How Generative AI Will Impact Product Engineering Teams | by Mark Ridley | Jul, 2023

A group of computer programmers lit in green light
Image by author using Midjourney

What impact will Generative AI coding and productivity tools have on teams that build software products?

I think it’s probably safe to assume that we’re now past the point where there is still any debate that generative AI tools — like ChatGPT, Midjourney and Dall-E — are going to make an impact on the way that we work. The only remaining questions are really ‘how big?’ and ‘when?’

For the past few months I have often found that when I think about staffing tech teams, I end up questioning a pretty stable model for teams that I’ve been able to rely on for years. With the speed of the evolution in Generative AI tools and the amount of funding being redirected into the space, there’s one thought that keeps troubling me:

The next-generation product engineering team will probably have far fewer engineers than today.

In this series of six articles I’m going to explore the current state and structure of teams that build digital products, the dramatic shift that has become apparent in the last few months and what the potential impact of the new generation of AI coding tools will have on teams themselves. By the end of the article, Technology, Data, and Product leaders, as well as engineers themselves, should understand the scope of the change and have a foundation with which to consider how they will respond.

This series is primarily aimed at technology, data and product leaders with an understanding of product development, but I’ve tried to explain any more technical concepts in context where I can. It is not an exploration or comparison of AI tools in detail, but rather the impact that they may have on teams.

Five to One. This is my very rough rule of thumb for the number of engineers per product manager in a team that builds digital products.

My day job is working as a consulting CTO, advising executive teams or working directly alongside product & tech leaders on their strategy and the structure of their product & tech teams. When someone asks for advice on how to structure their product engineering teams, my answer will invariably…

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