How to Bridge Communications Between Hardware and Software Teams

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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Illustration: hardware plus softwareFrom cell phones to cars and smart fridges to pet feeders, software is increasingly finding its way into hardware products. As a result of this growing trend, manufacturers need to integrate software features into their products to provide more user-friendly, customizable options to satisfy the needs of their customers. 

On the product manufacturing level, integrating software into hardware products requires scaling production; companies must hire software engineers to design innovative new software for their products. For companies to scale effectively, it's important that they encourage communication between hardware and software teams and provide the necessary tools to achieve this.


Build Strong Relationships with Hardware and Software Teams

It is crucial for a product manager to build strong relationships with internal teams. They must open the lines of communication, listen empathetically, and understand each team's capabilities. This is particularly important when recruiting software team members, as regular cross-collaborative meetings will go a long way to boosting morale for everyone and building relationships.


Switch to Agile or Hybrid Models of Production

Many companies that traditionally focused on building hardware-only products typically used the stage gate or waterfall production method. While this tactical method is ideal for hardware products, it is not effective when integrating software due to differences in the timeline of the hardware and software development process. 

When integrating software teams into the production process, it is best to implement a hybrid model of production to introduce development teams gradually before switching to a fully agile platform.


Promote Collaboration Between Hardware and Software Teams

Illustration: TeamworkWhile a hardware engineer may have to wait several years and spend millions of dollars to bring a hardware product to market, integrating software into product features means the product can be updated much faster. 

Hardware and software teams must collaborate during the design phase to ensure that the hardware can accommodate various software features. These departments should schedule regular meetings to discuss product design and solve problems using software solutions. If, for example, a hardware engineer is looking to build a speedometer, they have two ways of achieving this:

Solution 1: An analog speedometer can be designed using hardware components and wires integrated into the vehicle design.

Solution 2: The engineering team can work with the software team to create a digital speedometer incorporated into a digital screen, allowing for updates to the speedometer even after the vehicle is launched and in the market.


Adding New Features Beyond the Limitations of Hardware

One advantage of using a software-based speedometer is that it can be fully customized to include additional features, unlike traditional analog speedometers.  

Getting both teams in the same room to discuss product features helps to create more optimal product solutions and leads to:

  • The creation of more innovative products
  • Software solutions with faster turnaround than hardware solutions
  • Greater satisfaction for both software and hardware designers as they track the development of their collaborative efforts

Pushing software updates to improve the user experience is an ideal way to promote customer satisfaction. By focusing on improved software features to market a product, there is less need to upgrade the hardware, saving time and money.  


Synchronize Cadence Between Software and Hardware Teams

Illustration: Physical teamworkHardware development has limited flexibility due to parts manufacturing and product assembly, which can take months if not years. Iteration is also costly and time-consuming, leaving little room for multiple iterations. With software development, iteration is as simple as writing a new block of code, testing it, and uploading it when it is ready. 

Cadence between hardware and software teams can be achieved more effectively by taking an agile or hybrid approach to manufacturing and pursuing a collaborative approach to build a successful product. 


Create Product Roadmaps to Connect Hardware and Software Teams

Product road mapping tools are helpful as they provide transparency between product development teams. Dependencies between hardware and software features are closely linked, so product timelines designed to coordinate each team's efforts help keep development on track.

Building a product roadmap to guide and track the process is particularly beneficial for the product manager as they can assess whether:

  • The product strategy is being followed
  • Specific features are being prioritized
  • Hardware and software teams are working collaboratively

Product roadmaps offer a high-level view so that the product manager knows exactly what is happening at each stage of the development process. This also allows them to assess any problems and report short-term progress to company executives. 


Provide the Right Tools To Enhance Communication

Illustration: global communicationsWhen there are multiple teams designing a single product or a whole host of products, it is useful to incorporate enterprise-level tools to see what each department is doing. This is of particular importance when incorporating new features into products to ensure everyone is on the same page. 


Improved Accessibility With Cloud Based Platforms 

Cloud-based tools are easy to use and are especially useful when working with remote teams in distant locations. 


Increased Transparency Leads to Improved Efficiency

If a car manufacturer is building multiple car models in plants worldwide, it is useful to see what each division is working on. This helps to prevent duplication of tasks so efficiency is improved, new technologies are shared, and resources are used wisely.


A Single Source of Truth to Eliminate Outdated Information

By providing a single source of truth to your product teams, you can eliminate version control problems so hardware and software teams are on the same page. Updates to roadmaps are made in real-time so everyone has access to the most up-to-date information. 


Coordinate Activities Across the Organization

While hardware and software teams are working towards reaching the product goals, transparency of their activities across the organization allows other teams to coordinate their efforts to meet the big-picture goals. 

For marketing campaigns to be successful, they must be coordinated with the product release and organized months in advance to secure access to various media. Understanding the product development timeline improves the ability of these teams to manage their campaigns. 


Four Steps To Better Team Collaborations 

In conclusion, bridging communication between hardware and software teams can be accomplished by focusing on the following:

  1. Understand each other's capabilities so you can maximize the product's potential.
  2. Put yourself in each other's shoes. Being a good listener and empathizing with others is a great way to build trusting relationships.
  3. Cross-functional teams work well for brainstorming and problems solving. This offers the potential to achieve superior results.
  4. Use product roadmap tools to provide transparency for improved production efficiency. 

If you are ready to find out how we can help you to bridge communication between your hardware and software teams, book your free demo with Gocious today


Topics: Manufacturing, Product Management, Product Development

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