Many of us who have been paying attention to tech trends would say the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) is now upon us.
Now we have smart devices, like refrigerators, smart blinds, smart toasters and so much more – connected devices that may have reduced instruction set chips or even full motherboards to relay data or receive data from the Internet. (Read 5 Tips for Optimizing Energy Consumption Through IoT and Connected Devices.)
That means the IoT product manager is now very much in demand in today's job world. But what do these individuals do? (Read What the $#@! Is the Internet of Things?!)
We asked a range of professionals involved in IoT about what an IoT product manager job looks like. (Learn about an IoT Solutions Architect.)
Here’s some of what they had to tell us.
The Full Life Cycle
As you might expect, the IoT product manager has to deal with every stage of IoT product development. That makes this job pretty diverse.
“IoT product managers work inside and outside their own organization, every day,” says Wolfgang Thieme, Chief Product Officer at BehrTech, an enabler of next-gen wireless connectivity for Industrial IoT.
“The product is all about solving a problem. The product manager needs to learn customer and market requirements, over and over again, to stay up to date. They need to understand where the market is going from every angle: technology, business, regulatory, etc. They must anticipate the trends and upcoming customer requirements."
"They also need to understand the competitive advantage of their own organization and how to leverage it to create best in class products and solutions and position them in the market.”
“An IoT product manager brings a product from research and development to market, working with everyone from engineers to marketing teams to distributors to create IoT products,” added Gabe Turner, Director of Content at Baron Security.
“The IoT product manager deals with an IoT product’s hardware, software, communications, cloud platform, and mobile applications. The IoT product manager is responsible for dealing with every part of the company, from customer service to cybersecurity and operations, so each day will be different as the person faces new challenges from different departments.”
“You have to think in what situations and environment the products will be used and how they will be located in space,” Muszyński says.
“The product manager should rethink how to assemble devices and decide how products will be powered: battery or cable. The key is also how the devices should communicate with the server whether it is wired or wireless connectivity and at what frequency data will be sent.”
A Range of Stakeholders
The idea, in a nutshell, is that much as with other roles, the IoT product manager is essentially a liaison within an organizational structure. They may work with marketing teams one day, engineering teams the next, and present to executives at the end of the week.
It's very much a chameleon type of role that requires navigating different departments and dealing with different inputs, and in some cases, creating buy-in and consensus on IoT product details.
“Every week can differ as an IoT product manager, from managing a team of computer programmers to working with marketing to decide who is the target audience for a product,” Turner says.
In some cases, says Jennifer McAlpine of Benchmark Electronics, product managers who have traditionally not been involved in IoT are finding themselves seeking a broader network to deal with the requirements around handling products that are connected devices.
“More and more product managers are finding themselves to be IoT product managers as everything becomes connected, and at the same time the number of technology options available in connectivity, edge and fog computing, sensor types, device security, etc is increasing at a break-neck speed,” McAlpine says.
“This makes the job incredibly challenging, and product managers of connected devices need to rely on bigger teams of experts than before in order to not find a solution that just works, but actually optimizes the user experience.”
Working with Connected Devices
An IoT product manager may spend a lot of time on design, but eventually, he or she will probably need to become conversant in key cybersecurity philosophies as well. (Read The Truth About Cybersecurity.)
“Many problems come up when you’re working with connected devices, especially when it comes to security, so the IoT product manager would need to deal with the results of any penetration testing that occurs, interfacing between IT, marketing, and upper management,” Turner said.
Turner also points to the role of edge or fog network computing as something that brings data storage closer to the point of computation, which improves response time and saves bandwidth – but which also introduces its own security issues. (Read How can businesses innovate in managing data center bandwidth?)
“The tech is always moving, so the team must monitor things like new iOS versions, browser updates, and security patches, which may be rolled out at any minute,” Dunkels said.
A Jack of All Trades
In a sense, an IoT product manager has to have a kind of diversified skill set. Yes, product design and cybersecurity are important, but so are capex and opex, and teamwork and attention to detail, and reporting.
Hopefully this gives you a better picture of what these busy IT pros do in a modern enterprise role.