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How AI is Transforming Software Development

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Software development
How AI is Transforming Software Development

Recently, we announced a new milestone in our relationship with Digital.ai, our long-term client. As strategic partners, we are committed to further driving innovation in software development and supporting Digital.ai’s initiative to bring its AI-powered DevSecOps platform to markets across EMEA. 

This collaboration combines Notch’s experience developing new functionalities for the Digital.ai Release platform over the past decade with Digital.ai’s vision to provide the enterprise platform for AI-assisted software development. 

As AI-assisted software development is all the rage right now, this article will reflect on our experience and share some lessons and conclusions about the current state of AI-driven development.  

⚠️ Key takeaways: 

  • Growing global initiatives around data usage highlight the importance of adopting AI thoughtfully and effectively.
  • With the help of AI, engineers will improve productivity and expedite time to market.
  • Mapping AI tools to specific project needs and compliance with strict governance protocols is imperative. 
  • Software engineers who embrace AI tools, continue to deepen their knowledge, and focus on problem-solving skills will thrive.
  • The human element will remain essential for overseeing AI implementations, maintaining accountability, and ensuring the quality of delivery.

The Current Landscape: Explore and Utilize

Developers, as individuals, are already exploring and utilizing AI capabilities in their workflows. 

As AI technology advances, it’s becoming essential for companies to address this integration, particularly those working with global enterprises where data governance and security are exceptionally critical. 

Moreover, the growing global initiatives around responsible data usage highlight the importance of adopting AI thoughtfully and effectively.

General Point of View on AI-Assisted Software Development: A Curse and a Blessing

From a strategic perspective, AI-assisted software development presents both opportunities and threats. 

This shift is crucial for staying competitive regarding delivery speed and pricing, as those utilizing AI are already winning more business and leading the market. 

However, we believe the often-spoken narrative that AI will give software engineers more free time to focus on work-life balance and education is only wishful thinking.

A more realistic scenario is that engineers will increase their productivity, thus increasing product-to-market time. They will also have to spend double the time to catch up with all the innovations AI brings to stay competitive in the labor market.

As a company that trades in knowledge and whose primary value and most significant investment is staying a step (or more) ahead of clients, adapting to this change is imperative to remain relevant.

Our Experience with AI-Assisted Development: A Rollercoaster of Emotions 🎢

Our journey with AI-assisted development has been marked with outcomes ranging from thrills and “aha moments” to failures and frustrations, from which we have collected valuable insights. 

These experiences have helped refine our strategies and approaches, determining where and when AI can be most effective and identifying where AI is a nuisance and more trouble than worth it.

The Good and the Ugly of AI-assisted Coding

➕ The most significant advantage we have gained from utilizing AI coding assistance wasn’t writing code but elaborating and refining ideas. AI is extremely helpful in facilitating comprehensive brainstorming sessions and in ensuring that engineers’ essential thoughts, patterns, and concepts are recalled, visualized through generated code, and then integrated into the existing development process. 

➖ The greatest challenges lie in integrating AI into production environments where data security and governance are paramount. The diversity of our clients and technologies necessitate a highly customized approach, especially when dealing with confidential information under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).

Security and AI assisted software development

😒 Our biggest annoyance with AI-assisted coding is that specific generated code suggestions often interrupt the developers’ flow, or ‘zone,’ and actually slow down their thinking process. This disruption sometimes leads to decreased efficiency, as developers must take extra time to assess whether the suggested solutions align with their current work context.

Current Status and Future Plans: Anticipating Challenges, Moving Forward 👾

Using cloud-based coding (AI coding assistants that don’t work on local machines or installations) poses significant risks, especially when maintaining data integrity and security. We are enhancing our proprietary tools to address these challenges and ensuring they adapt to specific project conditions without compromising security or efficiency. 

Moving forward, our strategy involves implementing private large language models (LLMs) tailored to each specific project and, when beneficial, customized to individual developers. With private LLMs, you can control and secure the use of the model to protect sensitive information. 

Our first technical decision was to select the architecture for our private large language models (LLM); we only fine-tuned pre-trained models, not building them from scratch.

Fine-tuning our LLMs involves data collection and preprocessing to ensure compliance with copyright and privacy laws. This follows intensive training that may require several days to weeks using cloud solutions and high-performance GPUs. Once trained, it’s crucial to secure the model through strong access controls, encryption, and regular security audits and establish a governance framework to monitor its use.

Currently, we do not plan to standardize AI usage across all projects in terms of development. Each project is unique and requires a case-by-case approach, so we maintain a flexible strategy for individual adjustments and customization. 

Notch Labs: A Polygon for Growing Developers’ Expertise

Notch Labs Assisted Software Development

We are initiating Notch Labs, specifically designed to deepen our developers’ expertise in utilizing large language models (LLMs). These labs focus on generating and practically applying AI agents, which we recognize as critical for future development and innovation.

While testing available tools, we encourage our developers to experiment with their preferred AI tools as long as they align with our security standards and client NDAs. This flexibility is critical to fostering innovation and adaptation within our teams.

Governance and Security: Maintaining High Standards

As we integrate AI more deeply into our workflows, maintaining the originality of the code and ensuring that it does not violate copyright laws is a top priority.  

Additionally, ensuring the security of our data and that of our clients is paramount, as breaches could have severe repercussions for our credibility and legal standing. 

Our commitment to governance, security, and maintaining the human element in decision-making ensures we continue delivering high-quality, reliable software solutions in this evolving landscape.

Leveraging AI to its fullest potential 📈

Human experience and expertise remain fundamental to our operations. These factors are essential for overseeing and guiding AI implementations, maintaining accountability to our clients, and ensuring the quality of our delivery.

As a technology partner at the forefront of using AI in software development and a key player in Digital.ai’s product development, we are uniquely positioned to leverage AI to its fullest potential. By doing so, we enhance the capabilities and credibility of Digital.ai products and pave the way for future innovations that will benefit the end customer. 

Interested in learning more about Notch and Digital.ai collaboration? Check out this case study or contact us. 

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