Every time Apple launches a new iPhone, it causes a surge of excitement among brand loyalists who are eager to claim the latest and greatest features. And then there are the everyday consumers who enjoy their Apple products but are in no particular rush to grab the new model. Unfortunately for these consumers, the features on an existing phone often become sluggish following a new product launch… and that’s no coincidence. Simply put, companies like Apple always optimize their software to work best with the most current hardware. So, if you’re running the Apple OS on an older iPhone, you can expect the performance to diminish over time.
This reality, familiar to most consumers, points to a deeper truth about product development: Simply put, it can be very difficult to align software and hardware goals. Launching a new phone, tablet, or device can be exciting, but the intricacy of coordinating the hardware launch with the broader software strategy can be quite daunting.
One essential way for electronics manufacturers to align hardware and software needs is by using a visual roadmap. Specifically, having product roadmap management (PRM) software can be an effective way to get everything ready for a smooth and successful launch day.
A Roadmap for Hardware
PRM tools can provide a simple and elegant way to visualize the development of the hardware and any relevant software, ensuring that these two pieces of the puzzle are locked in place correctly.
To begin with, let’s consider the roadmapping needs for hardware. Imagine you walked into an Apple store right now. You’d see rows upon rows of iPhones, Apple Watches, and MacBooks, each one an example of hardware. These pieces of hardware might vary in terms of things like size, speed, and bandwidth, but they are all basically the same because they are designed to host different pieces of software from Apple and its partners.
The value of a roadmap is that it provides clarity about how to develop hardware in such a way that it hosts these software programs effectively and can be updated multiple times over the span of its life.
More specifically, a good PRM program provides manufacturers with options to plan product launches five or even 10 years into the future, based on the company’s long-term goals as well as the realities of how long it can take to acquire the necessary parts and materials. Because plans for a piece of hardware can change pretty dramatically over the course of five years, whether due to changing evolving preferences or the actions of competitors, having real-time PRM capabilities is invaluable for making adjustments and revisions.
Don’t Forget the Software
If hardware often spends several years in the pipeline, software updates tend to happen quickly and often. This is truer all the time, as IT becomes increasingly nimble and adaptive.
As software capabilities change and expand, manufacturers need shorter-term roadmaps that allow them to plan updates that meet shifting customer demands.
Also keep in mind that software tends to get updated often because electronics manufacturers are locked in constant competition with themselves. They are always retooling their software offerings to come up with even bigger and better features and capabilities. The right PRM software can provide an easy way to visualize and compare features between different software iterations. In other words, it enables an easy way for manufacturers to compare their new product against competitors, but also against their own back catalog.
Addressing Short-Term Needs
PRM software can enable manufacturers to identify and pursue shorter milestones for their software updates, scheduling them for a year out, six months out, even three months out. Product managers may then refine their strategy based on software vulnerabilities that come to light, a changing customer ecosystem, or simply new ideas from the product development team.
There’s really no greater impetus for short-term roadmapping than the evolving needs of cybersecurity. Hackers are constantly innovating new ways to compromise the user experience, which means software needs to be updated on a regular basis to ensure up-to-date cybersecurity protocols. A roadmap that’s too focused on the long term may prevent manufacturers from responding nimbly to these more sudden needs.
What Role Does Data Play?
As they try to bring hardware and software needs into alignment, there’s another piece of the puzzle that electronics manufacturers must keep in mind… and that’s data. Both performance metrics and user feedback can play a big role in shaping the development of new products.
Here again, the right suite of PRM solutions is essential. Robust software should provide a simple way for teams to share research insights that can inform each stage of product development, whether that’s fine-tuning hardware needs or working on the latest iteration of relevant software.
Collaboration and Adaptability
There are still further reasons why electronics manufacturers benefit from having good PRM software in place. For example, PRM enables collaboration across disciplines. What this means is that, while engineers work on debugging a new piece of hardware or software, the marketing team can be hard at work crafting messaging related to the latest features.
When everyone has eyes on the same set of data (a single source of truth), it makes it that much easier for teams to collaborate in a holistic way, or to pivot as product needs and expectations change.
Manufacturers Need a Visual Roadmap. PRM Can Provide It.
It’s no small feat for electronics manufacturers to consistently develop cutting-edge hardware and up-to-the-minute software to keep pace with consumer demands. And it’s especially difficult to coordinate the long-tail planning required for devices with the short-term needs of software programs.
All of this points to the critical need for electronics manufacturers to have visual roadmaps, allowing all team members to have a clear sense of how their different activities can intersect and ultimately align with broader business goals. Simply put, PRM provides the streamlined solution that electronic manufacturers need for adaptability, efficiency, and collaboration between different team members.