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Building products in the digital age: It’s hard to ‘get smart’


If you are building a product at a large company, many things can go wrong. You might not have enough resources for your project, or maybe your team is not motivated enough to be successful. But one thing that is often overlooked is the need for smart people on both sides of the internal/external divide: internal evangelists who can translate products into their target audiences and external advocates who can explain why those products matter to others. In the digital age Product building is one of the most challenging parts of any economy but yet the most important. A 2021 Survey by Mckinsey showed that by 2026, products that have not yet been created will carry half of the revenue earned. This is just a sign that organizations should invest in a more rigorous creative process to come up with new products.There are several ways through which a product can penetrate the market and succeed.

Publicizing the Prospective product by translating the product into a language the public can understand

If a product organization is lucky, it will have an internal “smart” person who can translate the company’s products and services into a language that they can understand. The smart person is usually a product manager or product lead (PM/PL) who understands business goals and how technology fits them. They have technical knowledge but also know how to work with designers, developers, and other stakeholders. Other skills include communication with customers and suppliers, managing projects from start to end, understanding metrics for success, etc.

The disadvantage of having only one person on your team for all things digital is that there is no way for everyone else in your organization. Sometimes the salespeople or engineers may need access more often than others, to learn what makes their role unique enough. This enables them to contribute meaningfully without getting stuck doing clerical work instead of working directly on projects related to those core tasks.


Properly articulating the product’s value to potential customers, partners and investors.

In addition to the internal evangelist, companies need someone who can articulate the product’s value to potential customers, partners and investors. The product leader needs to be able to communicate the value of the product in a way that resonates with everyone from developers on up through executives and beyond.

The role is often filled by an outside agency or consultant who comes in for two weeks or longer while they research your business problem(s). Their job ends when they leave so you can go back into the business without spending any money on them beyond what was agreed upon at contract signing time.

In the past, a product leader would focus on external relationships and a technology lead would focus on internal relationships. The traditional model was that the former was responsible for business success while the latter was responsible for technical success. However, in today's world of digital technologies and disruption, this model no longer applies. The digital age has brought new challenges and opportunities to product teams. As a result, the traditional ways of working are being challenged.

It is more like: The product owner is responsible for both business achievement (the end-user) and technical achievement (the underlying technology)

Here are some challenges that may potentially hinder the development of new products:


Both the internal and external smart people are crucial for digital products

The internal smart person is a product manager. A product manager is an internal and external smart person, who combines technology and business expertise with an understanding of how to build a successful digital product.

The external smart person is an analyst who understands how users interact with your apps/websites/services, what problems they face, and what needs are critical to their success—both today and in the future. They can help you understand where you need to focus your efforts so that you build the right products for them (and not just any product).


Smart-home products are getting more affordable.

One of the biggest challenges in building and operating smart homes is that it is still expensive. While prices are coming down, there are still many barriers to entry for consumers who want to build their systems.

The emergence of new entrants like Amazon and Google into this market has helped drive down prices. However, many products remain out of reach for many households. With the economy humming along nicely these days and unemployment at record lows in America, millions more people have money at their disposal than ever before. They are willing to spend some on smart home technology if it means getting more control over their lives or saving money on utility bills (or both).


Yet, even though the price of some electronics has come down, the cost of adding connectivity is still an obstacle.

For example, if you want to add Wi-Fi to your home network to connect everything from smartphones and laptops to streaming devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick (or Chromecast), it will likely cost between $30-$50 per device. That is not cheap! And it is not just about adding Wi-Fi—it is also about ensuring that every device on your network has access to the internet without any interference or lag time caused by buffering.

One of the challenges is making all these connected devices work together without a lot of fuss.

There are so many different devices and platforms to choose from, it can be overwhelming—and if you are looking for an app on one platform, there might not even be an option for that one on another platform.


Smart Home Fragmentation

The smart home market is still fragmented, with a blend of popular new entrants and established players trying to make inroads. In the digital age Some products have been around for years and have millions of users; others are newer, but still have not gained much traction yet. The industry is also characterized by both large-scale manufacturers and small startups—and sometimes even more than one player in each category or subcategory (like Nest's three product lines).

Those who are investing in the technology now, it is likely, are early adopters who can afford to experiment and have time on their hands to set up lights, thermostats, and appliances.

Early adopters are more likely to be tech-savvy because they tend to be deeply interested in new technologies that promise greater efficiency or convenience. This makes them more willing than other consumers to experiment with new products and services until they find something that works for them—and if something does not work out as expected, well...they are already invested!

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