What does the future hold for developers of intelligent systems and software?
The demand for software professionals is growing. How can the field prepare for the future, when expertise in software engineering and development is needed across all engineering disciplines?
The demand for software developers has exploded and is not likely to fall for years to come, says Dean Mika Grundström from the Faculty of Computing and Electrical Engineering.
The annual recruitment event for TUT's students in February demonstrated that professionals are in high demand. Companies were on the lookout for expertise in artificial intelligence, positioning, signal processing, wireless networks and smart grids. A particularly hot topic was software engineering and development.
The demand for software developers has exploded and is not likely to fall for years to come. Software has become a lingua franca in all engineering disciplines. How can we predict the long-term evolution of the software landscape? How can students, professionals, companies and universities prepare for the changes?
The cycle of software development is getting shorter, as new software architectures and frameworks facilitate the development of applications in mobile and Web domains. Failing fast is therefore possible, as the development cycle is short and feedback from end users may be instant. The development of reliable, easy to use and efficient software is still an art. It requires mastery of multiple disciplines and an understanding of software development, the market place, how teams work in projects, and how the life cycles of frameworks play out in real life. The keyword is multidisciplinarity.
One cannot overlook the deep technical expertise that is needed to develop inherently complex systems. Even the flashlight of our mobile phone is made up of multiple interconnected elements that constitute a system that is inherently complex internally. Is this complexity really necessary in an application as simple as a flashlight? From a technical standpoint, no. However, from the perspective of the ecosystem and business domain, it is something that opens up new opportunities, for example, for marketing. The complexity is hidden from the user, but should is also be hidden from the software developer? To an extent yes, but professionals need to manage an ever-increasing number of dependencies and continuous change that makes this again – complex. The only way to manage complexity is proper tools and continuous learning.
It is easy to criticize the user experience of any given service or application. As the cognitive load of using almost any system is growing, one must be savvy to understand users’ needs and minimize their burden.
The consumer market is ruthless for applications with a bad user interface and service experience. They simply don’t fly. In business-to-business software, the dynamics is different. In the workplace, many of us are having to tolerate non-user friendly internal systems for managing, for example, transactions and travel claims. This reduces productivity and increases the cognitive load one needs to tolerate to perform sometimes even the simplest task.
Three areas are currently in the limelight of service development: speed, complexity and users. The implications for different actors are clear.
Students need to develop knowledge and skills in multiple disciplines. It is no longer enough to have an understanding of either machine learning or software development. These two combined is a killer.
For professionals, continuous professional development is a must. Not only are future artificial intelligence systems complex, they also imply great responsibility. As these systems are used in many critical areas of society, such as the healthcare and financial sectors, they must be faultless.
Companies need the courage to realize that their current solutions will be obsolete tomorrow. Continuous renewal is the key in all sectors.
Finally, universities must maintain close contacts with the broader society and all stakeholders. We can only try to predict the future but not in isolation of trends and the practices of society. Tampere3 creates a framework for our new university to stay at the forefront of developments and help build a sustainable future for us all.