CIOs assess generative AI’s risk and reward for software engineers

Coding in waves

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There’s tremendous hype about the potential impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools in software development and engineering.

Some experts believe these tools cloud boost productivity by reducing the repetitive tasks that slow IT professionals down.

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Other experts believe the rapid rise of generative AI could mean the end of software development and engineering as we know it. 

So, what’s the truth?

Jarrod Phipps, CIO at auto specialist Holman, says a sense of perspective is crucial.

Yes, generative AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot, have the potential to transform the work activities of developers and engineers.

However, that transformation isn’t going to happen overnight. What’s more, these AI tools won’t work in isolation but will instead generate benefits as an adjunct to human IT professionals.

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“I call it an exoskeleton,” says Phipps, who talks with ZDNET about the potential impact of generative AI. “It makes you stronger, faster, more agile. The way AI could wrap around all the pieces of our business is an exoskeleton that makes people better at what they do. Generative AI is not necessarily a direct threat, it’s a compliment. And we want to wrap an exoskeleton around our developers to make them more efficient at writing code.”

While some generative products can already write code, Phipps is not focused on the ability of these tools to provide an all-encompassing approach to software development.

“I’m interested in how these tools can help guide the development process, so the developer is still in full control and has some level of creative responsibility,” he says.

Phipps says the idea of a personal assistant for software developers is a “no-brainer” for most enterprises.

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At the other extreme, he says the thought of letting AI go off and write code by itself is simply a no-go: “I’m not necessarily sure when generative AI is going to write all our code. In fact, I don’t see a time when that would happen.”

Mukul Agrawal, director of technology at Vistaprint, has a similar view: “Never think about AI replacing people. Some of the tasks might get replaced, but not people.”

Agrawal explained…