What Does The Internet Of Things Mean To Product Managers?

How will product managers deal with the Internet of Things?
How will product managers deal with the Internet of Things?
Image Credit: cea +

Just in case you’ve been living with your head under a rock, there is this thing called the “internet of things” that is getting ready to take over the world. What is meant by the internet of things can vary from person to person, but basically what it means is the creation of a world in which everyday objects have network connectivity which then allows them to send and receive data. Things like refrigerators and washing machines. What’s a product manager to do in order to get ready for a change like this?

The Internet Of Things Is All About Services

The interesting things about the internet of things is that there are a lot of product managers who are preparing for it to arrive before they update their product development definition. However, it turns out that it may already be here. There are product managers who believe that the internet of things is a collection of devices that have a chip in it that allows them to connect to the internet. However, the so-called killer app of the internet of things won’t be a device, instead it’s going to be services.

A great example of this is the ride sharing service Uber. In order for the Uber service to work correctly, the company needed to make its assets, drivers and cars, both smart and connected. They made this happen by providing each of their drivers with a smartphone app that allows them to fully automate the job of providing rides for people. This allows customers to purchase service (a ride) instead of having to worry about the technology that makes it possible. Uber product managers really have something to add to their product manager resume.

Another example of an internet of things service in action comes from the Brita water filter company. They have just introduced a new water filter that they are saying is part of the internet of things. When this water filter has used up its current filter, it has the ability to go online and order a new water filter to be delivered to your home. The thing to realize here is that the people who purchase this water filter are really buying a service (automatic reordering) and not a water filter.

Customers Really Don’t Want Products, They Want Services

In the new era of the internet of things, what product managers are going to have to realize what customers are trying to do. What they want to accomplish is to solve problems that they have in their lives without having to worry about what technology is making this happen. What product managers are discovering is that when internet of things devices are considered to be a service by customers, then your customers won’t have to worry about how to get different devices to work together.

Product managers who can focus on the service that they are offering to their customers are better able to clarify just exactly what they are offering. In some cases product managers are referring to what they are offering as being a “hardware as a service” . What this means is that because the company is making its money via subscription fees, when it comes time to upgrade the device, the company will take care of it. The customer won’t be involved.

For customers of internet of things products, they really don’t care about the underlying technology unless the product stops working. Product managers need to make sure that they don’t get misled by the term internet of things. What they need to do is to spend their time asking why things should be connected. Actually connecting them has become fairly easy, determining why they should be connected is the job of a product manager.

What All Of This Means For You

The arrival of the internet of things holds a great deal of promise and it also may change the way that a lot of things are being done. Product managers need to take the time to review their product manager job description and understand what this new technology really means and how it will impact the products that they are responsible for.

The internet of things has already arrived. It turns out that it’s not really about devices that can be connected to the internet, instead it’s all about the services that can now be offered using those devices. Uber has used the internet of things to connect its drivers with customers and Brita has used it to allow its water filters to order new filters when needed. Customers really don’t care about the technology behind the internet of things, what they want is to use the devices to solve problems that are in their lives. Product managers need to spend their time understanding why different things should be connected to each other.

The internet of things has arrived. This opens a number of new product possibilities for product managers. What we need to realize is that what our customers are going to want is going to be the new services that they can get using internet enabled devices, not the devices themselves. If we can understand what products would benefit from being connected to the internet, then we’ll have a successful product on our hands.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: When we offer an internet of things product, do you thing that it has to work with our competition’s products?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Hopefully you are well aware of just who Twitter is. The micro blogging service has over 313 million monthly users (just think about adding that to your product manager resume). If you turn on just about any television program, they are always talking about what is being discussed on their Twitter feed. This is all very impressive, but a bigger question that the Twitter product managers have to answer is just how many people are seeing all of those tweets? The answer is that they don’t know.