What startup founders need to know about AI-augmented software development

The rise of AI tools is a popular topic of conversation across the tech ecosystem. The possibility of AI to create productivity gains for small organisations has been particularly important for startup leaders who can rely on such tools to boost business growth. Agile founders will need to understand how best to leverage AI tools to gain a competitive advantage without running up costs. Thankfully, no-code technology provides the clearest comparison for the value these emerging technologies have for startups and how they change the way employees work.

Software development is one of these areas AI promises to significantly advance. 66% of companies already used generative AI to write code! AI-powered tools are able to generate code in response to user-defined prompts, which can reduce the time developers spend on actually coding. Within a matter of seconds, the AI can produce snippets of code that range in functionality from routine, boilerplate coding, to software assurance tests. Like no-code, AI promises to expedite the coding process and make it more accessible to non-technical users.

This application of AI tools will be very important for startup founders who have limited resources and are suffering from the tech skill shortages. 68% of digital leaders surveyed in the UK said a lack of tech skills was holding them back. This has put upward pressure on salaries for tech roles with some tech salaries expected to jump by 8% by the end of 2023. It will be a challenge for startups to keep up with the competition for tech skills.

Tools that can empower existing talent to become more efficient will be very important to giving startups a competitive edge at a time when it is challenging to access tech skills. Additionally, democratising software development will be essential to driving productivity across an organisation without overburdening IT teams.

AI tools have been developing incredibly fast. But there is a lot of uncertainty about where AI will be most valuable and what it will look like to work alongside AI-powered tools. We can look to existing tech such as no-code, to shed light on these uncertainties. As we know today, no-code platforms have spurred immense productivity across organisations and have helped free up the time of developers allowing them to focus on high-value work.

Here are some of the lessons from no-code/low-code tools that founders should be aware of:

Expedite the development process

Agility to respond to changing client demands is a very important quality that makes startups competitive in sectors dominated by large companies. That is why many startups turned to no-code platforms to expedite their development process. For example, developers use pre-build modules in no-code tools to avoid writing code from scratch. In fact, 46% of developers said they use no-code for some of their work.

Similarly, AI will be used for low-level coding but it will never replace developers and engineers. Engineers will be able to work alongside AI to automate some of their existing processes such as testing and debugging. But they will be needed to create complex and creative software solutions that meet business needs. The main impact is that they will have more time to do this.

However, those software engineers who do not embrace technologies such as no-code and AI risk getting left behind as they will struggle with competitors.

Increasing access to software development

An important impact of low-code and no-code platforms is that they open up the software development process to non-technical users and reduce the burden on IT departments. With pre-build modules and components, non-technical users can develop custom applications and solutions. This allows end users to fit solutions to their own needs without reliance on overworked IT teams.

As discussed previously, AI will have a similar impact as users can tell tools what type of code they need generated and can integrate desired features into existing solutions.

Giving end-users the power and flexibility to customise existing applications to their own needs will spur productivity in startups and encourage citizen development. It also promotes innovation as more people with different skills and backgrounds can input into building more innovative and better business-aligned solutions.

Accelerate time-to-market

We also expect AI to become a very helpful tool for non-technical founders who are early in their startup journeys.

Founders without a technical background, have been turning to no-code tools to help them develop beta products. No-code has allowed them to speed up development, test rapidly, and iterate quickly to find a product-market fit.

AI tools will enable founders to quickly test their products and accelerate time-to-market.

The future with AI

We are seeing rapid growth in AI capabilities that will change how we work and how businesses operate. Smart startup founders will begin thinking about the ways AI can be applied in their organisations to maximise ROI. Going forward, supporting software developers and empowering non-technical users to build their own solutions will help startups maintain their agility without having to invest in expanding their team.

The impact of no-code tools on software development tells us that emerging technologies will enhance job roles while giving more power to non-technical users. We even expect to see AI embedded in no-code tools to make them even more productive and powerful.