Introducing a Product Mindset

This blog post will illuminate how team members at HARMAN Automotive are changing their collective mindset to focus on new product development.
Mindset Is Everything

As we continue our transformation journey to upgrade HARMAN Automotive, we are very aware that our mindset will determine future success. Evolving from a Tier 1 only model to a nimble technology company equally focused on new products requires a very different approach.

In a Tier 1 model, we develop according to customer specifications and detailed requirements – following roughly a 3-year project cycle. With a product business model, HARMAN Automotive owns the full value chain – from product definition, user experience design and product development in real-world conditions to functional and user validation. In this mode, we take on responsibilities that have traditionally been with our OEM customers.​

Consumers expect today’s in-cabin experience to be as smart as their smartphones. Manufacturers that provide the most intuitive consumer experience will win in today’s highly competitive market. This is why HARMAN Automotive is so focused on understanding the consumer – to provide the greatest value to our customers. 

This consumer-centric and experience-driven approach demands shorter product release and upgrade cycles. We’re now developing products based on these dynamic market requirements at a consumer product like pace and innovation cycle. 

We call this “Consumer Experiences. Automotive Grade.” Consumer conveys user experience at consumer speed while Automotive Grade signifies quality that is pre-certified for the rigorous industry and automotive standards. This involves designing for the end consumer and developing to market readiness under real world conditions.

Product Mindset 101

Developing products is quite different from delivering projects according to specification. A product is a deliverable that has a lifecycle, undergoes an evolution according to consumer and customer needs and is potentially being upgraded in the field. This means full end-to-end responsibility. We drive our own roadmaps and decide what to build next based on unmet consumer and customer needs. To facilitate this, HARMAN conducts proprietary market and user research coupled with trend and technology analysis to identify potential for new products. 

We define the product value proposition and test hypotheses along our product innovation process. And we also determine and validate if the business proposition is viable and aligns with our core expertise and automotive strategy.

Ownership is an integral part of a product mindset. Our people shall identify with their products and view and drive them like owners. We’ve launched quite a few innovative product lines, the Ready products, within HARMAN Automotive and have given the teams full freedom but also responsibility to define their products, roadmaps and organization. This instills a sense of ownership and authority.

People and Product

We need products that both differentiate us in the market and significantly contribute to our overall business and growth. This is being fueled by an organization and process structure that is clearly aligned to the business and the products and effectively fosters responsibility and sense of ownership and dedication.

Evolving from a Tier-1 that’s largely a contract manufacturer to a market and consumer-oriented technology partner on par with, or even ahead of our customers, means that our People Framework must adjust as well. Roles within Product Management become even more important. Product Managers own the product value proposition and definition and drive the business supported by a common set of standards, tools and best-practices. 

On the product side, we need to add creation excellence to execution excellence as we shape our own requirements and architectures. User experience and design, both technical as well as esthetical, are crucial. Architects are now deeply involved in technical product definition and finding solutions. This means much higher levels of both freedom and responsibility. Motivation becomes intrinsic as employees view their work as their product – and want it to be superior.

Sales and Marketing teams also pivot to an even more proactive mode. We now have market-ready products that we can and want to sell immediately without waiting for the next Request for Quote (RFQ). We need to be ever-present with our customers for promoting our Ready Products, for identifying new opportunities and establishing sustainable partnerships.

Product Engineering

As an integral part of our product development approach, we have launched the AutoOne product engineering platform. Accelerated by electrification, the in-cabin user experience has become a major differentiator in the automotive market. As such, a key part of our development process involves integrating our new product portfolio into actual cars like an OEM would do. This holistic cross-product approach allows us to develop and validate both functionality and user experience in the field. 

We’re bringing all our products together – designing from a consumer perspective as one comprehensive experience, integrating into a real vehicle and taking it on the road. The ability to materialize the solutions in an actual car that can be driven under all road conditions is a needed game-changer.

It’s an exciting time to be at HARMAN as we design and integrate our own product portfolio into compelling in-cabin user experiences. This feels like the moment that I have been waiting for and I believe that our quality-first and business-principle-guided approach will boost our transformation and growth far into the future.

Stephan Preuss​

VP, Technology Automotive​​​ at HARMAN International​​

Connect with the Author: LinkedIn 


Introducing a Product Mindset – Key Takeaways

  • ​Creating a Product Mindset means owning the full value chain – from identifying a business opportunity, product definition, user experience design and product development in real-world conditions functional and user validation to proactive sales and marketing. 
  • In the Product Mindset mode, new responsibilities that have traditionally been with the OEM must be assumed including researching the needs of the end consumer and defining a product to fulfill the requirements.
  • The Product Roadmaps must be carefully evolved with innovative and differentiating features and products meeting future consumer and customer needs. 
  • Evolving from a Tier-1 to a technology partner on par with customers means that the People Framework must adjust..

About Me – More on Stephan 

I have nearly two decades of experience at HARMAN including 13 years in infotainment project engineering in different roles with a strong focus on system architecture. I worked five years in innovation for instance on vital sign sensing with Harman X and Samsung  and have been deeply involved in Samsung synergy projects. 

The past two years have been focused on company transformation – from analyzing and shaping strategy to ramping up product spaces and transformational activities like Automotive AI-Lab. My current focus is on shaping and ramping-up our new organization and implementing the Divisional Technology team that’s focused on identifying and incubating future technologies and skills like machine learning and full-vehicle E/E Architecture and delivering those into our SBUs.