Combining Physical And Digital Product Development With InnovationOps

Greg Coticchia, CEO, Sopheon.

In 2023, a bat is more than a blunt object used to hit a baseball. It can be a highly sophisticated, connected piece of sports technology that collects vital information to help enhance individual swings and perfect the art of hitting.

Traditional physical products have evolved to include digital components that are ever-expanding the possibilities of what products can do. But this product revolution also creates a challenging new wrinkle: bringing together traditional product development and digital product development. The two groups often speak different languages, work differently and use disparate tools.

To remain relevant, physical product manufacturers have to integrate those who work on the physical and digital side of the ball, and the way to do that is to adopt an InnovationOps approach. There are many components to an InnovationOps approach. Still, the central idea is this: Bring together the people, processes and tools of an organization together to create an environment to achieve overarching company goals.

Let’s explore what this approach entails and how it can help traditional product manufacturers get up to speed.

InnovationOps And People

Very often, information silos obscure possibilities for collaboration because critical data that could be useful elsewhere never breathe the air outside of their four walls. In an InnovationOps approach, silos don’t exist, and people can access information from across the organization and interact more freely and easily to work toward larger innovation goals.

Companies developing hybrid physical and digital products have teams of talent with incredibly different backgrounds. In short, they know what they know. But can they learn more? Absolutely.

An InnovationOps approach provides a repository of historical knowledge accompanied by critical context. Such a database can help the physical team uncover important interdependencies that explain a digital implementation’s who, what, when, where, why and how. Companies using InnovationOps will also find that certain roles—like product managers—make sense for physical and digital innovation. InnovationOps allows team members to get up to speed on unfamiliar subjects more quickly. And with that new knowledge, they can apply new features to legacy products.

InnovationOps And Processes

InnovationOps also creates a more frictionless innovation experience regardless of team innovation processes because this approach is process agnostic. And that’s good news for companies whose products combine physical and digital components.

A physical product manufacturer might be more inclined to use a phase-gate approach, where stringent governance and deadlines are the law. Software developers, of course, gravitate toward an iteration of Agile or other software product development processes. InnovationOps is ideal for connected physical products because it allows teams and departments to work in the way that makes the most sense to them.

And from an innovation perspective, companies will be positioned to identify bits and pieces from new methodologies that enhance how they work. Having that flexibility allows companies to create custom-fit processes for their unique value proposition.

InnovationOps And Tools

There are numerous technologies used throughout the innovation process, like idea management tools, data analytics, AI, marketing systems and so on. The beauty of InnovationOps is that these tools don’t remain secrets within an organization. Much like people and processes, InnovationOps is a town crier for tools.

With silos removed, departments may see applications for tools traditionally used by a single department. And this point is critical when combining digital aspects with physical products. Historically, these teams don’t use the same tools. And in many cases, tools used by one group may not make sense for another. But with a free flow of collaboration, the select tools that could translate to another department can be discovered. And when that discovery is made, magic can happen.

Yes, physical and digital product teams come from two different worlds, but there must be a common ground where these two can start to speak the same language and efficiently combine efforts. As organizations embrace an InnovationOps approach, they’ll find that creating products with physical and digital components becomes predictable and repeatable. Even further, as people, processes and technologies come together—instead of being locked away in fiefdoms—the possibilities for disruptive, radical innovation skyrockets.


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