From the early days of polishing rocks and shaping axes, to the recent launch of the most powerful rocket to the moon, an enduring human venture has crossed 50,000 years: the act of making tools. The human instinct to apply tools to build bigger and better things is primal—even in the much shorter span of the information age that gave rise to the modern business systems of the world.
Without digital technologies like ERP, Cloud, and AI, pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna would have taken much longer to trial, produce and ship critical vaccines to people. Tools and platforms behind these solutions are often hidden from the limelight. We need the right tools to operate, tinker with, connect, and compose new systems, which has created an unprecedented need for skilled IT professionals.
Passive End Users to Shape-Shifters
Around the world, there are roughly 26 million software developers today – same as the population of Australia – who use an array of programming languages, tools, and technologies. However, there are 100+ million professionals – end users – running critical business processes in banks, airlines, hospitals, retail companies, factories, and government agencies.
In the next 10 years, a vast majority is expected to join hands in building, not merely consuming digital solutions. For them to take a leap across the treacherous waters of full-stack programming, many low-code and no-code tools (LCNC) are being made available. It should help trigger their primal instincts to build – to personalise, to restructure business processes, design new apps, construct workflows, and deploy machine learning models on data to make better decisions.
Such LCNC tools result in faster collaboration across teams, reduced cost of innovation, greater automation, and better user experience. This has been the experience of Verge – the Finland based aspiring technology leader in the premium electric motorcycles segment, where a small team created new apps in record time to manage evolving business needs.
However, while greater democratisation of software building occurs, it is not as if code has suddenly become irrelevant. Nor has it removed the need for software engineers. In fact, AI infused tools such as Open AI Codex promise a future where tools transform into extensions of a skilled worker.
Systems for the Future
The humble axe remained the longest used tool in human history. It took millions of years in our evolutionary past before we built complex structures. Tools and skills are two sides of the same coin, and we achieved speed and scale by sharing knowledge of tools across communities, across generations.
To build digital systems of the future, we need to bring in the community. CIOs are already thinking about investing on better technology platforms. The future of work will need a unified platform that enables knowledge workers of varying skillsets to compose new business processes and re-shape their digital worlds.
With the collective intelligence, and better tools, what will we build? Bigger, better, faster, cheaper systems. Perhaps also, different, something unimaginable yet.
Steve Jobs told us in 2007 as an indicator: “In the end, we try to make tools for people, “and we’re constantly surprised with what people do with them.”
This article originally featured on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes