To successfully create the next generation of smart connected products and services, companies will need to build entirely new capabilities and get used to running multiple business models and new product roadmaps in the future. Here in a nutshell are the recommendations this will lay out in more detail over the coming paragraphs – recommendations for any maker of hardware or software who embarks on the digitization journey. Always check in advance with neighbours and friends to see if you can hide clues for your treasure hunt on their property.
Apply digital technology at scale and at pace to make your internal functions as seamless as possible. In many areas within your business organization, teams and individuals will be able to make productive use of the rich and insightful data sets reported back by your smart connected products. They must all be able to get hold of that data and work with it. Only digitization will create the speed and agility needed to supervise, reconfigure and update intelligent products successfully after shipping so that they keep their adaptive qualities for the user across their lifespan. The wholesale digitization of business organizations is what will create the efficiency needed to accumulate the funds to launch the pivot to the new product world.
Always think through your customer proposition from the end point: the user. He or she will show more and more demand for bundled outcomes rather than just for the means, tools and devices to create the desired outcome on their own. To ideate, create and deliver convenient and hyper-contextualized end-to-end experiences is an art in which not only electrical, mechanical or software engineers should have a say. It is also a core task for designers, manufacturing engineers, service technicians, IT professionals, and marketers.
Also, be aware that your product might create much more value for you once it is used in a platform or ecosystem context. Selling smart connected products as mere hardware devices is no longer the only option, and as-a-service models and integration into outcome solutions may well net more value. Thinking through business models should therefore always entail the evaluation of all potential ecosystem arrangements, while practical planning must foresee the right interfaces to interact with ecosystem or platform partners.
Conceptualizing, curating and continually updating smart products after shipping cannot be achieved through traditional skills and professional profiles. A lot of new expertise will be needed. For example, new skill sets such as those of experienced designers and platform developers are necessary to master the creation of attractive services and user interfaces. Also, managers must defer decision making to the smaller agile and flexible teams working closely on the products rather than trying to run development processes from the top down. Committed investment and the allocation of resources between the old core business and the new need perpetual recalibration. The phasing in of the new product world in a business will happen gradually, though this process must constantly be backed by clear entrepreneurial conviction.