EP020: Developing Practical IoT Products - An Interview with TechProductManagement's Daniel Elizalde
This is an episode of the "Ventures in Industrial IoT" series brought to you by GE Ventures. In the series we explore success factors and challenges in Industrial IoT markets with CEOs, investors and experts.
IoT Spotlight Podcast introduction:
The IIoT Spotlight Podcast shines a light on Industrial IoT solutions that are impacting businesses today. Every episode we interview an expert about a specific IoT use case. Our goal is to provide insight into the planning and implementation of IIoT systems, from new business models to technology architecture selection to data ownership and security. The IIoT Spotlight is produced by IoT ONE, an information platform that provides market insight, partner development, and go-to-market support for technology providers, end users, and investors. Don't forget to follow us on twitter. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite of its potential to revolutionize industry and solve a lot of the world's biggest problems, IoT is still a very niche area and has even garnered a reputation of being somewhat nebulous at times. This has proven to be a nightmare for many product development managers who want to devise a cohesive IoT product strategy.
In the fifth installment of the "Ventures in Industrial IoT series" brought to you by GE Ventures, we get back to basics with TechProductManagement's Daniel Elizalde. Daniel is the creator of the IoT Decision Framework which helps product leaders make informed decisions about adding digital value to their products in an intuitive step-by-step manner.
Learn more about Daniel's IoT Decision Framework and how you can even gain IoT product manager certification:
IoT Decision Framework:
The IoT Product Manager Certificate Program (online):
Learn more about GE Ventures: https://www.geventures.com/
Daniel Elizalde has a passion and depth of experience in the area of product management for the Internet of Things. He has experience managing IoT product portfolios and the complete lifecycle of end-to-end IoT solutions, including hardware, embedded software, cloud platforms, and user applications. His diverse background includes working at Fortune 500 companies and growth-stage start-ups, as well as product companies and services companies.
Outside of work, Daniel is the author of the no.1 blog on IoT product management called TechProductManagement and the creator of the IoT Decision Framework. He also teaches the course "Product Management for the Internet of Things" at Stanford Continuing Studies which is attended by IoT product managers from leading Silicon Valley Companies.
TechProductManagement provides essential training and coaching for Product Managers building IoT products. They provide training in 3 ways:
- Online via The IoT Product Manager Certificate Course
- At Stanford University via the "Product Management for the Internet of Things" course
- Onsite via corporate workshops
Product Managers from top Silicon Valley companies have taken our courses, including PMs from GE, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Ayla, Cisco, Oracle, and many more.
Learn more about TechProductManagement:
On the profile of people who attend TechProductManagement courses:
"It is very varied but the common thread is its product leaders looking to advance their product offering by making it a connected offering and have some digital value there."
"IoT products are more like a system than a product itself. So it has an integration component and it has a services component."
On focusing on solutions that are specialized for a particular industry or vertical:
"So focus on one, prove the value, get your foothold there and then figure out how you can scale to other verticals."
On the tradeoff between creating the perfect product and going to market quickly:
"Really understand what the problem they are trying to solve and for whom. And then what is the minimum viable product (MVP) they can put out so they can test out the market ad start ironing out the kinks."
"It's better to use as much off-the-shelf technology as you can to put something together because you're really looking to test out that value proposition that you are providing not necessarily the technological implementation."
And national instruments on their product management. And today we're going to be looking at. Daniel's product management framework.
And they will be looking at how he applies that to some companies that he's worked with to help them develop new IoT solutions. Daniel before we jump into the framework. Give me a little background. How did you end up moving from the corporate side working with specific companies working with National Instruments for example towards now full time teaching the practice of IoT product product management.
Sure. First of all thank you so much Erik for having me on the show. I'm really excited to be here.A little bit of
background about myself. I've been. Working with kinetic products for about 18 years and I started my career at National Instruments assistance engineer had the opportunity to work in. The consulting teams. Designing these types of solutions for. Many industries and throughout my career. I've worked mostly in product. Leadership roles. And I've done everything from single contributor to my last role. At Stem was head of products for.
Creating a solution for adding energy storage to the smart grid. And one of the constants that I've seen throughout my my career is the difficulty in. Managing. What we call today IoT products that had a lot of different names throughout the years. Because it's a combination of technology and business strategy. And.
User Experience strategy data strategy. And I've always been passionate about. Sharing this knowledge and about consulting and training.
Teams. And so after many years working. In these companies doing these products I decided to take a step back and instead of having the impact on a single product or a single company. Can I share some of my lessons learned with a broader audience so I can benefit.
More companies and more product teams around the world. And that's when I. Decided to step back. And start my practice focusing on. IoT product management. And I had the opportunity to consult with companies and an advisory role to teach at Stanford continuing studies which I. Trained hundreds. Of product people in Silicon Valley. And then I also launched an online course to share this. Knowledge more broadly around the world. So it's been a really. Interesting and. Rewarding experience to. Learn from these product teams about their challenges in IoT and share my experiences which is. That the core of what I teach is a structured approach. On how to manage IoT products.
Great and who do you find that you are normally working with. So at Stanford maybe you can contrast Stanford and the online courses. Are these typically. SMA teams that are getting into IoT maybe have a great idea but getting in for the first time. Are they multinational teams that are looking at maybe transforming the traditional product line who would be led to maybe there's not a typical student but maybe can give us a bit of a cross-section of the type of people that you're working with.
Definitely I can approach it from two perspectives. I think from the individual roles. I would say about. 60 percent of my. Students and clients are senior product managers. There are. Have been very successful in their role in the past but they're now getting into IoT and realizing that it's way more complex. Than they.
Had experienced. So they. Come to my courses and I look at my material. About 30 percent. are executives. That are. In a company that is adopting. IoT for the first time and they're looking to understand how to. Create a cohesive strategy. Get buy in from other. People understand what industry is doing and then about 10 percent is people that are looking to get into. IoT or product management. So they are engineering managers. Experience designers. Data Scientist. Those. Professions and then from a company perspective it's interesting it's divided almost. In.
Three ways. So a third of my audience is startups very small companies that are looking to figure out. How to take their idea to market. About a third of the companies are. Middle sized companies that are launching IoT products and they want to scale a little bit more. And about a third is that the Fortune 20. Companies that. Are looking for a structured approach to. Grapple with IoT within their organization and are trying to breach the silos and they're trying to get a common understanding on how to approach this. So it is very
Varied. But the common thread is its product leaders. Looking to
advance their product offering. By making it a connected offering and have some digital value there.
Interesting and then I imagine that the you know regardless of where they're coming from they're engaging with your framework and of your methodology. But to what extent are they also engaging with each other maybe more at Stanford than online. I'm not sure but I would imagine that it's also interesting for somebody that's come in from a more traditional multinational perspective to be learning the topic together with kind of a young startup because they also have a different perspective. So potentially some some insight to share with each other. And that is right online it's. There's not a lot of interaction or do I have a private LinkedIn group where anybody that takes us takes my courses can.
Join in. Share and join that community. During the Stanford course is the way they organize the classes is that there's always a. Group. Project that they have to do throughout the eight weeks of the course. And. I organize them via industry interests. So for example anybody that has interest. In energy. You can form a group if you have interest in. Smart homes form a group if you have interest in healthcare form a group and within those groups you can have people that are from. Fortune three companies. Or you can have people that are.
From a two person startup. So the synergy between them and the exchange of ideas is really interesting to see how they approach. Their particular projects throughout the class.
Okay great. And I really want to get into the framework. But one last question just to kind of frame our understanding you're focused on product management. My my feeling is that in IoT a lot of solutions are more projects than products meaning that there's still a lot of customization. Maybe if we look back in five or 10 years these will have evolved into kind of more plug and play products but a lot of the companies that I see through IoT ONE for example are basically working with the customer and developing a solution for them. And it feels a lot more like a project. Is that something that you also grapple with how to do. It's a highly customized solutions that might not be an you know it just kind of how do I develop this device but it might be what's the architecture of the system and then looking at it from a from that perspective.
That's a great question and I think that speaks a lot about the state of the industry today. What I want to teach is that. My perspective is that IoT products are more. Like a system.
Than a product itself. So it has an integration component and it has a services.
Component. So companies that are looking to get into. IoT. They need to realize that there's a lot more than just. The products that people buy. There's also a certain integration component that could be hardware software could be APIs could be integration with existing systems.
And there's also probably a services component. So. Part of what. My framework helps them identify is all these different things that you need to. Have in order to make a product successful. So even though I focused on product management for IoT. In reality where people walk out of my classes with is an idea of how to create a cohesive product strategy. Because it brings together all these different areas that you need to think about. And make decisions about. Throughout the life of your product.
Gotcha. Great. So let's let's dig into the IoT decision framework. Maybe you can first give us a high level overview. I'd also be interested in hearing how you conceptualize this. What was the inspiration or what experience led you to to this structure.
Yeah of course. So the reason I came up with this idea was out of my own need of. Needing to talk. To. People in my own company. And to train. My. Product team. On. What is it that we are doing and what happens with IoT I'm sure you've experienced it as well. Is that. It combines a lot of different disciplines and it's really.
Hard to put your finger on what exactly are we doing. What is this. IoT thing is very nebulous. So I wanted a way to break out IoT into. Basic building blocks. That help you articulate. What are we talking about and how does this translate to. Technology that I can actually.
Touch and implement. Today. And so that was the. The.
Reason why I created a framework and of course it went through several iterations me being a product person. Right I tried it out in several forms until it got to.
The form that is today and what I teach today. So the framework has two parts. And. I'll share a link with you so you can be included with your. With your show notes. But if you think about it it's. Think of it as a matrix and it has two axis. And. The.
X axis you have what I call the IoT technology stack. So these are the five.
Technology pieces that every IoT product. It. Is an abstraction.
Right. But it helps us. Identify what are we talking about. So the technology stack has this by building blocks which are. Device hardware. Device Software. Communications cloud platform. And cloud applications. An end-to-end IoT product will have all of those. But there are some companies that just provide one of the layers that say if you are a cloud platform companies you just focus on that. But it's important to understand how all the other pieces fit together.
So that's the first part of the framework. The second part is what I call decision areas. And these are different areas in which product leaders need to think about and make decisions throughout. The life of your product. And I have identified six. Decision areas.
And I use them in this particular order. So from top to bottom it's the user experience decision area. Data. Business. Technology security and standards and regulations. And the way you use a framework is by evaluating decisions at each decision area.
Across each of the layers of IoT technology stack. So for example if you're talking about the. U.S.. Decision area that you'll need to evaluate. How to create a great user experience at the device hardware level at the device software level. Communications level. Cloud platform. And cloud applications. So that gives you a structured approach. To go through all the different decisions that you have to make across the technology stack to make sure that. First of all. Have the questions to ask. And then have a way to. Basically check the boxes on making sure that you cover all these different areas.
That are important when creating a part of strategy. And I can go deeper into each of the areas but once if you have questions.
One of the challenges that I personally have when I'm kind of evaluating solutions is that these areas are all interlinked right. So if I'm maybe first I think around the perfect UX. Ok I'm quite confident that we have a great UX. And then when we get down to security we find that the security requirements disrupt the UX right so they.
They require a lot of behavior in interfaces that disrupt the flow the process flow and so forth or don't allow us to implement something.
So there's a lot of back and forth. Maybe you can go into I mean I'm sure you can walk us through the process. But. My my gut is that this is going to be the challenge is that as you're walking through you you may be first identify a great UX and then OK the right data sources. But as you move down the stack you're going to have to revert back and start challenging some of your previous assumptions and revising your plan and that this is going to be a very iterative process. I was I was talking with a fellow at Stanford. Last week and he pointed out that there's a lot of decision paralysis where. People are looking at this matrix. Maybe they don't have the framework that you've laid out but mentally they're looking at these different areas. And.
It's very difficult to find the optimal solution because you know there is no there's no one solution that optimally satisfies kind of all criteria here. And so it's around the balances and I think that's the big struggle. Maybe you can walk through how you use this framework to help companies make rational decisions when there's just a great deal of tradeoff between these 6 decision areas that you outlined.
Now that's an excellent observation and that's one of the things. That. People benefit the most when using my framework is because it already lays out all these different. Decision areas that you have to think about. In an order.
That is progressive. And I'll explain why I organized it this way. But. A lot of companies are thinking about these things but they don't have a way to capture it or just think it in an organized way. So. It turns out to be.
All over the place or different departments are thinking about different parameters. So. By having one way of looking at things and a. Step by step process. It helps a lot with. Categorizing those decisions and then. Going into. The tradeoffs. Of each of the areas. So let me walk you through what. Each of the decision area covers and how they. Build on each other and why I've built them in this order.
So the first incision area is the what I call the UX decision area the user experience and. This is not. Just the aesthetics or the color or this is really. Understanding who your target audience is. And so the question that you want to answer in the UX decision area is. Who are your users. And those mean. Internal users.
And customer users. And what are their needs. And the reason why I started with this decision is because if you don't understand who your users are and what are their needs and nothing else matters. And when I do. Advisory roles with companies sometimes. Companies cannot get past. This decision area because they can't really articulate what it is that that they're trying to solve. So by understanding that that's the first step. And of course as I mentioned before you try to answer that question. Across the IoT technology stack Who are your users at the device hardware level, at the device software level. The communications level. The cloud buffer level. And cloud applications. Because as you know. Especially in industrial products there's a lot of different users and whoever is going to install the hardware is going to be probably different than the person that's going to be monitoring the data. Versus the person that's going to be. Providing the maintenance and the product managers who need to understand all these different use cases. And make tradeoffs and make sure that you're covering all of them. So in what I teach in each decision area is how to identify all those different users. So that you can start making decisions. The next decision areas that what I call a data position area. So once you understand your users. Based on the user's needs what data. Needs to flow through the stack. So what data needs to be collected at the device hardware. What data needs to be processed? And generated at the device level. What data needs to be transmitted into the communication channel. To get to the cloud. What data needs to be processed at the cloud and what data is to be presented to the user. And. Then. Once you understand the users and the data then you can go into. The business decision area. Here. You're trying to answer the question How will you monetize your solution. What are your costs.
And your build versus buy criteria. And of course you answered those questions. Across the stack. So for example we like build or buy the device hardware. Build or Buy the embedded software. Etc.. And this is a key aspect is that. I focus on the business aspect of monetization. Once you understand your users and once you understand your data needs. A lot of companies lead with technology. And then try to build a business case around it but that usually doesn't work. The next decision area is technology. So once I know my users and I know what data is needed and I know how I'm going to monetize it my business model and cost. Then I can choose what technology I need.
In order to deliver this solution. The next decision area is the security decision area. And. Although this is later in the framework. It is. Baked in. In the thought process so it's not going to wait.
Until you release the product to think about security. You were doing this before you even start. Building anything. And the question that you're looking to answer here is how will I secure each layer.
of the IoT technologies stack.
How will I secure my device hardware. How will I secure my the software, communications, et cetera. And then the last decision area is standards and regulations. The questions that you want to answer here is what standards or regulations. Applied to your product to your customer and to your industry.
At each layer of the stack.
So those are the areas. And that's the order that I recommend. And then once you go through the last one as you mentioned before. You iterate. You go back to the beginning and say based on all the other decisions that I've made. How do each of the previous decision areas. Change. And you do that a couple of times to get to what I call a steady state making sure that now all those decisions are consistent.
With each other. And when you have all the decisions being consistent. That's when you have a cohesive product strategy. And then to your question about tradeoffs. At that point is when you can start making sure. You talk to either your customers or to internal teams.
About what is more important for you. For example. Just like you mention. If it turns out that providing the best user experience. Is going to make it too expensive and you won't be able to support your business model.
Okay. What gives. Right. It's okay to raise the price or is it better to reduce the experience. Or it turns out that security you're going to need to. Invest a.
Big piece of money and security that breaks your business model. Well. What are the risks and what are you willing to. Have a little bit less stringent security in exchange of.
Better costs initially. The key here is that now you have the tools to make those decisions because you're not thinking about it in a vacuum. You've done the work. And in my classes. My students fill out my IoT decision workbook. Which is a companion to the framework and it has.
A lot of the questions that you need to answer.
And at least you have a basis to make those decisions. What happens sometimes that I've seen with companies is that they don't have.
A way to make these decisions in an organized way.
Gotcha. Okay. I think very clear there's a very challenging environment here. I think your framework gives it a great structure. A couple questions I have for how to address kind of the still the complexity of the solution. So. My assumption correct me if I'm wrong my assumption is that a lot of companies would want to start with technology because that's what they would take as given. So you are we we have this technology this is what we have and we want to find applications for it and then they would basically want to move that technology from the fourth place in your stack up to number one and say okay based on this technology what can we do with it is that often the initial approach that people would take.
Yes I see that approach to be more common in smaller companies specialty startups here in the Bay Area. They have this technological idea. And they.
Want to push that forward. And. I've actually had a few. Success stories in that sense where when I have discussions with. These companies. And we go from the beginning and say let's forget your technology let's try to figure out what. Problem you're really looking to solve and for whom and. Do some research. Right. They realize that actually there is no market for that solution or that the solution. In the way that they were packaging. Was. Not going to work. And so. That helps them. Save a lot of money because otherwise they would have been ready to start. Engaging. Chinese manufacturers to produce at scale when they don't even know if they have a valid product. And so. My first. Recommendation is always to be able to see if you can articulate your value proposition. If you understand your users. And.
You can validate that and then move to the next one and the next one a connection. So. That's always been my approach and. That's always the first thing that I spent with when I talked to customers and even my students is to try to. Take them away from the technological. Solution. Because from my experience. Being a head of product and even an engineer. I know that we can build.
Pretty much whatever we want. But that's not the problem with the State of the art of technology today. The real problem is is there value is people going to. Pay for that solution or we're solving an important problem.
Gotcha. So we could be addressing quite a few. I mean when I talk to younger companies in particular often ask them Who is your target market. And we have a list of 27 industries and quite a few companies will just go down the list and check all the industries and say Yeah all these guys can use our technology. Well that's that's great. But like who are you actually trying to sell to. So this process I guess you could starting at UX you could look at quite a few different potential user groups. Is that is that how you approach this. Well you basically say let's iterate through this framework very quickly with all of the different potentials and then we'll maybe prioritize the ones that are most interesting and take that you know take that further. Or how do you how do you apply this to environments where there are multiple potential. End user groups. And so it's and until you kind of play that out at least to the technology standpoint you know. You need to I guess take that discussion forward so that you can see do we actually have the UX The data the business and the technology are all aligned.
And then maybe it makes sense to also look at security standards.
I guess how do you address that challenge.
Yeah that's exactly right. The way I address it is by focusing on. One particular. User type and identifying if there pain is. Enough that they are willing to pay for it. The fact that their solution can be. In many. Can work in many different industries or verticals doesn't mean that.
It will. And also. I always. Ground. My students and companies that I work with in the size of their company. If you're a small startup. Then you even if your product was. Scalable to multiple verticals you don't have the resources right now to scale at that level. So focus on one prove.
Their value. Get your foothold there and then. Figure out how you can scale to other vertical. If that makes sense but. One of the main things I work with companies is narrowing down your use of personas narrowing down narrow down narrowing down. And then the other thing is when I mention about the U.S. mission area apart identifying your users. Internal and external. By internal I also mean for example your sales team. So when you start looking at the different internal teams that are required. To move forward. A product.
Is just not the product itself. Everything that revolves around it. So. Do you have. This. Sales Team. To actually go and sell into 27 different verticals. You have the marketing reach to be able to market properly to 27 different markets. Probably not quite so. That way you can also help and narrow down and realize that you have to just focus on one market. There's going to be. A myriad of internal and external users are going to have to satisfy to begin with. And that's going to be challenging. The other thing that I always point out and this is another aspect that the framework is useful is to show the complexity. Of an IoT product. The fact that you have. Five layers of the outage technology stack makes it way more complicated then if you're just doing a mobile app for example which is complex enough. So given the complexity and uncertainty of building an IoT product. And you still want to scale that to 27 verticals a first time that is just not manageable. So I try to. Advocate for reducing it just because. The complexity. And the. Companies go through the framework and they start uncovering. All the different questions and complexity they very quickly realized that having.
10 personas is too much and having five personas is too much.
Okay let's start with one. Otherwise it's going to be. No great.
And I'm not sure if you have kind of a ballpark number. But what you believe is the average or the range of technology providers that are involved in a typical solution. So we're looking across these five layers of the stack are we talking typically around three or five different technology providers are we looking at a complete solution maybe into into 10 or 20 providers.
Yeah that's a great question. I I depends on the industry. But usually you have. At least one or two with the device hardware layer because you have sensors then you have the data acquisition and. Instrumentation and the gateway. Type hardware. And you probably have a handful. in the device software community everything from. That device operating system and then you need some supporting software like over the air updates and. Identity Management and Security Management those kind of things. And that's.
On top of what your application is. For communications. You will have a main communication provider to the cloud but also you might need to communicate with local devices.
Especially in industrial. That's very common. So you have other providers or integrate with you. At least. One or two for the cloud and for analytics software. And then several others for clarification. So it becomes a pretty big. Ecosystem. And. That is one of the biggest lessons that I always share with. My students and companies that.
I believe IoT is an ecosystem play. I think one of the biggest challenges that companies make. Is that. They go. It thinking that. They have to do everything. And oftentimes you see software companies starting to do hardware or sensors or a hardware company starting to get into embedded software. And it's just. It's just really hard. My advice is always to be. Mindful of what are your core competencies. And then. Part of the role of a product leader is to focus your engineering team on that. And building a strong. Partner ecosystem that can support. The rest of the end to end stack.
Perfect and that's actually a great transition maybe to shifting the conversation to some examples of how companies are practically using this framework to help drive their product development. I know we have to keep names confidential here but can you think of maybe a company that. Had a challenge with let's say they have a particular need in mind. And they use the framework to help manage the complexity and put their technology in the scope of a larger larger solution where they were able to identify which areas they want to focus on internalizing and which areas they are going to work with partners on. Maybe we can use that then as kind of a jump off point to speak around a particular company's experience using the IoT decision framework.
Yes for sure. I can tell you about a lot of different perspectives. I think one interesting one. A small startup that was working or is working on. The smart home. Type of. Environment. And. I think this was the of the typical examples where you're leading with technology. And they had a. Really interesting technological solution. And they were interested in figuring out how they commercialize that. And. I engage with them and we. Started going through a framework. And. That has happened very often. We were not able to get past UX decision area because it was not very clear. How.
What problem exactly they were going to solve. And so instead of pushing through the next stages of engineering. The next. steps that I recommended were to. Try to do more of that. Customer Development UX Research to really identify who are you selling to. And figure out if. They actually need. Your solution.
Right. So that was a big. Moment for them to understand all the different. Pieces that. Are involved. And how. Their technology might not.
Really have a place right. So. Being able to. Stop and take a step back and say instead of. Putting all of our. Startup resources in engineering right now they actually. Put them on. Customer Development and actually. Hash out our product strategy.
And then move forward. So. That's an example off. By being able to have a framework point to and be.
Open to discussion. They were able to. Get to these conclusions. One I'll please please continue. I was going to say give you a different example or or if you want to ask a question.
No. Just a follow up there so I was talking with the guys over G.E. ventures the other day and they're saying what they're really trying to focus on is how they can provide value for startups. You know aside from financing and this was one of the main areas that they identified was how you know they have. Fairly good insight through GE digital and so forth into specific real end user demand. So people are looking for a solution to this problem and they can potentially help startups to identify user demand. There's there's basically an open market here if you if your solution is the right fit but then it's it's also a matter of finding that that right partner. So when we get down to the business and technology levels around finding the partners that can help you to. Fill out your solution or at the UX finding the partners that can help you to identify because a lot of startups are they're not coming from you know. The there was a company that was let's say disrupting the construction business and the CEO made the point. I've never worked in the industry before. I have no experience here. And that maybe gives them a fresh perspective. But it also means that they have very little insight into what the actual the actual life on the ground is. In the framework. To what extent do you do encourage this to encourage kind of this startup connecting with a large company or how do companies find this information. If they're from a startup perspective for example and they I mean you said they can build out their sales teams some companies. That's an option some companies don't have the funding to do that. So in order to find the missing technology find the missing information around actual end user requirements. What approach do you recommend.
Yeah very very good points. A lot of my goals when working with companies and students is to help them understand what questions. They need to ask because oftentimes IoT being so complex is hard to even know.
The questions to ask. Like for example but you need a specialized sales force that you're going to go into different verticals. And so. By going through the framework they identify all these different things that you always take a step back and say OK we really want to make this.
Happen. What are the different players that we need. I teach. A couple of. Techniques to. Have a build versus buy. Decision criteria. To uncover. Users at different. Stages of the IoT lifecycle. So by combining all those different things you realize all the things that you're going to need. Then it's up to you as a company to figure out. How do you. Actually. Go ahead and do that. And of course I I sometimes serve as an advisor and I said well based on my experience I recommend you look at this this and this. But a lot of it the "a-ha!" moment comes from. Just knowing that they have. To do that. And in a parallel example. It's been really interesting to me. There's been several companies that have approached me. As a. Way to train their customers on creating a product strategy. So these are companies that produce. Either. Technology for each part of the of technology stock or they are. Contract manufacturers. Or they are.
Solution integrators. And one of their main struggles is that their customers. Don't come to them with a. Cohesive strategy. So they. Kind of get the feeling that they're not going to be successful therefore they won't be able to be successful. And so I've been working with some of them to help train their customers. To Iron Out Their strategy before they go into working with this partner whatever that might be. So.
That's an interesting way of how we're seeing the ecosystem play together. But this truly. A lot of what I'm seeing is this gap. Of understanding all the different pieces how they fit together. To create a strategy in creating a plan moving forward.
A very interesting dynamic but I guess that makes sense because in SI (System Integration) in order to be successful they need the product. The solution to scale.
No no reason. Helping to bring a product to market if it's not going to grow into a sizable business. Daniel talk to us a little bit about let's say the tradeoff between perfection and just getting a good product out to POC or to market so. Because of the complexity of an IoT. Product. There's a lot of. Potential decision bottlenecks where you could be spending months looking for the right partner or developing the right technology. And there's also a risk in pushing out something that doesn't meet a real need or has. A security concern or a technology gap that's going to influence usability. So not an easy decision but how do you help companies to address this. Go no go decision.
Yeah I think that's an excellent question. And the way I. Advise companies is to. Really understand what the problem they are trying to solve. And for whom. And then what is the minimum.
Viable product that they can put out. I know that that's where it's overused but what does the minimum thing that they can create so that they can test out. The market and start ironing out the kinks. And. The key here that I recommend is that. For your first iteration of the product to gain traction. It's better to use as much off the shelf. Technology as you can to put something together because you're really looking. To. Test out. That. Value proposition that you are providing not necessarily the technological implementation. For example. There are. Some companies that. They want to wait. A year. Before launching their first. Pilot. Because they want. The hardware to be reduced to a size where it's manageable and could be easy. To sell.
You know from a Best Buy kind of thing right. Or if there are industrial companies you know they want to. Have a certain amount of power or a set amount of things. And they want to go through that whole hardware process to come up with a product that looks. Kind of like the final version. Just to see if they can try out the concept. And. My advice always been. Use off the shelf as much as you can. Don't worry about. Cost or size. When you are just trying to prove out the concept.
You could always miniaturize it later. You can always reduce the cost later but if you get. The value proposition. And the willingness to pay it wrong. There's nothing else. You can do and especially in industrial type of products. What customers are really buying is a solution to a problem. And that has usually a service attached to it so you can do all that with that clunky. Solution and put together with off the shelf.
Parts. But what you're after is. Demonstrating the concept and the viability.
Totally makes sense and then do you recommend that companies in order to get this feedback they go through a kind of a crowdsourcing website if they're on the consumer market or they just put together kind of a pilot group of customers that they have a good relationship with if they're in the industrial or how do they actually get this then this kind of beta version of the product out into customers hands so that they can get the input that they need.
Yeah and those are some of the traditional product management techniques that you can see about putting your product in the hands of.
Your customers. And if you are in an industrial way for example just as you mentioned. Find a few customers that are willing to try out your product that you have identified the need and they're willing to try something out. And build those relationships with them. But the important thing is to. Be very clear that they are. They are helping you finalize the details and they're really testing out this. I see some companies that are. Doing their pilot projects but they're already trying to sell into critical infrastructure into something that is really vital for the company.
And that is there's a lot of risk. So you want to be. Driving in the real world with the minimum risk possible. And find those champions that can help you get there.
And it's not. It's easier said than done but especially in industrial IoT. There's there's millions of dollars. At Play. And you don't have that luxury of getting it wrong. When you put it in full production so. It's better to start small and until you get it right and then go on from there. Plus you also need to be. The referrals and the testimonials of the first happy customer and how you. How you build it up following the. Philosophy of. Crossing the Chasm.
Book. If you're familiar with that one.
Daniel I'm wondering if you can give me one more case study and what I haven't. So you've you've explained kind of how a technology startup could use this framework they have. Maybe they've already brought a technology through development and now they're looking for the market or or a multinational that maybe knows where the market is and they're trying to figure out the technology. There's a third group that I think is quite interesting because if we look at kind of the economy a lot of the economy is still driven by. Medium sized companies building simple things that we've been using for the past hundred years or screwdrivers and and so forth the kind of things that we don't really think about. And these companies I feel like in the economy are are feeling a bit of the pinch right there's a lot of VC money trust fund startups and the larger technology corporates are doing quite well. But then these companies kind of in the middle of the economy these more traditional industries feeling quite a strong pinch. I have a friend that is on a little bit of a mission to try to help some of these companies.
you know evolve their products. He has you know he has a yacht and so he knows that one of the problems in a yard is if you screw a bolt too tight or too loose it can be a very expensive problem because it can it can break or it can leak. And if you have a leak on a boat you know that that that becomes a hefty bill. And so he was looking at helping a company develop kind of a smart screwdriver where it only applies the right amount of torque just as an example. But.
Do you have experience where you're working with a very traditional kind of old school business building a very traditional product and this type of company is now trying to think how do we bring our product into the 21st century so to speak or to differentiate ourselves.
Yeah that's a really good good talent to have and I think that I have work with some companies like that.
We're trying to figure out. So. So. How do we leverage.
This and the discussions that I've had with them is to think about IoT as a tool. It's not a silver bullet or nothing else it's just a tool. The. Problems that your customers have. They've had them already and they've had them for a long time.
So your product is not coming in and discovering new problems to solve. What. I recommend is thinking of how can you. Leverage IoT to provide a better faster cheaper solution.
To problems that your customers already have. So part of the challenge there is understanding what are. Those. Customers. Problems. And so. You just mentioned a perfect example of the yachts and the problem that if you screw something too. Much. Then water gets in. And that's the problem. Now what does IoT.
Give you. It provides the ability to have sensors so that you can. Measure the world around it. Provide some intelligence with that data either locally or on the cloud. So that you can.
Either improve a process or reduce time reduce costs etc..
So the challenge with the yacht. It existed already. But you were able to provide a better faster cheaper solution by incorporating. Some of the tenets of IoT.
That's where the companies should move forward. And in the discussions that I had with companies sometimes they say. Well we're a traditional company. And we want to just. Add some sensors to generate some data. Put.
But why or what is that. What is the benefit. I I work with a company that did a. Monitoring of cold storage for supermarkets. And. They were thinking of adding more sensors to check for the temperature. And.
Displayed on the dashboard. And. My question as we were working together with what what what is. The problem that the customer is not asking for more temperature data. The real problem is that if.
The refrigerator breaks they lose millions of dollars in their food and they affect their supply chain. So. How can you really help them solve. That particular problem.
By adding sensors and actuators and being able to remotely controlled us. That's kind of the discussions. That I actually have. About. Making up something better faster cheaper with the technology that we have available today.
Right. Yeah I love that perspective. IoT it's just another set of technologies that's come into market and it's just a question of can those technologies help you to build a better product. Daniel I love what you're doing. Anything else that you want to share with us. Before we we round out the podcast.
No thank you. I want to just thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. And I believe IoT has a lot of potential to solve a lot of. Big problems that we have in the world today. And I.
Do believe that the biggest trend in IoT is not necessarily all this myriad of technology is what it's about. That being. The case that back figuring out your product strategy and figure out. What is a problem that you're really trying to solve and doing it. Better. I think. As companies continue to. Take that step back. And that becomes a trend. That's the only. Time we're going to be able to see. The real adoption of IoT. Because it is focused on solving problems and of course. Resourcing more. Return of investment and revenue et cetera. So. I encourage all companies to take a step back and think about their holistic. Products strategy. And of course they can use a framework like mine. And. You are. Quite different courses online and Stanford etc..
To help them kind of align all the different pieces. So I think it's. IoT is more. of a jigsaw puzzle
Right it's all about putting all these different pieces together. And.
So that you can make the right decisions.
Absolutely agree. Daniel we'll put the links to you or your Web site in your Stanford course in the show notes. But how do you prefer. People that are listening to reach out to you if somebody is interested in learning more about the framework or discussing a project with you. For sure.
People can go directly to techproductmanagement.com and they can contact me through there. The. Easiest way to contact me is via email. You can reach me at email@example.com. Or Twitter as well. @delizalde. So. There are those where it work.
I'm a LinkedIn as well. So love to hear from. From. Different people see how. They're managing their IoT. Process and. Hopefully. I can. Be a little bit of assistance in. Providing a structured approach which is what I strive to do.
All right Daniel thanks so much for your time.