Could GitHub Copilot be a valuable investment for my team?

GitHub recently launched Copilot for Business, which enables companies to purchase and manage licenses for their entire team. If you’re considering investing in GitHub Copilot, here’s what you need to know.

Short answer: Yes, GitHub Copilot could be a valuable investment for your team.

Long answer: It depends on your team’s specific needs.

Ill start by admitting that I am biased. I work at GitHub, and I love Copilot. GitHub Copilot helped me rediscover the joy of coding. I used to love coding. Then, I experienced burnout and imposter syndrome, and I struggled with opening my code editor. However, besides those two factors, I think GitHub Copilot solves a shared problem for developers and business stakeholders: speed.

The problem with speed in software development

Businesses need to make money to survive, pay their employees, and continue paying for the technology that supports their applications. Investors expect a return on investment, and customers expect features that meet their needs. In an ideal world, software developers would have the time and resources to write, test, refactor, and deploy code at their own pace. But the reality is that businesses need features delivered quickly. This can lead to pressure on software developers to move faster, but to the non-developers it can feel like software developers arent moving fast enough.

Why are software engineers taking so long to code?

Coding is hard. Software developers face numerous challenges, such as:

  • Estimating the time it will take to complete a task

  • Envisioning all the problems they may encounter while coding

  • Being asked to complete a task quickly without understanding the complexity involved

Many times in my career, non-developers like salespeople or product managers have told me, Heres the feature we want, but it shouldnt take you too long. Spoiler alert: I hate to admit it, but it always takes me longer than expected. Sometimes, it may seem like I just have to update one word or change one picture. However, the request might mean I have to venture into an unfamiliar part of the codebase, learn a new tool, or make a change that could potentially disrupt the entire system. I come from the startup world where weve adopted the Move fast and break things motto, so my software development process often looks like this:

  • Researching possibilities

  • Designing the feature

  • Reading documentation

  • Starting to code while referring to documentation

  • Realizing that the initial plan won’t work and starting over

  • Adding workarounds to meet the deadline

  • Rushed testing and deployment

  • Fixing bugs after the code breaks in production

This cycle of coding, testing, and fixing can lead to burnout and decreased motivation to continue building skills and contributing to the company’s success.

What do software developers want?

Software developers want to feel valued and have the opportunity to continue building their skills. Improving skills can mean watching educational content, building side projects, attending conferences, and more. However, with a heavy workload, finding time to do anything outside of work-related tasks can be challenging. (Yes, many companies provide 10% learning time as a benefit, but it feels like a formality. Its hard to use this benefit when the engineers learning time is not accounted for during the sprint.)

When Im unable to build my skills, and I feel like there arent enough hours in a day, I start fantasizing about working at a different company. Is there a company where coding doesnt feel stressful, and Ill feel motivated to learn, blog, build my career, and still maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Enter GitHub Copilot

GitHub Copilot helps software developers write code faster by reducing the time spent sifting through documentation, writing boilerplate code, and trying to remember syntax. With GitHub Copilot, software developers can have more time to focus on their passion for coding, which helps businesses retain investors, customers, and most importantly, software developers. (Yes, you can always replace software developers, but software developers with legacy knowledge of the codebase are invaluable to a companys success.)

Examples of GitHub Copilots positive impact on developers

Less time reading documentation

In the example below, Chris Sev explains that instead of spending too much time reading documentation and context-switching, GitHub Copilot led him in the right direction.

Less time writing boilerplate code

In the example below, Kelsey Hightower used GitHub Copilot to handle writing boilerplate code.

Less time recalling syntax

We all forget syntax sometimes. Memorizing code is not the best use of anyones type. In the example below, GitHub Copilot helps Lisa Reiber focus on the logic rather than the syntax.

Bonus: Writing code is more accessible

As an industry, were learning to prioritize accessibility for the user. But, what about the developer? The GitHub Next team is making coding more accessible for developers of all backgrounds with the following experimental features:

As someone who struggles with impostor syndrome and anxiety (as many developers do), GitHub Copilot gives me an extra boost of confidence and reassurance that Im going in the right direction.

Additionally, Ive noticed that GitHub Copilot can understand other spoken languages. Code is American-English centric, which can be a barrier to non-English speaking software engineers. If you write a comment in a non-native language like Spanish or German, GitHub Copilot can still suggest code to help developers build applications.

Will Copilot steal my company’s code?

With Copilot for Business, GitHub wont retain code snippets, store, or share your code regardless if the data is from public repositories, private repositories, non-GitHub repositories, or local files.

Additionally, GitHub built a filter to help detect and suppress GitHub Copilot suggestions that contain code that matches public code on GitHub.

For more information on privacy and fairness around GitHub Copilot, check out the features page and scroll down to the FAQ section.

Learn more

Whether or not GitHub Copilot is a valuable investment for your team depends on your team’s specific needs. However, its worth considering.

You can learn more about how GitHub Copilot increases developer happiness and productivity by checking out the following posts: