PRODUCTHEAD: Hardware’s harder to manage

million dollar product

Posted on Monday, 26 October 2020


Changing a hardware product iteration has a 12–18 month lead time

Having more parties involved in manufacturing means higher costs and squeezed profits

“Building in hardware ‘security’ mechanisms is just always a double-edged sword”


I’ve always had great admiration for product managers who happen to look after hardware products. Not only do they have to be good at product management, they also have the associated constraints of the process of creating hardware.

Software product managers have their own challenges, sure, but they don’t usually have to worry about safety certifications for their products to be used in different countries. Distributing software to customers may sometimes incur costs and a bit of lead time if you’re going through an app store, but this is not quite on the same level as the costs of tooling up a factory for mass production, or having to wait for a container ship to arrive with your finished units.

Minimum viable product? Ha. Not an option — it’s all or nothing, baby.

And don’t forget that you’re usually locked into your design decisions — and bugs — for a lot longer than software product managers would find comfortable. Just see the Wired story about the exploitable flaw in Apple’s T2 security chip for details.

Hardware product managers: I salute you. You’ve taken a hard job, then added complexity, even more stakeholders to manage, and tied one of your hands behind your back for good measure. Just try not to make the rest of us look bad, okay?

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Hardware vs Software Product Management

Hardware product managers are forced to make crucial unchangeable product related decisions extremely early on in the development process.

Do all your decisions hold up 12–18 months later?


How It’s Made

An insight into product discovery techniques for physical products and the realities (and costs) of what it takes to get something ‘Made in China’ and sold around the globe.

It’s the BOM, baby


Apple’s T2 Security Chip Has an Unfixable Flaw

The horrible implications of finding a security hole in your hardware security device.

Whoops, no hotfix for this one


Product management coaching

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We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.

A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity.

“Jock’s unique blend of soft skills and professional expertise has helped me improve in so many areas around product management.

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“He supported me with valuable information resources and made sure I understood what the problems were and how to solve them. Thank you, Jock!”

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Product Manager, Safebridge

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recent posts

Open, honest and always improving

In government, product is borne out of transparency, quite a lot of cake and a fanatical desire to serve the needs of users.

In this recent video for ProdPad’s webinar series, I talk about the acute challenges of culture clash. You’ll also discover what can be achieved by highly motivated, principled and capable people when they set an example for the rest of an organisation — or the entire Civil Service — to follow.

Product management with revenue out of the picture


Voxgig Fireside for professional speakers

In the podcast episode, I reveal how I turned my flair for product management into a speaking career, and how I set up a home studio for live streaming using an old television.

Talking about speaking


Growing together: developing and retaining your product team

34% of product managers surveyed said they left their previous role because there were no opportunities to grow.

In this video, Lucie McLean (Zalando) discusses growth and career progression for product managers with Jock Busuttil (Product People Limited) and Daniil Pavliuchkov (Tier).

Team coaching and career paths


can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Product People Limited logo

Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from used COVID-19 test kits.




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Jock Busuttil

Jock Busuttil

Freelance head of product, author & founder of My surname tends to come up as ‘Bushtit’ in spell-checkers. I also blog at

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