Transparent solar panels — or what is product strategy consulting?

Using a 2014 article I would like to show you how product strategy consulting differs from product development.

This article discusses a new photovoltaic panel which is literally transparent and can be used to replace windows and at the same time get power out of it. Current effectiveness is around 1% but the researchers claim to be able to raise this to 5% which is still just around 70% of current non-transparent solar panels. And of courses those are evolving, too.

At first look this is not a market-ready technology. There are obvious advantages, but the price will be probably steep, especially in the early years. What can you do to bridge the valley of death and reach the output level where mass production is feasible and prices can go down into the affordable level for masses? This is where product strategy comes into play.

Traditional product development focuses on developing good products, the right products for hypothetical clients or goals.

The benefit of this approach is that you immediately have customers (or not, but that’s again another story). Product strategy as we do it, looks at what we can do NOW, how can we sell it NOW and finance the growth and further development from it. Gather first hand experience, and in general how to harmonize and synchronize the product strategy with sales strategy, to position the company on a growth course.

In this case you have to select an industry where your price and effectiveness do not matter. Just the possibility to have a solar panel put in places where it was never imagined before. We should focus on industries where the solar panel’s prices are nothing compared to the whole project. And of course where there is natural light.

The first that probably comes to your mind is space and defense industries, especially in countries near the Equator area or with plenty of sunshine. Of course these industries might have other needs and strong specification requirements which we might not be able or willing to fulfill.

Moving beyond these industries we should be looking for huge investments, where all the transparent windows/glass surfaces do not get replaced during the whole lifecycle.

Or industries/investments where the whole amortization process lasts several decades. This way, even if the price is high, it is small compared to the benefits and direct financial advantages the investor gets. Obviously these would include 50+ stories, all glass office buildings, which are built for 50–100 years or even more. So even a higher investment can yield considerable return in forms of premium, unmatched services like free wall outlets around the glass surface for charging smartphones, smaller devices, or just powering the whole building (HVAC, lighting, etc.). You get advantages while maintaining the overall experience of a shiny glass surface.

The same goes for the panoramic roof cars. It does not get replaced during the lifecycle just because of upgrades and any advantage can be huge without any compromise in prestige or design. The panoramic roof can provide power and still fulfill its original design purpose. It can extend the range of electronic/hybrid cars or can power the fans to reduce the risk of an overheated cockpit.

After the first batch of customer who prefer prestige or long term quality will come the mass markets. Probably pioneered by industrial buildings, container houses/offices, or just panoramic elevators. If the panel can allow certain lightwaves to pass it might be used in greenhouses. And who knows where else.

The above process shows how an integrated product strategy thinking goes after the initial, technological breakthrough. It goes beyond simple product development or strategy. The sales feedback can form the product and the capacity or technological limitations can also influence what kind of customers and industries can be served. The two organizational departments work hand in hand, symbiotic, harmonic, and organic. They literally breath together, and grow together. Because sales and product development belong together.This way of thinking will open both parties to joint brainstorming and problem solving. They can see the everyday struggles and will respect each other. This changes the relationship between groups that should have been working together since the conception of the idea to make it successful. Because the bottom line is always: did we sell it or not? And that’s sales.

We connect what belongs together. Sales strategy and product development. In this blog post we did not include but we usually use the strategic setting of the industry and the respective company as another aspect that is strongly connected to product strategy consulting since it sets the framework in which everything must function. We use these to build highly successful products that are less exposed to competition and usually not exposed to price war at all.

About Abilitymatrix: We provide our customers with a product development strategy that is consciously based on emotional impact. We call this emotion-based product development. The future belongs to authentic products and services capable of triggering emotions. Join us on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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