The developer shift: creator to assembler and back to creator

By Eugenio Pace, CEO, Auth0

Credit: ID 85327437 © Christos Georghiou |

Most jobs today look different from even five years ago. The advancement of technology and the demands of digital computing have changed the way businesses operate and how many jobs are done. One such job is the role of the developer, a position that has always and will continue to serve at the epicentre of product innovation and growth.

Developers are responsible for everything coding-related. In the past, much of their time would be spent (and still is, especially in smaller companies) on laborious tasks such as payments and processing, messaging, identity verification and security. They would be responsible for writing the code for these applications and ensuring they worked throughout the business, oftentimes draining resources, time, and undoubtedly having a significant impact on product development.

As the internet matured, many companies emerged with solutions for these tasks that previously demanded so much of a developer’s day. All hail software-as-a-service. Services like Twilio for messaging, Stripe for payments, and Auth0 for identity management have dramatically eased the burden of the developer; while at the same time providing world-class capabilities that are difficult to replicate on their own. Those who currently employ this microservices approach benefit from the fruits of these highly-skilled and in-demand employees to add real differentiation and value to a business, without wasting time on mundane tasks.

Build or buy? Outsourcing as the future

It's a question many companies, big and small, ask themselves: should I build a new platform or software from scratch or should I invest in a ready-made product? Or perhaps, the more important question is carefully choosing what to build, and what to assemble.

Not long ago, we trained engineers and computer scientists to build everything from the ground up. Identity, security, all the back-end coding needed to help a website function were put together by in-house developers, who dedicated most of their time to troubleshooting and ensuring the system ran as it should. But with the increasingly complex world that comes with identity these days – API authorisation, access from numerous mobile devices, compliance regulations, cybersecurity threats, to name a few – authentication and authorisation are more complex than ever.

Having a trustworthy Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) platform in place, hosted and managed by a third-party service provider, provides a universal platform for web, mobile, and legacy applications and is readily available and able to be built into any system.

And while universities continue to produce graduates who could potentially build any solution, the question is whether they should. And it is not about reducing the number of in-house tech professionals, but about eliminating the need for them to learn all the complexities of identity, freeing them up to focus on the business and the end-user experience. With Australia’s existing critical shortage of developers, according to the StartupAus 2018 report, we can’t afford to waste any good talent.

Cybersecurity rules

The surge of cloud computing has brought with it unprecedented new requirements to manage user identity and access privileges.

Identity theft is becoming an extremely serious security issue, with the Australian Federal Police estimating it costs Australia upwards of $1.6 billion each year. As a result, organisations are paying far more attention to authentication credentials for end-users and taking extra measures to protect the user accounts of the internal workforce, contractors, and end-users beyond the organisation.

Startups and small businesses, for example, stand to lose the most if they get it wrong. Assigning a key developer (and they may only have one at the start) to write code that’s already available, can easily eat into productivity and innovation -- and can be financially and socially disastrous if done incorrectly.

Sensitive processes with high volumes of personal data are high-risk. Forgetting to incorporate a key function or doing it the wrong way can result in disgruntled customers or, worse yet, damage to your reputation.

Doing it right, on the other hand, can enhance any digital transformation effort, reduce development costs and maintenance overhead, and provide revenue-enhancing customer experiences.

Freeing up developers to be creative

Developers, like other creatives, need time and space to think deeply about the ways in which they can take their companies forward. Giving developers a chance to focus on the shared goal of a particular project without getting side-tracked by having to develop need-to-haves, will most definitely enable that freedom. And wouldn’t it make sense to enable that, especially if a solution is readily available online? 

The reality is that a lot of common, universally needed requirements in computer programming that a developer will run into is now available from specialised companies. These are companies that can devote a disproportionate amount of resources and talent to these common problems, creating world-class, best of breed, high-quality services. Often, it pays to borrow or outsource a solution. We need to get back to developers being the creators of the right thing. You never know what it will free up to allow them to do instead, and you can't put a price on that.

Eugenio Pace is the CEO of Auth0, an Identity-as-a-Service company that authenticates and secures more than 2.5B logins per month, and supports staff and customers in more than 70 countries

Tags start-upsAFP (Australian federal police)IdaaSTwilioAuth0

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