27 Feb 2024

The future of software development in the era of AI

On the 22 of February techUK hosted a webinar titled "The future of software development in the era of AI" as part of our Exploring the Future of Work series.

The panel had a variety of experienced industry insiders, as follows:

Chair: Jake Wall, Policy Manager, Skills and Future of Work, techUK

  • Matthew Belcher, Principal Software Craftsperson, Codurance
  • Nicola Martin, Head of Quality Engineering, Adarga, and Council Member, British Computer Society (BCS)
  • Ken Miller, Chief Technology Officer, Panintelligence
  • Dan Sofer, Founder and Executive Director, Founders and Coders

You can watch the full recording of the event here, or read our summary of the event below:

Summary of discussion:

Please note that the below is a summary of the event, and readers are encouraged to watch the webinar to understand the full details of the discussion.

Overview given by Jake Wall & Speakers introduce their work (from 0:00 in the video)

Jake Wall, chairing the panel for techUK, welcomes the participants and outlines the purpose of the event. The webinar is part of a series exploring the future of work, focusing on how technology, particularly AI, is reshaping jobs and sectors.

He highlights the recent developments in AI for coding and software development, and discusses the implications for professionals in the field. He mentions the recent emergence of AI tools tailored for software development could change the software development jobs market for better or for worse.

Each speaker introduces themselves and what their role is and how it relates to the panel discussion.


Current AI coding capabilities (from 14:31 in the video)

In this section, the panel discuss the recent advancements in AI coding tools and their implications. They acknowledge the rapid evolution of these tools but also express caution regarding their limitations. In particular their limitation in terms of what tasks AI tools can currently fulfil - the tools can ease workload but the majority of workload is still down to humans.

The panel moves into discussion about maintaining code quality and the balance between using AI tools as aids without compromising developers' understanding; The importance of experimentation and collaboration for businesses, especially SMEs, to capitalise on AI tools while prioritising value-driven approaches and human expertise in complex problem-solving.


Integration of AI into businesses (from 24:31 in the video)

The panel acknowledge the rapid evolution of these tools but also express caution regarding their novelty and limitations in incorporating broader contextual factors. They emphasise the importance of experimentation and collaboration for businesses, especially SMEs, to capitalise on AI tools while prioritising value-driven approaches and human expertise in complex problem-solving.


What does this mean for jobs? (from 30:52 in the video)

The section of the meeting discusses the implications of AI tools on software development jobs over the next 5 to 10 years. The panel speculate on whether AI innovations will increase the demand for developers or replace software development tasks, potentially leading to a decrease in job roles.

Dan expresses uncertainty about predicting beyond a few years due to the exponential growth of computational power and AI. He believes software creation will become easier but suggests that human ambition will expand along with increasing complexity.

Matthew agrees, foreseeing productivity boosts and a shift where the "mundane" tasks might be handed off to AI, allowing developers to focus on more complex and value-added activities. They argue that one of the most important skills to focus on is the training in prompt engineering for AI tools.


Opportunities and risks (from 39:27 in the video)

This section discusses wider sector opportunities and concerns. There's a concern about potential hesitancy among people entering the sector due to perceptions of instability. However, it's emphasised that the tech industry is likely to remain robust due to its focus on automation and rapid development.

Dan points out the commoditisation of AI and its potential impact on the industry, foreseeing plenty opportunities for startups and strong growth inside the sector.

Discussion moves to the challenges faced by educators and universities in keeping up with the rapidly changing skills required by the industry. It's noted that while AI tools can assist in certain tasks, more experienced developers still play a crucial role in guiding the design and development process. 

Nicola mentions the changing skill sets required, especially in software testing, and the need for educators to adapt their curriculum to match industry needs.  She also raises concerns about the potential lack of coding jobs for junior developers due to increased competition and the preference for candidates with commercial experience.

Finally, Matthew highlights the need for engineering leaders to incorporate AI into their plans and actively use these tools to understand their capabilities. He expressed optimism about how much opportunity there is going forward with AI tools aiding in software development.

Overall, there's an acknowledgment of the need for ongoing adaptation and evolution in software development practices to effectively integrate AI tools and address the changing demands of the industry.


Evolving recruitment strategies (from 51:00 in the video)

In response to a question from the audience, the panel discussed the changing landscape of technical interviews and the importance of adapting recruitment practices to align with evolving skill requirements. The panel agree that some interview process can be out dated and require applicants do not use AI tools in their technical assessment. The panel agree that this is archaic and is somewhat equivilent to not allowing a student to use a calculator in maths exams.

The need for a diverse workforce and the potential contributions of individuals from non-traditional backgrounds, was also emphasised. It was pointed out that the development of AI tools should allow for a lower barrier of entry into the software development space, and that this would exapand the diversity of the workforce entering the space.


Actionable steps for business (from 55:50 in the video)

In the closing remarks, each panelist provided a key takeaway.

Matthew encouraged engineering leaders to actively use AI tools and understand how they can best help.

Nicola emphasised the importance for individuals of staying informed about changing skill sets. 

Ken mentions the work that Panintelligence is doing around AI skills, and encourages people to check them out.

Dan also emphasises being optimistic for the future, arguing that even though there downturns in markets as new trends emerge, there's always ways to adapt and people will figure it out in the end. 


Concluding remarks (from 1:00:00 in the video)

Jake Wall thanks everyone who attended the event, and recommends that if they are interested in the Future of Work series or have any questions to get into contact with him at [email protected].


Future of Work

The future of work is changing. Technology is powering a growth in flexible work across the economy, whilst emerging technologies such as robotics and AI are set to become common place. techUK believes the UK must consider the implications of digital transformation in the world of work now, equipping people and businesses across the country with the skills and conditions needed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 4IR.

Learn more

Jake Wall

Jake Wall

Policy Manager, Skills and Future of Work, techUK

Oliver Alderson

Oliver Alderson

Policy and Public Affairs - Team Assistant, techUK