PMs aren’t only for digital products. More are showing up in traditional industries and bringing a user-focused mindset to the table. PMs come with tools that are universally valuable: agile, cross-functions, and metrics. As the context moves from the iterative to the definitive, tool adaptation is necessary. How do you create and execute a product roadmap while being a user advocate? Jayoon Yi from ROOM will explore how to infuse agile with waterfall mindsets and maximize the impact of hardware roadmaps.

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On Building a Product Career Outside of Digital

As companies are becoming product-first, there are a lot of opportunities for product managers. This isn’t only in the digital space but in every industry. Product managers can use assessments, roadmaps, and tools from a digital perspective in a physical industry.

“We tend to think of a certain tool to be applicable in certain moments, but the tools that we use as a digital product manager can be used in many different ways and in many different touch user touchpoints or development touchpoints,” Jayoon says.

Jayoon shared the different aspects of transferable skills she uses in her hardware product management position. She described how product management isn’t a linear path upon arrival, and skills and roadmaps from a digital space can aid in success for the hardware space.

“What is my true strength, what is the strength of my mind that I’ve acquired over the course of my career? That will open up a little bit of your aperture and help you consider different industries. You have acquired not only skillset in the digital world, and but some of the strength that’s totally adaptable to different contexts.”

On Digital vs Hardware Products

There are different product management approaches to digital and hardware. When building a digital product, it is on a flat or digital interface. For hardware, it is 3D: you can touch it, feel it, and interact with it in person. Jayoon says that means there is a very big difference in terms of the user experience and user benefit.

For digital products, “it just works without me having to worry about learning about the product and can adapt to my needs in a very seamless way.” For hardware, for example, if you are buying a dishwasher, “you would expect that most of the dishwashers out in the market have almost equal or similar functionality in terms of what it does. So when you look at what really speaks to you, you can’t help but make decisions based on your actual interaction with the dishwasher. … How it looks and how those elements make you feel are becoming a really important differentiator for hardware.”

With a digital product, it is easy to iterate a feature and immediately push it out to customers for updates, while also receiving feedback. In hardware roadmaps, the product exists exactly as you made it. Updates and upgrades mean creating a whole new product. 

“There is a saying: software will eventually work and hardware will eventually break. This really dictates how we make a software product versus a hardware product.”

On Agile vs Waterfall

Working in agile is usually the choice for digital teams because it allows them to iterate and make changes along the way. It opens up possibilities. For hardware, it is much more difficult to work in agile, Jayoon says.

“That’s because when we start putting things on paper, and then when you start making things with plastic, with sheet metal, with wood, it is made. There’s like not much of an opportunity for us to actually go and make changes because all these parts are coming together to create a product.”

Though difficult, it isn’t impossible to work in agile. For Jayoon, the main difference between agile and waterfall is the opportunity for PMs to incorporate feedback. 

With software, it is easier to incorporate feedback at any stage in the process, coming through metrics. For hardware, the constant feedback cycle is impossible to incorporate. 

“I want to break that mold a little bit and find every single opportunity to receive feedback in my journey. Feedback is a gift,” Jayoon says. “How I unlock more opportunities for feedback is one of the most important things that I can bring to the table as a hardware product manager who has a digital background.”

About the speaker
About the host
Brian Root Exploring new opportunities, Vice President of Product Management

I am a collaborative, patent-holding product executive specializing in building impactful customer-facing digital products in eCommerce, FinTech and InsureTech. I have over 12 years of experience leading and managing cross-functional product and design teams at all stages from Series A to Fortune top 2 (Amazon and Walmart). I have built and scaled teams from 0 to up to 15 individuals on several occasions, and I particularly enjoy the challenges of hiring and structuring teams. My passion as a leader has always been to unlock the potential of my reports and mentees. I strongly believe that an impactful, scalable \"what\" (the product) is the result of a strong understanding of the \"why\" (user and business needs) and \"how\" (product management and design best practices). In my non-work life, I enjoy running, cooking, dabbling in statistical modeling of sporting events, and being the best father that I can be to my baby son.

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