2024 Predictions for Product and Engineering Teams
As Product and Engineering Teams move into 2024, we aim to gain a deeper insight into the factors driving transformation in the development of products, systems, and software and explore how teams within this industry are adapting to meet the challenges posed by these evolving complexities.
In the final part of this six-part series, we asked our own industry experts Josh Turpen – Chief Product Officer, and Preston Mitchell – Vice President, Global Solutions, to weigh in on the product development and engineering trends they’re anticipating in the coming year in the coming year and beyond.
We like to stay on top of trends in other industries as well. Read our predictions for Automotive predictions HERE, Aerospace & Defense HERE, Industrial & Consumer Electronics (ICE) HERE, Medical Device & Life Sciences HERE, and SoftTech HERE.
Design Trends – What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in your industry right now? How will they impact product & engineering teams through product, systems, and software development?
Josh Turpen: Software continues to eat hardware. This trend is accelerating in the complex product space, particularly in automotive. This is driving companies to be “agile” but at the cost of quality.
Preston Mitchell: The big trend will be how to focus using the emergent Artificial Intelligence (AI)/ Large Language Models (LLM) solutions so they actually help the team be more efficient or profitable. Plenty of emerging tech in the AI space but remains to be seen how “useful” it will be. There is a huge opportunity to leverage this in ways that are beneficial for teams with the right focus. For example, we’re just starting down this path at Jama Software® with Jama Connect Advisor™, which helps train business analysts/product managers / engineers on how to write their requirements in more concise fashion with less ambiguity.
Biggest Challenges – What are some of the biggest challenges you think product & engineering teams will be working to overcome in 2024?
Turpen: Quality at scale and speed will continue to be a problem. This is exacerbated by the increasing complexity in software.
Opportunities – What are some of the biggest opportunities you think product & engineering teams should be considering in 2024?
Mitchell: Automation. Consider where automation can reduce the complexity and time needed to deliver large scale products. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies that build very complex products and I’m still amazed at how many of their internal processes are manual. AI will certainly be the 2024 buzzword – but currently most AI tools are still beta and rely on a human to prompt for an answer – not exactly automating a repeatable process. When I mean automation opportunity I’m talking about the low-hanging fruit of manual business processes – for example, automating task links between multiple engineering tools.
Regulations – What changing regulatory guidelines do you anticipate having an impact on companies in 2024?
Turpen: Companies that seek to identify risks (not just in products, but in process) will come out on top. Anti-fragile product development pipelines are the logistical super-power for the next phase of product development.
Tool Innovation – From a product & engineering toolset perspective, what are some of the processes you think forward-thinking organizations will be working to leverage or incorporate into their process and why?
Turpen: Moving from the individual engineer to the team/product pipeline will give management the opportunity to intervene early to reduce risk. Products that are focused on a best-of-breed world will give companies a leg up on legacy vendors and their suite approaches.
Mitchell: Forward-thinking orgs will adopt data-driven assessment of the product development lifecycle. Today there are no generally accepted measurements of Research and Development (R&D) efficiency. It’s hard for organizations to predict if a product will be delivered on time and without defects. Launch delays and regressions are common and almost generally accepted. Organizations commonly measure a product’s performance after it is launched (revenue, profit, adoption.) Why don’t we measure what happens before it is launched? Why don’t we measure the R&D lifecycle? Forward thinking orgs will adopt ways to measure their development lifecycle to they can better predict success or failure…and some may not like what they find.
Cybersecurity – What role will cybersecurity play in product & engineering development in the coming year and beyond?
Turpen: Cybersecurity will be baked into requirements and, therefore, products for everything from thermostats to ADAS.
Survival Factors – In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between product & engineering companies that will survive to see 2030, and ones that don’t?
Turpen: Agility tempered with quality will be the common trait of survivors. We’re already seeing companies get slapped with criminal charges based on their inability to see and manage risk.
Mitchell: With the hot economy and low interest rates before recent inflation there was a lot of investment in new startups and emerging technologies — think self-driving cars and AI. The economy is still doing well, but tempered with higher interest rates, so the investors of years past are looking for a return on their prior investment and will be more tempered with any new bets they place. The companies that survive to see 2030 will be the ones that find clear use cases that people are willing to pay for in these emerging technologies. New products and tech just “because it’s cool!” will not survive without a commercialization path.
RELATED: Traceable Agile – Speed AND Quality Are Possible for Software Factories in Safety-critical Industries
Advice – What advice would you give to new product & engineering teams entering the market?
Turpen: Move fast and KNOW what you’re going to break.
Mitchell: Ask questions and seek advice from your peers or mentors who have built something before in your industry. Determine who your ideal “first customer” would be and work hard to speak with them, show them your early prototypes, and validate your assumptions about what they need.
Emerging Topics – What topic(s) do you wish companies were paying more attention to?
Turpen: Management of the engineering process.
Mitchell: Solving very easy efficiency problems in the engineering process like automating flow of data between disparate systems. I just spoke with a customer whose testers were redundantly logging defects in two different systems! Come on! Set aside some time to automate that process!
Identifying Mistakes – What is the biggest mistake you see product and engineering teams making right now?
Turpen: Throwing money at hard problems with little understanding of success and no management of the outcome.
Mitchell: Assuming a tool will solve their problems. Process first, then tool.
Innovation – What is the most innovative thing you’ve seen with product and engineering teams this year that you anticipate other companies following suit in coming years?
Turpen: Moving away from the “big meeting” to an asynchronous, stateful collaboration process.
Predictions – What do you think will remain the same in your industry throughout 2024?
Turpen: Companies who think the answer to their engineering process problems is a monolithic tool will continue to lose ground and engineers to their competitors.
Do you think there will be any major disruptors for product & engineering teams in the coming year? How do you think it will impact the industry?
Turpen: We’ll see the first set of major Intellectual Property (IP) lawsuits based on uncontrolled LLM. This will force companies to think about security and IP protections in their own AI development.
Mitchell: This will not happen in one year, but I foresee AI solutions replacing the need for traditional learning assets like static help guides, training videos, and maybe even support sites. Users don’t need to read a help guide, watch a tutorial, or submit a support ticket if an AI assistant is guiding them in the process and available for quick questions. Effort to build those types of traditional learning assets will be redirected to investments in AI assisted “on the job” learning while using the product.
What do you predict for product & engineering regulations in 2024?
Turpen: A continued increase in the importance of security/safety regulations in the automotive/medical industries with more penalties for poor performance.
Will those trends still be prevalent 5 years from now? 10 years?
Turpen: Yes, this is an area that will only grow in complexity and impact.
- The Seven Steps to Performing FMEA - February 22, 2024
- Overview of FDA ISO 13485 and 21 CFR Part 820 Harmonization - February 20, 2024
- Secure by Design: A Crucial Imperative for Medical Device Teams - February 15, 2024