Pundits, strategists and even product managers often talk about future states with no timelines. In other words, “I predict that in the future, X will happen”.
Here’s an example: This Huffington Post article claims that “Enterprise Social Networks May One Day Replace Email. (emphasis, mine). Sure, email will absolutely be replaced “one day”. But as witnessed by the rebel yell of Social Business that eventually ended up sounding more like a whimper, the problem was not with the goal or aspiration to kill email. Rather, the issue was two-fold: a lack of appetite of the end-user to make a drastic culture and behavior change and second, the inadequacy of prevailing social software technology to convince the end-user to go the distance. That “one day” never came. Nor does it seem imminent.
Here is another one. I was talking to a product manager about how I liked what Automatic is doing, in concept. Under your steering wheel is a socket that’s used by your mechanic to run machine diagnostics on your car. Automatic is re-purposing this socket to provide you with useful driving behavior diagnostics. Automatic has ways to go in my opinion but there are tremendous opportunities to improve your fuel consumption and safety, and reduce expensive wear and tear.
My assertion was completely rebuffed as “That’s not interesting. The ‘Internet of Things’ will be a bazillion times bigger. IoT will be all software, no locking by hardware device, with data available ubiquitously across all mobile devices” etc., etc.
Well gosh darn it, that’s absolutely right. This nirvana state of software driven innovation will absolutely come. The question though, is as a product manager or a business: do you have the luxury to wait to monetize that state of promised perfection? Because the rest of us who are innovating are time-bound.
The Nest Thermostat is a great example of time-bound innovation. I’m willing to bet that the hardware device will disappear in the future in favor of 100% software solution. Maybe Nest software will be placed on your Android-based refrigerator that already takes up so much space in your kitchen. Or in your light fixtures. It’s definitely out in the future that’s beyond any reasonable investment horizon that I’m willing to absorb. And whist we’re debating the ultimate timeless beautiful future state of the Internet of Things, Nest already cashed out for $3.5Billion and along with Fitbit is already selling data as an additional revenue stream.
The genius of these gadgets, as “imperfect” as they might be to the analyzers amongst us, is that they respect the currently prevailing appetite of the end consumer to adopt a new technology. Wearing a wrist band or mounting a digital device on your wall is going to seem archaic in the future. No doubt about it. But today, it provides exponential value and yet doesn’t feel foreign at all. That’s what matters if you have a commercial aspiration, whether you’re a product manager or a start-up.
A pig will fly “one day”. I’m willing to guarantee this. But until then, lets stagger our journey to the promise land in incredibly large but manageable, (and monetizable) time-bound troughs.
(Cross-posted @ Pretzel Logic)
(Cross-posted @ Pretzel Logic)