Now the developer is king

So say the kingmakers and market forces that are driving some kingly wages, even as the glamor of simply 'working in IT' has evaporated

In San Francisco this July an event will take place entitled "The Developer is King." It seems like only yesterday, although actually it was more like a dozen years ago, that content was king. (Sigh.) Then came mobile and cloud and social. Now, developers are ascending to the throne.

As a witness on the edge of Silicon Valley, I can testify without hesitation that developers with the right qualifications and skills are getting the royal treatment. Scratch that -- it's skills alone that get developers hired and pampered. Hot companies put their job candidates through all kinds of hoops. I hear about multiple real-time programming tests with a camera trained on the face of the applicant, apparently to determine how much they sweat.

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Getting a BSCS or other educational credential means little compared to the projects applicants have worked on and the pretty code they can show. Bonus points for writing a mobile app at the age of 14.

And when applicants pass muster? You've heard the stories: kids getting $150K to $200K for their first job, with perks ranging from free craft beer and food to all-expenses-paid vacations to obligatory office Nerf battles to ridiculous bonuses. ("I trust you've been sufficiently amused today, sire?") The truth is, whatever you think about the salaries, these kids work their tails off, and the preference for youth and lack of family attachments is an open secret.

Developers weren't always so sought after. Just five years ago they were told to look for another profession, because all the coding jobs were headed offshore to India and China. But that was before software ate the world. Fresh coding opportunities amount to more than generic mobile and cloud and social platforms -- think of the endless new stuff like smart TVs, big data apps, smart cars, connected health, online education, home automation services, and the software-defined data center. The latter, I think, provides a clue to what's going on: As even the network becomes virtualized, the developer's reach will extend to defining much of the infrastructure on which application code itself runs.

Meanwhile, the stock of the generic "IT professional" continues to slide. Associated with bureaucracy, boring switch-flipping, and at the upper management level too much talk and too little action, IT pros are often viewed as old and in the way. Developers, with their ability to fire up a cloud platform and code at all hours, get a whole lot done in a hurry, providing the responsiveness business craves. If the objective is to deliver solutions, developers are becoming the new IT without the baggage. And often, they're hotshots who work for a professional services firm hired by business management, rather than enterprise developers.

Now, I happen to believe that enterprise architecture still matters, and that spaghetti hazards lurk in building out in every direction at once according to every business whim. At some point, the pendulum will swing back, and people will rediscover that best practices regarding integration and security and business process have value after all.

But by then it will be too late for the graybeards. Integration and identity management will move to the cloud -- they're already headed there. Business process will be reinvented, just as it was during the re-engineering and SOA days. No doubt huge mistakes made during the developer boom time will be uncovered and regretted, and corrections may be painful, but less so than in previous eras.

That's because we're entering an age of assumed computational abundance and virtual and cloud everything, where less stands in the way of recoding to get it right -- and then moving on to the next frontier. Yes, I find the youthful arrogance of the new king annoying sometimes, but this enfant terrible is likely to reign well into middle age.

This article, "Now the developer is king," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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