Challenges of Next-Generation Automotive and Mobility Innovations’ Productization and Industrialization
Posted: July 11, 2022
Guest Post By Umar Zakir Abdul Hamid
Lead Strategist, CEVT AB, Sweden
Each day in the media, we are seeing a lot of discussions regarding the transformation of the automotive and mobility industries. A lot of marketing materials have been distributed, promoted and disseminated in the media concerning the future strategy and vision of automotive companies on this topic. However, if one is working on turning the vision into reality, one will realize that it is not as easy as it may sound. Productization and industrialization of the emerging technologies in the automotive and mobility industry are facing a lot of challenges due to the rapid transformation of the industry as a whole. Before we proceed further, it is better to understand the definitions of productization and industrialization terminologies.
Productization: According to Investopedia, ‘Productize’ expresses ‘the process of developing or altering a process, idea, skill, or service to make it marketable for sale to the public’ . Artz. et al. in their article about software productization suggest that ‘the productization process describes the transformation from a customer-specific software development to a standard software product for an entire market’ .
Industrialization: According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, industrialization means ‘the process of developing industries in a country’. While the term industry itself - from the same source - can be translated into ‘something that is produced or is available in large quantities and makes a lot of money’ [3, 4].
From both of the definitions, it can be deemed that productizing and industrializing an innovation refers to making a product saleable - on a large scale - to the public audience, assuring profitability for the organizations that are selling it. In the context of software-driven development, a product as an output of productization is not a mere prototype or proof-of-concept.
However, turning this into a reality is not as straightforward as it may be depicted. In this article, the author provides five recurring themes that are faced by the product development team during the productization of emerging disruptive technologies in the automotive and mobility sectors. The product development team that is implied here does not only include the technical unit, but instead the whole organizational pipeline that involves turning the idea into a marketable product.
Software-Driven Products Require Different Mindsets, Philosophies and Methodologies
After years of financial and market success, inevitably, a lot of legacies are constituted in the automotive industry. This involves the legacy of processes, operational procedures, standards, business models and even management philosophies. However, with the advent of the ‘software-defined vehicles’ as the future of mobility, the challenges in productizing them not only fall in the technical aspect of the development but rather, it is predominantly about transforming the entire organization. And this mandates a lot of change management exercises with different mindsets and philosophies. Turning the idea of innovations into products demands a lot of shifts and it is a process that will take a lot of time.
Attracting and (Retaining the Right Talents)
Productizing the innovations and simultaneously transforming the organization demand a core team that consists of multipotentialite-talents (i.e. each of the team members has a diverse range of skills with can-do attitudes). Because, again, enabling the productization and transformation requires both the executor and planner attributes and not just one of them. In addition to this core team, a lot of talented specialists should be gathered too for the actual implementation of the visions. This instructs a lot of effort in identifying, hiring and recruiting the fitting talents to be accomplished. Unfortunately, due to the transformation happening worldwide across the industry, the efforts are not only currently being done by an organization but rather everyone. This then caused the race (or some are calling it a war) for talents. And to make it more complicated, apart from hiring the right experts, retaining the talents is another tougher challenge. And all of this demands the right mindset throughout the procedure. Because to hire the right talents, one needs the right approach.
Unclear Visions Rendering Non-Optimal Development Conditions
Shifting innovation into actuality is not a task for one group only. But instead, it is a teamwork measure for the whole organization. The innovation will not be possible if only the technical team notices the hurdles that the organization is facing. And vice versa, productization will not be feasible if the innovations that are conceived have no value for the market. Therefore, a clear vision needs to be specified. And as is expected, establishing the vision and strategy for a large organization is not an easy task. Unclear vision will cause a lot of waste, which not only includes financial waste, but also development-wise, it might increase the technical debt, scope creep as well as unnecessary meetings  .
Silos (A Lot of Silos)
When we are talking about a new vision, unexplored strategy, and a novel direction - in brief, a transformation - it is undeniably and vehemently important for everyone in the organization to have a cooperative interpretation of the big picture. However, it is not an easy task to break down the wall of silos in different departments and teams during the rapid changes in the industry and business directions. Similar to the previous point, the hindrance in delivering a reliable output to the customer on a widescale is making sure all stakeholders involved in the equations have the same insights, and this requires a strong will from the enablers' side. This mandates good product-, people-, project- as well as organizational-leaders to bridge the different teams and create the synergies between them. And of course, most importantly, as clichéd this may sound, this necessitates compassion, empathy and passion.
Importance of the Cooperative Taxonomy
Sometimes, disputes between different teams can be generated from the myriad of jargon and terminologies that are being utilized. For example, referring to the autonomous mobility context itself, two parties within the same organization might disagree on the different representations to describe self-driving vehicles - i.e. what level of automation will be productized, L2 or L4? Although it seems superficial, it is in reality a crucial topic to be addressed. Therefore, all stakeholders need to employ or at least understand the same terminologies for the same issues. Luckily, a lot of efforts have been made by SAE Standardization Committees to address this. For example, SAE J3016 examines the different levels of driving automation, SAE JA3163 discusses the Taxonomy of On-Demand and Shared Mobility: Ground, Aviation, and Marine while SAE J3216 elaborates the Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Cooperative Driving Automation for On-Road Motor Vehicles [7, 8, 9].
It is apparent from this article that the productization of emerging automotive and mobility technologies are not an easy task and require a lot of cross-functional collaborations. In fact, not only within the same organization, but collaborations are also needed between different entities and regulatory bodies to bring forward the safe and reliable technology to the public. This piece is not written to provide the exhaustive lists of the topics, but instead, it is jotted down as a suggestive note to provide the glimpse of the aforementioned challenges to the generic audience. Summarizing, it is not only about technical obstacles, but instead, it is a change management exercise requirement for the whole organization. It will be a bumpy road for the automotive and mobility industry, but the winner will be the one who addresses the mentioned concerns.
About the Author
The author is the Lead Strategist for CEVT AB in Sweden. He is also the Secretary of the SAE Cooperative Driving Automation Committee and IEEE Sweden. He has authored and edited books and scientific articles on the Connected and Automated Mobility theme, apart from being the Associate Editors for the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles and SAE Technical Papers, among many others. Details can be found on his website www.umarzakir.page.
 Investopedia - Definition of Productize https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/productize.asp
 Artz, Peter, Inge Van De Weerd, and Sjaak Brinkkemper. "Productization: The process of transforming from customer-specific software development to product software development." Department of Information and Computing Sciences Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands (2010)
 Cambridge Dictionary - Definition of Industrialization https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/industrialization
 Cambridge Dictionary - Definition of Industry https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/industry
 Hamid, U. Z. A., Irimescu, D. S., & Zaman, M. T. (2022). Challenges of Complex Software Development for Emerging Technologies in Automotive Industry: Bridging the Gap of Knowledge Between the Industry Practitioners (No. 2022-01-0109). SAE Technical Paper https://www.sae.org/publications/technical-papers/content/2022-01-0109/
 Before You Speak in A Meeting, Shhh. Read This: Between Fertile and Futile Meetings. A Note to Self https://www.amazon.com/Before-Speak-Meeting-Shhh-This/dp/B09NRRFSYF/
 SAE J3016 - Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j3016_202104
 SAE JA3163 - Taxonomy of On-Demand and Shared Mobility: Ground, Aviation, and Marine https://www.sae.org/standards/content/ja3163_202106
 SAE J3216 - Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Cooperative Driving Automation for On-Road Motor Vehicles https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j3216_202107