June Severino Feldman
Chief Marketing Officer
Intelligent Product Solutions (IPS)
Many product developers and producers count themselves among those on the cutting edge of innovative design for smart products. But are there times when it doesn’t make sense for a product to be connected? Is every IoT product a surefire success? There are some foundational ideas to keep in mind and questions to ask when determining whether smart technology fits for a product and when they’re adhered to, one can more assured of enduring product success.
Do You and/or Your Company Have a Good Understanding of What Deployment Means for your Business Model?
Consider this hypothetical use case:
Company P has been in the business of producing and selling sorority and fraternity pins for decades. The custom-made pins sell well and have created a steady stream of revenue for the company. While considering ways to grow and expand, Company P hires a Product Manager in favor of connecting the pins to the internet and connecting wearers to one another through an online community. Management is enthusiastic about the possibilities for growth in sales through the membership club until its COO asks about who will support the new digital infrastructure. The team then takes a long look at the cost to make the pins “smart”, the significant cost to change from analog to a digital customer service structure which would require continual maintenance for the life of the product as well as ongoing software upgrades and distribution. Understanding that making connecting the pins would demand a radical change to their business model, Company P decides to forgo the idea.
While chances are quite high that this was a very good decision, there have clearly been many compelling products and categories that have undergone super-successful transformations to IoT, including home security, home environmental regulation, connected appliances and digital assistants such as Alexa. Undoubtedly, these successes were heavily researched and planned for before launching the development process.
Is There a Clearly Definable Upside for your Customers?
How about an IoT stapler that lets users know when they’re running low on staples and sends alerts to prompt refills? Does your customer want this product? And how much more would they have to pay for your stapler in order for you realize ROI within a tolerable amount of time?
Before embarking on any IoT transformations of well-loved mechanical products, canvass your users thoroughly regarding proposed features, benefits of the smart stapler, as well as the price points at which you plan to offer it. Be sure to get feedback from a broad swath of your customer base. You may find that they’re fine with running out of staples without receiving alerts to their devices: that the product would not create sufficient value to warrant the costs of design and development.
Do Your Team and Upper Management Have a Clear Understanding of How Much Time Development Will Take and the Related Costs?
Do your engineering teams understand the difference between small run demo prototypes (perhaps built with Arduino boards or the like…) and product designs that are designed for manufacturing? While completing working first-run prototypes is a major accomplishment it is only the very beginning of the development process.
The manufactured product must be designed for optimal size and reliability and meet cost targets. Availability of component parts must be considered. Embedded software must be easily updatable and application software scalable.
Is There Alignment Across the Company re: Allocating All the Resources to Ensure Success?
Has leadership crafted, agreed upon and widely shared a clear change story to gain alignment across all sectors of the company? Once design for manufacturing and scalability have been completed and cost targets met, has everyone been made aware of supply chain and logistics issues? Sales and marketing should be well informed by the time the product is in production or before.
Take the Time to Understand What Can and Might Go Wrong to Maximize Success
It’s safe to assume that surprises, good and bad, await those who embark on the IoT product development path. It can be a messy undertaking, especially the first time out. The more elements there are in the product, the more opportunities for mishaps that cost time and money. In the end, the only true way to know when an IoT Solution fits your product is through a thorough product lifecycle evaluation. But because there are so many categories where products can have added value with IoT technologies the potential rewards can also be great.