Is ChatGPT the technology revolution that will save the world, or the Pandora’s Box that will eventually destroy it? How about neither? Putting these two extremes aside, a more rational concern is whether ChatGPT will steal your job, especially if you work in software development.
Is this a fair concern? Conversations like this are nothing new. New technologies always go through this cycle; starting with intrigue then moving onto fear and resentment until eventually being accepted and embraced as the new normal.
ChatGPT and other natural language AIs are undoubtedly exciting new trends with huge potential. One area of ChatGPT’s potential that has largely been overlooked is how it can democratize software development. Should low-code/no-code providers be worried about this?
Delivering the Low-Code Promise
Low code has long promised to democratize software development by providing a way for non-coders to develop applications themselves. This “democratization of IT” promises a new wave of innovation by enabling organizations to create new processes without the new to engage with IT. While low-code has already achieved some great things when and where it has been implemented, the amount of change it can deliver is fundamentally limited by the developer’s choices. The developer still chooses which aspects of the application can be configured by the user, so the user still has no fundamental access to the code. While this has been low-code’s strength (since users cannot damage the underlying code if they can’t access it), users are still beholden to developers to do anything significant. ChatGPT could allow users to make more significant changes to applications, potentially enabling organizations to achieve far more than with low-code and in half the time.
Software Development is Just the Start
ChatGPT can achieve more than helping non-developers build the applications they need. If you think about the most common reason for an IT project failure, it is rarely down to poor delivery or mismanagement alone. Most IT projects fail because they do not deliver the outcomes that users want. This happens because of a communication breakdown between IT and end users. On one hand, users fail to convey exactly what they want and IT fails to ask the right questions to find out. The requirements (i.e., the intended outcomes) get lost in translation because technical and non-technical people simply speak different languages.
In a scenario where the message is too often lost in translation, ChatGPT can serve as the interpreter between those who build and maintain IT and the wider staff who use it day-to-day. ChatGPT can bridge the gap because users won’t need technical skills to realize the changes they want.
Always Start with the Business Case
Delivering change in an organization is fraught with challenges and uncertainty. Like any project, it is important to start with the fundamentals of what you’re trying to achieve, not the technology you want to use. No matter how much you want to use ChatGPT, you must start by defining the outcomes you want to achieve and working backward from there. How you achieve these outcomes is a technical decision that comes much later. If one of your questions is to enable change to happen faster and to be more adaptive to the company’s needs, then ChatGPT may well form part of the answer. Just remember to define the problem first, build the business case and then evaluate the various solutions to achieve those objectives. Don’t get carried away by the hype.
ChatGPT Needs Room to Flourish Outside of IT
ChatGPT has the potential to be the bridge between technical and non-technical users in every organization. It can reduce the gulf between these radically different types of people to speed up change in the organization and deliver better outcomes for all. But it is crucial for technologies like ChatGPT to sit within the domains where they will have the best chance to flourish. In what might sound like a controversial statement from someone in the IT sector, I believe that, like low-code, ChatGPT must sit outside of the technical domain. ChatGPT needs to move out of the IT sector where it was born to reach its full potential. The question is, is IT ready to let it go?
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