How Code Is Becoming More Accessible to Non-Developers

Written by Mike Ranellone on March 30, 2020

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Our relationship to code is changing. As digital technology advances and becomes even more ubiquitous, we’re going to see more workers interacting with code to develop their own custom solutions to specific problems. And we’re not just talking about dedicated software engineers — we think coding, in one form or another, will become an essential part of many jobs in many fields. 

The computer science fundamentals that allow someone to begin tinkering with a new language could soon be taught alongside math and logic in schools. Even sooner, we’ll see growth in accessible ways of interacting with code, such as visual programming interfaces, modular software solutions, natural-language-based processing, and user-friendly API integrations.   

Visual Programming Interfaces

Although visual programming languages aren’t a new concept, we expect them to become more powerful and even more user friendly as time goes on, accelerating their adoption across a variety of industries and roles. The basic idea is that objects and other small functioning snippets of code are represented by simple images or visual blocks that can be connected together in a GUI. This way, users can specify relevant arguments and customize solutions without learning a language’s particular syntax or writing actual lines of code. 

The benefit of this growth in visual programming is that fewer problems will require developer bandwidth to engineer a new solution. A salesperson who needs a new way to organize customer data in their CRM software, for example, might be able to use a backend access point to build what they need using smaller component chunks of the existing software. That software might be available as a modular solution with a-la-carte pricing for different components, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Language-Based Interactions 

AI and machine learning are making it easier to interact with computers in ways that make intuitive sense to humans. Natural language processing AIs like IBM’s Watson can translate varied human speech patterns and phrases into actionable commands without the need for coded input. Pay-as-you-go cloud access is already making supercomputers like Watson available to smaller businesses, and we’re looking forward to more universal access. And at the consumer level, similar natural language processing technology powers personal assistants like Siri. 

At JumpCloud, we’re especially excited about ChatOps workflows, which allow users to send basic plain-text commands to chat bots, which then trigger automated actions within the relevant software solution as integrated with the chat interface. Hyper-growth company Grab, the maker of southeast Asia’s “everyday everything app,” has developed a way to automate user provisioning and security checks using chat commands by integrating solutions from JumpCloud and Workato. In this workflow, an HR representative can enter a new employee’s information in a Slack window, triggering the bot to provision a user account and assign access to the right IT resources within JumpCloud. This is just one way that natural-language-based interfaces can reduce time-consuming technical administration.     

User-Friendly API Integrations 

Many software companies already allow some level of open API access to their products, letting users build custom integrations and pull and organize data as needed. You don’t have to be a developer to start interacting using some basic commands, but the learning curve before you’re a master with pull requests and JSON can be steep. 

In the future, we could see more and more user-friendly ways to harness the power of APIs, empowering organizations with smaller budgets to benefit from the kinds of custom integrations their larger competitors can afford to develop. These new open integration points might make use of consolidated visual objects as described above, or perhaps take a cue from Microsoft’s PowerShell framework, which went open source in 2016. 

An interface like PowerShell can help to simplify and standardize command syntax across different products and services. With JumpCloud, for example, we make our PowerShell module available to customers as a standardized way to interact with our API and automate a great deal of their user and system management tasks within our cloud directory service.  

Benefits of Accessible Code Frameworks 

Increased access to code and code-like functions should benefit businesses of any size by increasing efficiency and driving innovation. While large original projects will still call for proper software engineering, more workers will be empowered to develop specialized solutions in their day-to-day roles. We could see more repeatable processes automated as part of the X-as-code trend, freeing developers to focus on higher-order concerns and removing mundane administrative tasks from other employees’ workflows. The same tools that make code more approachable for adults might become useful in early education, too, allowing kids to play with the building blocks of code before they’re ready to write their first lines. 

At JumpCloud, we’re always interested in advancements that give people the freedom to pursue projects they’re passionate about and give businesses greater flexibility to meet their customers’ needs. Read more about the trends we’re following and how they’re shaping the future of work.  

Mike Ranellone

Mike is a writer at JumpCloud who's especially interested in the changing role of tech in society. He cut his teeth in the ad agency world and holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a B.A. in English and music from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. Outside of JumpCloud, he's an avid skier, cellist, and poet.

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