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Kiran Patel

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December 12, 2019

Interview with Rob Kellner: Connected Products, predictions for the future and more

Rob Kellner

Principal Interview: Rob Kellner

At OST, we help our customers bridge the distance between insights, technology and strategy—in smart, meaningful ways that yield transformative results.

We offer expertise, leadership and skills in multiple areas. In this piece, you will meet Rob Kellner, OST Principal Consultant. Kellner’s background is in application development and data analytics. He has been at OST for more than eight years, supporting organizations such as Stryker and Steelcase in their connected products needs. Kellner has been in the consulting space for almost 30 years.

We talked to Rob about Connected Products, how businesses approach OST, what the typical process is like at the start, and his predictions for the future of Connected Products.

Q: What is the typical scenario when clients come to OST with connected product needs?

A: Our typical client scenario involves a traditional product manufacturer looking to create new value in the marketplace via connecting their existing product lines into the Internet as an “Internet of Things” device. Our client usually has done the necessary research in this space and sees the value of having this connection occur – both for their customer and for themselves.

Often, we see our clients first give it a try themselves. However, they get stuck and reach out to OST for a few different reasons.

One challenge they face is getting intelligence into the product itself in the first place. They have made successful products for decades, but engaging the necessary electrical engineering elements – sensors, data collection, data transmission – on their device can be an entirely new world for them.

Another challenge they face is knowing how to make and install the sensors but not knowing how to extend information from them into the cloud and into a larger system of data collection, intelligence, and analysis.

Yet another reason clients come to us is that the overall use or experience is not fully baked or resonating with their customers. The client may have all kinds of data and even have applications to be used, but they missed some key initial steps in creating a meaningful and engaging experience for their customers.

OST’s Point of View: OST can help with all of this. We serve as your strategic partner throughout the digital transformation process. This covers the entire product development lifecycle: product ideation and prototyping, initial buildout, iteration, and experimentation with customers, industrial scale assembly of infrastructure and architecture to support the product, constructing the tools and applications that both consumers and our clients can utilize for value and affect, and providing ongoing support and enhancements the platform and products require – all through one team of engaged and experienced consultants.

And we’ve had a lot of success in the connected product space. For example, from strategy and organizational governance to platform architecture and implementation, OST has been with Amway every step of the way in development of the Atmosphere Sky air purifier. We have helped Herman Miller provide their customers a rich and engaging experience with their LiveOS desk and chair platform via infrastructure and mobile product design and implementation. There are countless additional customers we have partnered with to drive their digital product solution to market.

Q: Okay, so a client is on board. Now what?

A: Our typical process involves a lot of listening – and then asking a lot of questions. We are a curious group of problem solvers. We typically will have several discovery-oriented meetings and workshops, bringing our customer’s product ownership, product development, marketing, sales, and executive leadership into a collaborative space to help us efficiently learn about the business outcomes and customer value objectives desired. From there, we start to devise a plan that takes our client from where they are today on a journey towards the desired outcomes. That means making sure we have a clear articulation of the outcomes, the costs, and the schedule. And it means pulling together a cross-functional, collaborative team to execute.

OST’s Point of View: Together, we go on a journey through the lifecycle of their connected product adventure. And we take them toward the end game, which is a successful outcome, an informed product development lifecycle, and delighted customers who are willing to buy a more sophisticated product.

Q: Why is OST skilled to handle our needs?

A: At OST, we help clients see the bigger picture. Creating a successful connected product involves more than just building a device. We help clients see beyond what’s directly in front of them. We have a point of view and definitive experience in a wide and cascading set of services and offerings. For example, we have people who know how to capture data effectively and position it for review. We have cloud architects who know how to collect and process telemetry. We have data analytics resources who know how to capture data and position it for review. We have designers who think about how we want to have that data presented in a meaningful and impactful way to both consumers and stakeholders at an organization.

OST’s Point of View: We have multiple teams that can do each of those various business elements and more. And they’re all seamlessly connected through our principal consultants, practice leads, and delivery leads. We are orchestrating a macro solution, but we’re using a whole bunch of different micro services to do it.

Q: Where do you see the connected product space heading in the next 5 to 10 years?

A: The product development space is still very young in terms of making the toaster smart, for example. We’re going to continue to see a greater and greater set of products that have intelligence in the marketplace in the next few years. We have customers that are on one to three-year roadmaps. If I project beyond that, and we assume the vast majority of manufacturers have such products and are capable of identifying when they have a problem, the next layer is a form of collaborative programs. This would look like a smart kitchen, instead of just one smart refrigerator. I don’t have one component that is providing me with information; I have a suite.

OST: Your Strategic Partner for Connected Product Design and Development

If you are embarking on a connected product build or transformational process, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are you aligned in pursuit of specific goals throughout your organization?
  • Have you deeply considered the experience your customer desires?
  • Are you ready to operate differently than you traditionally have in your product lifecycle?

OST can help you find the answers, and we can work with your team to accelerate forward progress. Our depth and breadth of experience and knowledge makes us unique in the market, especially when it comes to connected product development.

To learn more, you can visit our connected products service page, and if you’d like to talk with one of our experts, all you have to do is contact OST. We look forward to hearing from you!

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About the Author

Kiran Sood Patel is the former Managing Editor of The Rapidian and hails from Illinois. Born and raised in the Midwest, she has reported for daily newspapers for years, with experience covering education, business, technology, city government and feature reporting. Prior to moving to Michigan, she worked as a multimedia reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She holds a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and a Bachelor of Arts in News Editorial Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an active volunteer in all communities and cities she has called home. She is the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the Junior League of Grand Rapids. The Junior League of Grand Rapids is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Kiran has served as the Assistant Chair of Research in Community Impact. She served as JLGR’s Chair of the Beneath the Wreath committee in 2017. She is a past Educational Programming co-chair for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids. In the past, she has volunteered as an adult literacy tutor and with the Junior League of Cedar Rapids for three years in the area of youth aging out of the foster care system. She enjoys baking, reading popular fiction, blogging, writing and being a tourist in her own city. In Grand Rapids, you can find her in search of baked goods, coffee, good food and captivating stories across the city.