The Role of the Harman Luxury Audio GPLM
By Terence Dover and Dan Vandenbergh
Senior Global Product Line Managers
Global Product Line Managers wear many hats and fill many shoes as the stewards of their product lines from “cradle to the grave.” It is an “entrepreneurial” role that requires coordination and collaboration with teams across all areas of the business throughout the product cycle. Each GPLM works closely with and reports to the Business Unit’s (BU) strategic leadership.
- “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
- — Thomas Edison
Every product starts with an idea, but few ideas evolve into products. Part of the GPLM’s role is to evaluate and validate a product idea to determine if it merits the investment of resources required to bring it to fruition. That includes examining the customer's need, the market opportunity, competitive landscape, feature requirements, innovation opportunities, technical feasibility, resources needed, brand and BU alignment, and of course, the financial return on investment (ROI). Once this Product Concept is documented, it is presented to an executive team to compete for the resources needed to bring it to the next stage. At each stage or “gate” of the product’s development process, the rationale for the product is examined with increasing scrutiny.
Once the product concept is approved, the GPLM works with a team assembled for the specific product. This includes a project/program manager, lead engineers for mechanical, electrical, acoustics and software, as well as an industrial design lead. This is when the ball of clay starts to take shape, and we get into the nitty-gritty detail. At this stage, we become advocates for the customer and brand, balancing the needs of the BU to drive decisions with the overarching goal of bringing high quality products to market on time and on budget. We figure out and document precisely what needs to be built and how we are going to build it. The industrial design — size, shape, color, finish, and materials are determined. Electrical engineering and schematics are developed. Acoustical engineers bend sound-waves into submission with access to unrivaled research teams and facilities. The mechanical engineer solves the puzzle: printed circuit boards, speaker components and power supplies must all come together in a way that can be manufactured efficiently.
If the product has a user interface, we will work with the SW team to help develop the UI. The GPLM works closely with the PM and the rest of the team to understand the costs and time needed for full development. The GPLM must also determine which regions in the world plan to sell the product, so we can identify which safety standards and certifications are required to comply with the laws locally. Once all the product requirements and specifications are documented, and we have a schedule and an approved ROI, we are ready to go to the next gate.
Prototyping and preparing for the launch
As the product gets funded for prototyping, tooling, validation and production, the GPLM works with PM, Engineering and Quality at facilities all over the world to address issues as they come up, by coordinating with the appropriate internal department to keep the ball rolling.
We partner with the Marketing team to plan and develop assets needed for the launch. This includes photography, specification sheets, webpages, brochures, press releases, and copy. The Master Copy Document, which contains the product descriptions, features, highlights and specifications that will feed all other assets is the responsibility of the GPLM. Once the core assets are developed, the GPLM will present the product to the global Sales Team to generate excitement and solidify their forecast commitment, so we know how many we are building! We work with our Global Customer Support team to equip them with the knowledge they need for our customers. We do this for all the models we develop. In addition, we collaborate with the industry’s best training team to ensure there is a solid training plan with appropriate assets.
Once the product is launched, the GPLM measures its development against benchmarks and evaluates market acceptance. Our role morphs from being the voice of the customer internally during product development, to representing the product internally after launch.
In short, the GPLM shepherds Harman’s award-winning, innovative product development, by researching data points from our many resources. We work together with the best engineering minds to create best-in-class products and bring them to market by partnering with our world-class team of marketing and sales professionals. It is a challenging and exciting role, filled with variety -- from inspiration to perspiration; there’s never a dull moment in the GPLM’s day! And, of course, when a product wins an award or receives accolades by a reviewer or customer, it is quite satisfying! But our real reward is getting to participate everyday with so many smart and talented people, who work tirelessly to materialize something that started as an idea.
- “One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But... I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”
- — Thomas Edison