Natis scoffs at the idea that codeless software threatens the livelihood of traditional developers. "When apps are designed with heavy use of metadata -- it's highly productive and easy to use -- then you're doing configuration, not programming," he says. "Programmers had to create the environment in which some of the parameters could be manipulated by the business users."
Everyone agrees that the gap between the business analyst and the software developer is closing, and thus developers should become more business savvy. But programmers won't really be affected by business analysts who fool themselves into thinking they can write business applications without programmer know-how. "People still have to understand how to create algorithms to deal with data and process," says Natis. "The means of expressing the algorithms may change, but the algorithms themselves do not."
Even as business users become comfortable around technology and seize a greater role in application development (as well as managing their own PCs), the fact is programmers haven't been marginalized. Life may in fact get more interesting for programmers, says James Owen, an InfoWorld Test Center reviewer and founder of Knowledge-Based Systems, a consultancy specializing in business rule management systems.
Codeless programming, which includes business rule-based systems, is sold on the idea that "business analysts will be able to insert their business logic without knowing the first thing about the underlying code," Owen explains. "When upper management realizes they now can do more with the same personnel, they begin to dream" of software skyscrapers that reach infinitely upward.
But codeless programming can only do so much, and so IT programmers will be tasked with architecting and creating frameworks that support these lofty dreams. "And the dreams will lead to even more jobs for the IT programmers," Owen says. "Now the fun begins."