The Product Manager Role is Changing in Hardware Development

Historically, the product manager has been seen as an intermediary between customers and product engineers, providing detailed feedback that can be used to fine-tune features and improve usability.

In some industries, though, the changing consumer landscape has significantly transformed the product manager role. The hardware development industry is a prime example. Simply put, today’s hardware managers face heightened responsibilities for leadership and innovation. Why is the product manager’s role changing, particularly in hardware development? Four factors stand out:

1: Emphasis on Customer-Centric Solutions

Traditionally, product developers and engineers have created features and amenities and then presented them to the customer. Today, that relationship has almost reversed, with product managers first analyzing customer pain points and then taking that data to the engineering team for refinement. This is all due to rising consumer expectations for products that will seamlessly meet their precise needs.

2. Growing Complexity of Hardware Products

Another factor to consider is the growing complexity of hardware itself, especially as software is increasingly integrated into the finished products. Today’s product managers must have an intimate understanding of both hardware and software complexities.

3. Adoption of Agile Product Development Processes

The integration of software and hardware products has also brought about the adoption of more agile processes. Today’s product managers must be adaptive, able to work iteratively and pivot in response to changing consumer needs.

4. Rapid Pace of Technological Change

The role of the product manager has largely changed due to the pace with which technology is changing. Today’s product managers have to develop products that meet the current technological landscape while also keeping an eye on tomorrow, ensuring their product won’t immediately become obsolete. The use of product road mapping tools can go a long way here.

What the Product Manager Role Looks Like Today

Product managers must be more than just liaisons between engineers and the general public. Today’s product managers need to be visionary leaders, ready and able to respond to changes in consumer preference or in the technological landscape more broadly.

More specifically, successful product managers must do the following:

  • Become customer-centric leaders, ready and able to assess what consumers are saying and to pivot products accordingly.
  • Develop a knack for distinguishing desire from need, using basic psychology to help address underlying consumer pain points.
  • Ensure hardware products are designed with an eye toward user experience (UX).
  • Provide real product leadership, showing initiative with regard to which products to build and which features to emphasize.
  • Be responsible for all stages of the product lifecycle, continuing to iterate and support the product even once it’s launched.
  • Exhibit excellent communication skills with all company stakeholders, keeping everyone aligned toward the same goals and united around a shared source of truth.
  • Promote clear communication between teams, ensuring a cross-functional product development approach.

In short, product managers are being asked to do much more than they used to, ensuring products are designed not just to align with the company’s goals but also with increasingly steep consumer expectations.

The Role of Product Roadmaps

This may seem like a tall order, but thankfully, there are technological tools that can help product managers meet these lofty demands. In particular, product roadmap software is essential to hardware development.

Consider just some of the benefits that product roadmap tools can provide:

  1. Tracking progress. One of the main duties of any product manager is to keep the product development process on track. Product roadmaps provide a high-level dashboard, allowing the manager to evaluate the status of every item within the product line.
  2. Aligning teams. Another major benefit to the product roadmap is that it provides a single source of truth, something that all product stakeholders can consult for accurate, up-to-date information.
  3. Highlighting future goals. Finally, a product roadmap can help managers keep one eye toward upcoming iterations of the product, planning for new features or other product updates.

These are just three ways in which product roadmap software empowers product managers as they seek to adapt to a changing role. Indeed, as hardware development undergoes significant changes, it comes down to standard-setting software solutions to help development teams maintain their competitive edge.

Maz Adl, CTO and co-founder of Gocious, directs the Southern California-based venture. Gocious is a product roadmap platform for manufacturers, empowering innovation. Maz manages product design, implementation, and development, leveraging a track record of driving automation and digital transformation for competitive advantage.