirements and specifications posed by environments. The implementation of this technology facilitates test-first concepts and takes advantage of version control systems for designing quality into codebases rather than trying to “test it in.”

What Does the Future Hold for Automation in Development?

For the foreseeable future, developers will continue to use automation practices when dealing with defined, repetitive tasks. The repetitive nature of these kinds of tasks generally causes humans quite a bit of strife as they’re draining and cause burnout. By using technology to handle such tasks, developers have the time and brainpower available to focus on more product and project-focused ideas to improve their jobs.

While no one has the ability to know what the future holds for this industry, it’s safe to say that human developers aren’t going anywhere in the development process. They must still oversee, create, explore, and manage development with the assistance of technology for jobs that no longer require the ingenuity of the human mind. 

When speaking about automation, it’s important to remember that it isn’t something designed to steal jobs and replace hard-working human beings. Automation is about helping these individuals handle complex jobs that require more time and effort than they’re worth in terms of workable hours. Machines have the ability to help make human lives easier while allowing them to also focus on the important external factors of a project.

Software development will always require people to be involved in the development process to not only ensure the correctness of the work completed by the automated tools but also to help create the use cases of said tools. Developers may transition to more supervisory and project management roles but they will always have to tell the automated systems what to do. They simply move from the worker role to the manager role.

Developers of all types should embrace the idea of incorporating automation into their job roles to make their lives easier and to allow them to get back to the reason they got into their careers in the first place instead of repetitive work.

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