At HS Design, we often talk about projects moving forward through design and commercialization. One of the “hidden” steps that is integral to creating a successful project, is a Product Champion.
When discussing tools and different aspects of projects that are in development, one thing that is sometimes glossed over are the actual people working behind the scenes. There are specific roles that really drive a product from the idea stage to a commercialized product. The Product Champion is the driving force that brings together the different roles and guides the process to success.
In this sense, a Product Champion is someone that’s devoted to the product itself. This is the one person that is driving the decisions to make sure that the product is the best it can be. A lot of times, this role means they have to juggle a lot of different agendas. They have to juggle between the aesthetics, which the designers care a lot about. They have to deal with the mechanical systems where the product needs to function properly. Same thing with the electrical aspects that engineers care a lot about.
The Product Champion also needs to look at the business needs of a project. Most importantly, they need to keep the user needs and desires at top of mind to make sure that the end user will eventually need this product.
At the end of the day, the Product Champion is the person that is devoted to working on all those pieces understanding that the project is going to come together and create the best outcome possible.
The Product Champion differentiates themselves from a Project Manager or Business Leader because of the motivation to see a successful product. When you have a Project Manager, their motivation is making sure that the customer is happy and that the schedule is on track, and that the deliverables are in line. For certain CEO’s, are looking at the bottom line and making sure that they’re creating a product that will be financially successful. The Inventors are typically really focused on the special details and may be motivated by prestige or research.The motivation for the Product Champion is the product itself and only the product. They tend to be motivated to make sure that the final product is the best it can be. That’s not to say that a CEO, or an Inventor, or even a Project Manager can’t be a Product Champion. In some cases, they are. The role is specialized because the motivation for their actions or decisions is solely focused on taking all of the different data points and influential information and creating a successful product.
To be a successful Product Champion, first and foremost, they need to be a good communicator. This doesn’t mean that they need to speak well, they also need to listen to all the different needs from the different players, and translate that information so that everyone on the team can understand what the final goal is.
For example, that could mean telling the designer that they have to add specific details, or they need to move some components around, which could impact the aesthetics of the device.
Another example could mean talking with the engineers to find components that will fit in the design that was created and sifting through hundreds of websites to find that component that might not be the easiest to incorporate, but will ultimately make the product great.
It sometimes means also getting back with the users and getting that nugget of information that they might not necessarily tell you about in the discovery. That could be whether they’re holding a device a certain way, and they’re not necessarily saying that they’re holding it that way. You can take a look at how they’re doing things and that could bring about some changes that were unforeseen. Mostly it’s about pushing the teams in just the right places in order to meet everyone’s needs and get the product to where it needs to be.
“‘A Product Champion needs to be able to stand up to leadership and have the confidence to express the reasoning for taking certain actions. They can’t just say, “Well, it’s because the users told us this, and because of that,”’ then it’s not good enough” said Bobby Boyer, Director of Product Development at HS Design. The Product Champion needs to elaborate on, “What is it about this device that is meeting the needs?”
When you have a product and you’re thinking of moving it to become commercialized, you should take a look at what your motivation is to drive that product. If you see that your motivation is not necessarily towards the product and it is more financially based or leans towards another aspect, that’s when you should consider firms like HS Design (hs-design.com) to say, “Okay, you guys can focus on the product itself and I can focus on the rest of the business and growing this business to be the unicorn that it can be.” The Product Champions at HS Design work on each project with a specific focus and intensity for overall product success. Teaming up with the experts in moving a product towards successful commercialization is the key to success.