Episode 17

Published on:

21st Mar 2022

Keeping Up with Manufacturing Innovation and the Pace of Change with Maziar Adl

Connect with Maziar Adl:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maziaradl/.'

Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. I'm excited to introduce our guest today, Maziar Adl, Co-Founder and CTO of Gocious. This product decision analytics platform empowers better product innovation for auto, mobility, industrial equipment, and high-tech industries. He oversees the end-to-end design, implementation, and development of products. Maziar, welcome to the show.

Maziar Adl: Thank you for having me.

Lisa Ryan: Please share with us your background and what led you to form Gocious.

Maziar Adl: My background is primarily in information management and industrial engineering. I started working as a supervisor to create a new plant after graduating from college. After that, I switched my career to information management. At that time, information management wasn't necessarily just for manufacturing, but in general. We looked at different ways of bringing platforms to diverse audiences. Eventually, I realized that the product manager's role is rising because competition is growing. Understanding what products have to offer to customers and then bringing the voice of the customer into the company.

As a result, I was always interested in how we can help product managers in different industries. When this opportunity came, it was perfect because it was a chance for me to go into this new venture of explicitly providing the product management role with modernized platforms. It's specific to this role, and, in our case in Gocious, we focus mainly at the moment on manufacturing. In manufacturing and, in general, there are complex systems. This is the company that we started in 2018 in southern California. So far, we think that we're on the right track, and we're very excited about the platform we're offering. The next generation is about to come to the market. We call it the CRM, or 

the product roadmap management system.

Lisa Ryan: So what changed with product management over the years? Why have you seen the shift to it being an integral part of manufacturing now?

Maziar Adl: It's the fact that product managers now are going through changes more rapidly. The competition is fierce because of the availability of technology and software techniques to bring hardware and physical group goods to market more rapidly. To change them in the market or rapidly and keep track. We're keeping the product innovation going. Keeping up with this pace of change requires modern tools and requires specific roles. That's the challenge for product managers from our understanding.

Lisa Ryan: When it comes to designing the systems, are the product managers doing their job differently? What are some of the things that you're seeing that they're adapting or adopting in their plants?

Maziar Adl: If you think about it, companies now produce software as a service in software. Product managers have adopted agile technologies, and it's pretty much sinking in. They're looking at optimization, but most of these companies have adopted the process of adopting agile techniques in manufacturing. However, the software is being integrated into hardware. You can see that manufacturers are starting to think about how we capture these agile techniques to speed up and keep up the cadence of the operation? The challenge for the product manager is to keep up the communication and keep up the feedback from the different parts of the organization in a quick way and speed that up. Before manufacturing, cycles were long, but now that's also shrinking. Manufacturers have to give the product managers the tools to keep up with this communication flow.

Lisa Ryan: When you're dealing with so many types of equipment and some of it is years or even decades old and trying to modernize the equipment, as well as adapting some of these new technologies, like you're talking about, how does a product manager do that? Communication is one thing but is it easy for them to get everything talking to each other. Walk us through the process of what that looks like.

Maziar Adl: Product managers on their own are almost helpless, they need a lot of support from different parts of the organization, so if you think about it, a product manager can only bring products to life that the customers need if engineering can deliver them, for example, they can always move as fast as the organization can change. Giving them tools to product managers or bringing them to the new age is one thing, but this must relate to the rest of the organization. That means that the approach to product design and development should change.

I'll give you an example, so in the case of automotive, if you think about cars, today more and more software is being installed on vehicles, I guess, for example, you see, you wake up, and Tesla now has downloaded a new version of their software. Your car might even start bark sounding like the bark of a dog. If you think about it, the software gives the ability for the hardware to be looked at as a platform that can change more rapidly. Using software being installed or new versions of the software being installed on it. But to design that kind of hardware, it's a different mindset historically; manufacturers didn't think of their products that way. They thought of the products as, let's say, a car, not as a platform that then later, you can rapidly change it like your laptop right.

The laptop you have hardware-wise is the same laptop you had maybe a year ago, and you haven't changed it. But since then, you've installed so much software, and your laptop's going to change every day. That's how most of the manufacturers are looking at things. That means a change in design. Changing the way you approach solutions in the market and, of course, the product manager wants your organization to be in the proper mode. A product manager needs tools to communicate at that pace, so engineers know what needs to change and bring those changes on the platform more rapidly.

Lisa Ryan: So it sounds like when you use the examples of the car of Tesla, in particular, but in the car industry, consumers today are looking for a lot more personalization and a lot more customization. It sounds like this is allowing product managers to bring some unique things that are more personalized to their consumers to the market.

Maziar Adl: Only we give one source of truth, a platform that product managers can leverage to track changes and define the product and customize it for different markets. We call it personas or other customer needs and have a platform that can be reconfigured for these markets or personas.

Lisa Ryan: So besides the auto industry, give us some other examples of your technology or how this technology is changing the industry.

Maziar Adl: So, think of everything complex. By complex, I mean you have to bring different modules on parts on a platform, and you can reconfigure it for other markets and personalize them it all fits. For example, you can look at industrial machinery and consumer electronics like laptops, TV, or hi-fi systems. These are good examples, but it doesn't end there. You can also look at the equipment that requires software. For instance, IOT equipment, if you look at your home, you have smart devices that monitor or manage parts of your home like air conditioning. These all are examples of things that you can configure and repurpose for different markets. You have to bring in other parts and modules, and features together to make this physical hardware and then improve it over time.

Lisa Ryan: And when you talk about a roadmap for product managers, what do you mean by that?

Maziar Adl: One of the interesting things about agile, in general, is that you know agile. Most of the focus has been tactical. In other words, hey, we do two weeks, and then we move to the next increment, and we build things incrementally when manufacturing cycles are simply longer, and you have to think of your product a little bit more strategically. So, what gushes enable is strategic product planning, so what you can do is you can map the changes and these configurations or changes to your product definition over time. And map when those releases happen in the next three to say 5-10 years and make a business case of every release or the overall strategy of your product.

For example, if you want to move all your manufacturing equipment, let's say in the case of cars, you want to move entirely to EV well, maybe you start by moving your vehicles or a subset of your product line to hybrid. From there, you move to EV, and little by little, you sunset your old cars to make, and your objective is to become fully sustainable or usefully sustainable energy. In those cases, you can map that strategy with Gocious' platform and continuously evolve it or improve on it as time goes by and communicate that with the rest of the organization.

Lisa Ryan: And is there a way to test this out before you implement the program so you can see how it works and the different changes?

Maziar Adl: Absolutely, so one of the things we do is there are two things one is using the platform itself cautious platform we allow for people to have a trial, and if the operation is a little bit bigger, we carve a test space for them to kind of experiment, but the second one is testing the ideas or the ideas that are coming in before you mark every release on the roadmap. That's in our platform, so you have an idea for a new release if you're on our platform. If you have a roadmap, you can put it in a draft mode, and then we'll discuss it with your peers or other parts of the organization. Then, when it's ready, you can publish that new roadmap or changes for the wider audience to know what's now approved or published for production in the next three to five years.

Lisa Ryan: Okay, now with the way technology is going, these days, I mean three to five years is a long time. A lot of other things can change in that time too. How do you account for the potential changes in technology that may be happening?

Maziar Adl: And that's precisely the crux of the issue. I think you just put your finger on it. Imagine if manufacturers need to do this, they need to look at three 5-10 year horizons because that's the cycle time to meet their objectives, or that's how long it takes for specific R&D to materialize now. As time goes by, market conditions change precisely, as you mentioned. That's a long horizon, so to keep the roadmap on track, they must continuously revisit that roadmap and make adjustments as they get more information or enrich the future roadmap.

Today, you might not know what's happening five years from now, but you have a high-level idea. Two years from now, five years, four years away, or three years away, you have to evolve that with PowerPoints and spreadsheets, and then people churn, and then you don't know where that spreadsheet is anymore or trying to keep it up with many related documents. You can do this now with the technology of the day. With web two point O, you can or web 3.0 that's coming you can put it in a central place where everybody can have access remotely from anywhere in the world.

Whether you're working hybrid or in different parts of the world, bring them all together, always give them the latest, and make rapid changes when necessary.

Lisa Ryan: What would be an example of a before and after? What was a manufacturer doing before they put this roadmap into place? What was their process was, and what happened as a result.

Maziar Adl: So let me paraphrase some of the comments from our prospects and customers. To give you an example, if you have a strategic roadmap for your product portfolio, multiple product lines come together. And you are going into a meeting with every product line product manager presenting their case. You have an executive board or a product board reviewing the products on the road maps and making sure that everything's on track.

Suppose you don't have standard reporting methods if you don't have one place to put everything together and have the information at your fingertips. Then that meeting either gets concluded with not no proper decisions or some decisions will be postponed to other meetings. The other one is aligning everybody together becomes very difficult because you have to bring a lot of people together from different parts of the organization to make decisions. This is expensive, but delays in these decisions can hurt the company quite a bit.

Many times we've heard that if you have, let's say quarterly meeting to review your strategic roadmap, make sure everything's on track, a lot of times, people come. But the executives asked questions, and the information was not readily available, or the information was not consistent, so team A presented it differently than team B. They're submitting different information, so the standardization of the data is not there, and then they go back and then come back again for another round after a journey.

Also, because this information is not accessible from a central place or on the web remotely, then what happens is it's not like you can before the meeting. Invite everybody on the platform and say, hey, let's check everything so when we're going into this meeting, everything's ready and everything's good to go and the decisions are made, and we can bring things back on track.

You can save a lot of time collectively manpower of executives or product managers, or you know executive management if you do this, which is quite expensive and quiet and delay in decisions can disrupt the production as a result. So we can start using these kinds of platforms.

Lisa Ryan: And what's the best way for somebody to get started? Is there something that they're looking for, as far as an outdated process, or maybe there's something in the system that's holding up everything? What would be a sign that this would be time to develop some process like this?

Maziar Adl: There are different angles. One is to imagine your portfolio manager or your product manager responsible for defining the product, making sure that you get buy-in from executives or senior leadership to execute the product, and making sure that the definition of the product is the same across the board. It would help if you had some analytics. You also need a space to define the product and then combine them to take you to executives or senior leadership to get the buy-in and communicate it across the board. It might not be an issue if you're doing this with a very small group and you're doing it on spreadsheets and PowerPoints.

But if the team is a little bit larger and you have gates, you continuously have to make changes. It would help if you informed others of those changes, and these documents are all intertwined, so it's not one spreadsheet. For example, you have multiple spreadsheets that tie things together and try to keep up with the change, and you want to reduce the mistake. The platforms like this definitely will reduce the time it takes to keep up with the changes in your product roadmap. Your product definition gives you much better visualizations that help you communicate more effectively with your peers or with your Executive the products coming out. Or you believe it's right for the market to come out. Those are the main reasons you would look to leverage a platform like this in your organization.

Lisa Ryan: And so, when you think about this, from a general standpoint if somebody whether or not they were using your platform or not, but they want, but a manufacturer listening today wanted to look for ways to improve the processes that they're doing in the plant, what would be your best piece of advice for them?

Maziar Adl: Well, the first piece of advice is to stay competitive. Look at how you can speed up the product management planning and product strategy to ensure that the strategies are continuously aligned with the market needs, so you don't lock in something. The organization creates so much affinity around it that everybody's afraid of raising their hand, saying, hey, this is wrong. The product is not aligned with the market any longer. So you have to find ways to bring processes or tools together to bring the people together to make sure that you can continuously look at their product roadmap and make adjustments as necessary.

I think the world is going in that direction. How do you with software becoming more and more relevant in hardware manufacturing? How do you bring hardware and software teams together to work in tandem? Have a nice cadence working together. How would you leverage new processes or tools to help you with bringing these groups as one team together?

Lisa Ryan: If somebody would want to continue the conversation with you and learn more about the roadmap or Gocious, what's the best way for them to get ahold of you.

Maziar Adl: So you can always reach me are from different channels. I'm always available on my email, of course, mazadl@gocious.com. The other one is my LinkedIn page, https://www.linkedin.com/in/maziaradl/. You can always go to our website if you generally want to reach us. We have a contact place to reach out to if you need to see our platform. We're always available. We're going to meet you in person, where you know we're going to show you a demonstration of the platform, and we'd be more than happy to answer any questions anybody might have, okay.

Lisa Ryan: It has been a pleasure having you on the show, so thanks so much for joining me today.

Maziar Adl: Thank you so much for having me. This was an immense pleasure.

Lisa Ryan: But I'm Lisa Ryan, and this is the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. We'll see you next time.

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About your host

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Lisa Ryan

As a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), an award-winning speaker and author of ten books, Lisa Ryan, CSP, works with her clients to develop employee and client engagement initiatives and strategies that keep their top talent and best clients from becoming someone else’s.
Lisa’s expertise includes: strengthening workplace culture, improving employee engagement, increasing customer retention, and initiating gratitude strategies (“Grategies”) for personal and professional benefit. Lisa’s participants enjoy her high energy, enthusiastic delivery and quick wit and they leave the session with ideas they are committed to acting on immediately to make positive workplace culture changes.
Lisa costars in two films with other experts including Jack Canfield of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” She is the Past-President of the National Speakers Association, Ohio Chapter and holds an MBA from Cleveland State University.

Relevant Experience

• Keynote, breakout or workshop speaker at more than 100 national and international conferences
• Thirteen years of industrial marketing and sales experience, including seven years in the welding industry – and yes, she does weld
• Host of “Elevate Your Engagement Levels: What You Need to Know” on the Elite Expert Network and the C-Suite Network
• Creator of “The Seven Mistakes Managers Make to Crush Company Culture” video series
• Best-selling author of ten books, including “Manufacturing Engagement: 98 Proven Strategies to Attract and Retain Your Industry’s Top Talent”
• Award-winning speaker