The magnificent seven of industrial software development

Generative AI is driving the development of robotic process automation. | Freepik

Generative AI is driving the development of robotic process automation. | Freepik

Published May 16, 2024



THERE’S fast-paced and then there’s supersonic - and the latter certainly applies to the evolution and development of industrial software. The last year has seen industrial software step to the fore to take over the mundane, repetitive and sometimes dangerous - allowing us to focus once again on what make us uniquely human.

The software development industry in South Africa, which is a key player in the realm of global technology, has seen rapid and impressive growth over the last decade; with several factors playing a contributing role.

Here are seven significant trends shaping the industrial software development industry – all with one thing in common: improving the human experience.

Generative AI

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) needs no introduction. However, combined with intelligent automation, it packs quite the punch.

A prime example is robotic process automation (RPA), which automates rule-based tasks. According to US tech research consultancy Gartner, 90% of RPA vendors will offer generative AI-assisted automation by 2025. RPA continues to grow its footprint and remains a popular software market as organisations look to tactical automation for improvements in operational efficiency.

Other important benefits of generative AI in industrial settings include chatbots, which enhance customer service and support, and predictive maintenance.

Worker-first processes

Driven primarily by user-centric design and collaboration tools, digital worker-first processes prioritise and enhance the user experience (UX).

In the case of the user-centric design, it adapts interfaces to users’ specific behavioural preferences and work output.

Platform play

Platform play essentially sees industrial software moving from standalone applications, also known as pure play, to interconnected platforms that include APIs, micro-services and cloud-based platforms.

These platform ecosystems offer benefits such as scalability, innovation and data sharing.

Strategic apps

It is within industrial settings that strategic applications really shine; allowing organisations to align technology with business-orientated goals. A primary example is supply chain optimisation (SCO) that includes warehousing, logistics, delivery and managing costly infrastructure expenditure.


No-code or low-code development sees citizen developers, who are non-technical users, create applications using visual interfaces. For example, they can leverage drag-and-drop components and pre-built templates; simplifying the development process.

This empowers business-users to address their own challenges without extensive coding knowledge.

Ethics and ESG

While technically not software-driven developments per se, both ethical automation and ESG (environmental, social and governance) compliance play important roles in the proliferation and evolution of industrial software.

Ethical AI aligns with established ethical guidelines; ensuring that AI systems make fair and unbiased decisions while also addressing concerns such as privacy.

ESG compliance forms an important part of software practices, taking into account the rollout of sustainable solutions to reduce environmental impact as well as associated social responsibility and governance.

Governance and security

Businesses should prioritise sustained security measures as well as good governance. This will help safeguard the organisation and workers from threats, while ensuring compliance with regulatory standards.

Potgieter is industrial software lead at Schneider Electric