The day-to-day experiences of product management roles have similarities between industries. There needs to be a product vision established, a development plan laid out, and a strategy to manage it all must be created. And while producing any new product begins with a desire to solve a pain point, the path to the final product can significantly vary based on the product and whether it's a digital product, such as software or a physical one. Here are five essential differences to consider when creating your following roadmap and the one thing all product managers need.
1. Strategic Roadmap Differences
With physical products, the timelines will typically be longer, and the milestones will be more varied between products.
One of the most important differences between software and physical product management is the strategic roadmaps required. In roadmapping a software product, the milestones will be reasonably similar in that the product needs to be defined with a clear objective, then designed and developed, tested for operational capabilities, revised if required, and released.
With physical products, the timelines will typically be longer, and the milestones will be more varied between products. In general, a physical product needs to be defined with a clear objective at the beginning as well. Still, then each component and part needs to be designed, then sourced, and manufactured, then the product must be assembled, tested, and then released. While these are the general steps, they must also be repeated for each part of the product. The number of components required will vary from electronics to vehicles.
Both software and physical products have one thing in common when it comes to the product development roadmap. Unless the product is radically innovative, cross-functional components or pieces can often be reused in new product lines, as long as they support the product vision and value proposition. With software, this can be chunks of code, while in a truck, this might be the engine or the tires.
2. Integration of New Features
Introducing New Features in SaaS Products
If it's a software as a service (SaaS) arrangement, then the company can issue updates and the new features will be updated to each software user either automatically or with a direct action on the part of the user. With the increase in SaaS products out there, updates that include new features or repairs reported by customers are fixed frequently and regularly.
Another benefit of SaaS products is that multiple features can be introduced and launched either simultaneously or in succession. Companies can change the color or appearance of a part, or they can offer entirely new capabilities. Because the work is done digitally by teams in various locations, there is no need to worry about materials running out or shipments. It's all reasonably seamless as long as server capacity and internet are available.
The cost of the resources and the longer timelines to introduce and release the features makes the stakes higher for physical product managers.
Physical Products and New Features
Physical products are a completely different story when introducing new features. Think of your cell phone for a moment. Every time your cell phone brand wants to introduce a new color of the phone, make the camera more powerful, or (heaven forbid!) change the style of plug-in cord, big decisions need to happen around which of these changes will impact other components. A wise manager will argue against a feature if the data shows the customer will not value it.
If the new or changed feature is something like the camera, then the new lenses need to be sourced, the case of the phone may need to be changed, and in the example of a cell phone, the software that powers the new camera lens will also need to be updated or rewritten. Each piece of the puzzle requires more time than a digital product does. The cost of the resources and the longer timelines to introduce and release the features makes the stakes higher for physical product managers.
Physical product producers can optimize their design process by taking measures to allow for adaptability down the line. A product roadmap that spans many years enables companies to create long-term strategies. Designing a product for the present while keeping in mind the potential needs for five years into the future can save time and money for your company.
Software companies often have remote teams that coordinate and collaborate virtually. Because a product is digital, it can be easier to share resources and information online. The challenge is to keep all the information organized and accessible to everyone involved. Just because the planning is virtual does not mean it is any less complex. However, things will move at a much faster pace.
Coordinating People and Material
With physical products, the distribution of people and teams can vary. For some producers, their teams may be highly local. For other large-scale companies, their teams may be global and be a mix of manufacturing centers, office locations, and remote employees. Not only do product managers need to keep track of the product teams and engineering teams, but they must also keep track of where the components will be sourced from and where they will be manufactured.
4. Supply Chain
The role of the product manager is to balance the market realities with the product goals.
Coordinating people and materials leads to supply chain factors and how they affect software products and physical products differently. Software products don't require material resources. New software requires people's power to envision and create them. Digital products and software products require human power, skills, and imagination. Physical products, however, rely much more heavily on the supply and availability of material goods.
A new vehicle will be delayed if there is a tire shortage or a shortage in computer chips. For many raw materials, there is no substitute possible. The role of the product manager is to balance the market realities with the product goals. Managers must decide whether features are essential to making the bottom line and customer satisfaction a reality or if features can be delayed or even removed due to shortages and complications.
The world has never been so connected as it is in the twenty-first century. Teams can collaborate virtually from almost anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. Software that serves product managers and their teams makes it easier to coordinate with each other when needed. Whether it's a communication management tool, a virtual meeting tool, or a product roadmapping tool, both software and physical product managers need tools to ensure collaboration happens effectively.
The One Thing All Product Managers Need
Whether a physical or a digital product, all product managers can benefit from the right roadmapping software to be more effective at their jobs and feel more empowered and valued in their positions.
Effective product management is essential to launching a successful product. Product managers are responsible for keeping the roadmap on track. This involves ensuring that stakeholders are informed, that all teams involved in production are communicating and collaborating, and that all relevant metrics are tracked accurately. Whether a physical or a digital product, all product managers can benefit from the right roadmapping software to be more effective at their jobs and feel more empowered and valued in their positions.
Product management software such as Gocious gives your product manager the powerful tools they've been dreaming of! Not only will they have a high-level overview of all product lines and the most relevant data, but they'll also have the capacity to focus on each roadmap for detailed information when needed. Gocious keeps everyone connected to one source of informational truth, so everyone can respond to the same data set with confidence.