2020s Predictions: Algorithms, Big Data, and Human Decision

2020s Predictions: Algorithms, Big Data, and Human Decision

January 23, 2020 | Posted by JAMA

Velentium was pleased to contribute to this blog series from JAMA Software, which solicited input from thought leaders across industries to forecast what's next for medical device development and related engineering fields in the coming decade. The post below originally appeared

As we enter a new decade of technological advancements, Jama Software asked select thought leaders from various industries for the trends and events they foresee unfolding over the next 10 years.

In the fourth installment of our 2020s Predictions series, we’re featuring predictions from Robin Calhoun, Senior Product Manager at Jama Software, as well as a certified Scrum Master.

Calhoun uses her education in human behavior and economics to direct product decisions and to manage teams, combining this expertise with the ever-evolving body of knowledge in Agile development practices.


Jama Software: What product development trends are you expecting to take shape in the 2020s? 

Robin Calhoun: The 2020s will bring us increased seamlessness of data-driven decision making — particularly based on complex software algorithms and artificial intelligence. Given that, it will become especially important to understand where company’s decisions came from. Was it a human choice? An unanticipated output of a new, untested algorithm? Both?!

Decisions aided by software, in general, will continue to get more sophisticated and subtle. It’s already a part of our personal lives in the form of “smart,” connected devices (navigation, baking, or choosing a health care provider by using search or asking your smart voice assistant…), and it’s becoming part of how all kinds of decisions are made in product development with predictive software.

It will become important to distinguish where the edges of human decision making are, and what’s outside of our comprehension.

JS: In terms of product and systems development, what do you think will remain the same over the next decade? What will change?  

RC: Even as product complexity increases, it doesn’t take the responsibility away from people owning their product’s results (good and bad). Having tools to help anticipate and understand the way a product works is, and will remain, an essential capability. However, getting good information about what products will do in the wild will increase in difficulty and complexity.

Laws (I think) aren’t going to change to accept “the AI said so!” as if they have a life of their own. It will be important to have clear documentation (in software like Jama’s) about the intention of what’s built, and what you expect it to do, and how you tested it.

Also, a formal verification and validation (V&V) process as well as risk management, or something like it, will likely be used in more industries for this reason – the need to anticipate outcomes of products in many situations.

JS: What sorts of process adjustments do you think development teams will need to make to be successful in the next 10 years? 

RC: Agile and lean processes have made quick iteration, product “experiments” and feedback loops in development popular, and for good reason. They’re valuable in the correct applications. However, it’ll be important to also remember to integrate a robust and repeated mechanism to pause and ask these critical questions: “Why are we building this?”; “What’s the overall vision/value/goals we’re working toward?”; “What decisions lead us to this current situation?”

Balancing process (such as Agile) and continuous realignment to the big values/”whys” will be critical to succeed and compete in the 2020s. It’ll help to have tools that can handle holding the traceability between these different types of information. 

JS: What do you think will be some of the differentiators between a company surviving to see 2030, and those that do not? 

RC: Having clear boundaries and areas of expertise will help companies stand out in a sea of overlapping, and endlessly “integrated” products. That laser-focused vision needs to be captured and shared with everyone making product decisions now more than ever to remain differentiated.

JS: Where do you see Jama Software fitting in as the product development landscape evolves over the next decade, and what can our customers expect in return? 

RC: Jama is a place to manage continuous alignment (through smart traceability between the what and the why), and to drive focus (if it’s not traced to a “why” it’s orphaned data. And potentially disrupting your company’s focus… as described above).

JS: Any other thoughts you’d like to share on the future?

RC: Complexity doesn’t have to mean incomprehensibility or utter unpredictability. It might seem bleak, but there are already practices to manage uncertainty and complexity that haven’t been applied in all industries yet — like risk management and test-driven development. I see those practices expanding simply because it’s a logical way to work (not because of regulations). Run tests and manage risk as you go.

Also never out of style is building in opportunities to pause and ask “does this align with our vision?” Having a record of what you want to build and why is a necessary first step to asking good questions along the way (which Jama is a great tool for).


Get Started On Your Next Project