Code generation to return, says Altman

The business advantage of getting your coding done in Bangalore may shrink as automated code generation returns to favour.

The business advantage of getting your coding done in Bangalore may shrink as automated code generation returns to favour.

Ross Altman, chief technical officer of integration software vendor SeeBeyond, is more sceptical than his compatriot Larry Prusak about knowledge workers’ jobs drifting overseas.

Only a small part of IT development work, Altman says, will disappear overseas: the coding and testing side. The design phase really needs face-to-face contact with management and users on home ground.

Even if jobs do go, one possible merit of offshore coding is that it forces developers to create very “tight” and detailed specifications before they give the work to the coders. This is of most benefit where a traditional “waterfall” style of development is practised; it does not lend itself to prototyping, rapid application development or other agile styles, like extreme programming.

Not even high-capacity communications links will enable the rapid interaction needed for such development styles, Altman says. Teleconferencing to discuss application design doesn’t appear to work well. A local bank IT executive adds that time difference is an irreducible factor “we use programmers in India, and we only have two or, with luck, three hours of the day when we can talk to them”.

Altman sees such coding jobs shrinking as IT returns to automated code generation from detailed process and data models. Code generation tends to go in cycles, he says. It was practised widely in the 80s and early 90s, but Java and the web changed all that, introducing new styles of development that have had to be done by hand while the higher-level tools suitable to its use have been slowly developed.

By function-point measurement only about 5% of development is now done through generation, Altman estimates, but it will creep back gradually, reaching perhaps 15 to 20% in five to 10 years.

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