How to Build Hardware Products by Motorola VP of Product

Hardware and approach towards hardware product management is a little different, but not difficult.

In this talk, Sanjay Gupta elaborates the skills necessary for a product manager to master in order to succeed when it comes to hardware product management. He also talks about how the methodologies employed for product management differ to some extent when it comes to a hardware product, and not a digital one.

Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta is an entrepreneurial technology executive with expertise in conceptualizing and launching innovative hardware, firmware, and software systems solutions. At Motorola Mobility, he developed and delivered multi-generation product and system solutions for a USD 1B business bringing 80+ new products to market every year. 

Sanjay has a track record of launching several industry firsts, such as mixed-signal wireless charging ASIC, Dell Laptop with wireless charging, Android smartwatches, and fitness monitoring ecosystem, and the first smartphone with Wi-Fi and Voice Over IP.

Hardware is Not “Hard”

Sanjay begins by highlighting that being a product manager is really about owning the product. ‘Owning a product’ means owning the outcomes of the product. If a product turns out to be a success, then it’s a product manager’s responsibility to share the credit with everyone who contributed to the product, whereas if a product turns out to be a failure then the product manager has to take sole responsibility for it.

Hardware pieces

“Hardware” Products are “Products”

For any product to be viable and for one to succeed as a product manager, there are three things that they should always strive to balance:

  • Feasibility – technically doable
  • Needs – Customer needs and market demand
  • Return – Profitable

Selling

A skill necessary (but not sufficient) for success. Sanjay says that when the job of a product manager is broken down, it always comes to selling. Selling is one of the necessary skills to have for a product manager to succeed. Also, how they would sell a product idea to an engineering team is a lot different than how they would sell it to a CFO.

What Makes Hardware Different? 

Before Product Launch:

  • Iterations take time 
  • Iterations are expensive 
  • Manufacturing and Supply Chain 
  • Regulatory and Safety landmines 
  • Hardware products almost always require firmware and software 

After Product Launch:

  • One opportunity to get it right
  • Inventory ages ugly 

Key Takeaways

  • Simplify, Simplify, Simplify…
  • Modularize (works most of the time)
  • Just in time decision-making
  • Become comfortable with being uncomfortable 
  • Enjoy the “spotlight” 

Sanjay concludes the talk by emphasizing on the fact that there’s only one way to learn, no matter how many books one reads and who they listen to, and that one way is actually going out there and doing it.

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