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Developers move out of the back room

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Software developers, once seen as ‘the geeks in the back room’, are now becoming the crucial agents of change for business as companies face growing threats from innovative digital start-ups.
That’s according to international analysts such as IDC and Gartner, who point out that companies across a range of industries – from banking and retail through to mining and manufacturing – will have to become software companies to stay ahead in a competitive global market.
‘Digital disruptors’ like Uber and Airbnb are proving that innovation in application development can result in millions of dollars in revenue. Forward thinking organisations are already investing heavily in software development skills and methodologies that will help them produce better enterprise systems and applications that improve operations and give customers a ‘wow’ experience when dealing with the business.
Aiming to support and empower South Africa’s software developer community, the inaugural DevConf event for South African programmers and developers will be held at Riversands Incubation Hub in Fourways on 8 March. This conference, the first major vendor neutral developer conference in South Africa in years, is expected to attract over 450 professional software developers and programmers. Among the sponsors supporting the event are Entelect, BBD, EOH, Google South Africa, Microsoft, Derivco, Allan Gray and Mint.
Pieter Kruger, BU Head: Software Development and Integration at event co-sponsor EOH, says the developer community has felt the lack of a major developer conference in South Africa in recent years.
“Developers tend to work in small teams, in ‘islands’ within their organisations, and because of their specialised focus and the pressure of their jobs, they don’t have many opportunities to discover other technologies and see what others in the field are doing. DevConf will offer them a great opportunity to see what else is happening in the developer environment. EOH will also be there to learn and engage with the community,” he says.
Kruger notes that South Africa still has a shortage of experienced developers who have business problem-solving skills, which is becoming a hurdle as demand surges for these skills. “The normal channels of creating developers isn’t delivering the necessary skills, so software development firms may have to take the initiative to upskill our local developers and equip them with the necessary business problem-solving skills. We are looking to replicate in Gauteng the developer academy concept launched by our Cape Town branch,” he notes.
Kruger says the insights shared at DevConf will support initiatives to broaden skills in the developer community.
The DevConf agenda features more than 40 subject matter experts across six tracks: crafting code, persistence & data, DevOps & automation, tools & frameworks, teams & people, and a sponsors’ track.  Top international speakers participating in the event include Canada’s Willy-Peter Schaub – locally and internationally known for his expertise in Scrum, Kanban, and Agile Portfolio Management with Visual Studio Team Services; Austria’s Andreas Grabner speaking on Metrics Driven-DevOps: Delivering High Quality Software like Facebook & Co, and England’s Tugberk Ugurlu, a database expert speaking on Architecting Polyglot-Persistent Solutions.