What is a value engineer?

May 9, 2024
3 min read

What is a value engineer?

In our Accessible AI Talks series with Brian Woodring, and in several of our recent articles, I’ve introduced the concept of the “value engineer”. We have seen some engagement around this idea, so I thought I would expand in this article.

It is really hard to make software. Too hard. At times, it is utterly thankless. Working tirelessly to bring a product to market only to have it miss the mark or miss the window. As one of my favorite clients reminds me so often – time is never our friend. Team environments can be brutal without the right people and the right leadership, and once trust is lost in a team it is very difficult to regain. I’ve said to my kids that trust is lost in buckets and earned in drops. The same goes for teams and the people on them. Lack of trust leads to a toxic team environment where we end up in teams of one – each person or pocket of people working for themselves. Psychological safety erodes. Internally motivated people start to retreat into themselves.

Throw in lack of a shared understanding of a shared vision, forget about it. Nothing valuable is getting shipped. And remember, that is an agile team's single goal – to ship valuable software perceived as valuable by its users.

Now – it is not all bad out there. Despite my ostensible gloom and doom, I have the privilege of serving on some great teams – internal to Phoenix as well as my client teams. Teams that continuously adapt to change, that learn from the past and acknowledge it, that pivot when things are not working. These teams are doing great. However, it is no longer enough to learn from the past. It is now time to learn from the future because the future is happening now – right before our eyes – and it is squarely based on AI and generative AI.

The jobs in software development are changing. Somewhere between one and three years from now, we will see a rapid decline in the number of opportunities for product team members who have less than five years’ experience. And I’m talking about all the roles – from product owners to software engineers, and everything in between. Why? Because AI is eating everything, and AI-augmented software development is here. As Brian pointed out in one of our recent videos, there have been many advances in the developer automation space. Lots of copilot applications, and code generation is not as new as it seems. And that is all great. It is, however, predicated on having the right idea, the right value proposition, the right understanding, and the right language for the right audience.

Enter the value engineer. Value engineering is the process of removing all the waste and manual work in software development and letting generative AI handle that. The value engineer sits on the product development loop and curates results. He, she, or they are empowered with a new augmented product development platform that empowers them to create every artifact across the software development lifecycle with a single click (or maybe a few, but you get the idea).

(Em)powered by Phoenix Burst

We believe that a new role will emerge, one that pairs directly with the customer and the software engineer to rapidly deliver valuable product in about as much time as it takes today to achieve shared understanding (yes that can take a while but, again, you get the point). If we can understand a domain, and rapidly identify its special parts – the parts AI cannot find for us, the parts that come from decades of experience – we can create a product to enable it.

The value engineer is a modern-day superhero for modern-day product development. He, she, or they are a master product owner, a skilled test automation engineer, a powerful guerilla tester, a product designer, a software shipping solution architect – all rolled into one. And this role is emerging now. At PhoenixTeam, we are developing a product that will enable everyone to be a value engineer, and we are using it now. First it was a custom generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) to test our ideas. Now it is an (in development) AI-powered software development platform. At least that is what we hope it will be. We are still figuring it out. Join us for a preview at the MISMO AI summit in June in Las Vegas where we will show the first real version of our idea – Phoenix Burst.

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