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An eye on IoT: Interview with Tom Guy

 

To help us turn our product vision for consumer IoT into reality, we introduce Tom Guy who joins later this summer in the newly created role of Chief Product Officer.

He will use his start-up expertise to build a product design team that will be the heartbeat of our IoT business, working with Thomas Engelbertz, who set up the new innovation and product hub late last year.

Tom Guy shares what makes him – and his customers – tick…

Q. What will you be focusing on when you join as Chief Product Officer at the end of summer?

I’m looking forward to working for such a prestigious brand as Vodafone Group and I’m excited to start something new. Thomas Engelbertz and I will go on a journey of supporting and strengthening the current product and design team. I will be working on the new venture, bringing in expertise and people, and creating a new brand.

We will need to build the right platform, culture and place before we build the right products. We will need to decide: what’s our heartbeat, our DNA? Something we will keep coming back to time after time, a North Star if you like.

Q. When it comes to product design, what’s the secret to success?

Every element of a product has to be grounded in customer feedback. I don’t mean huge research pieces or hiding behind two-way mirrors. I mean the designers being face-to-face with customers, watching them as they use every element of the product – whether it’s a device, an app, installing or using it.

We then build things that solve a customer problem. In this way, it’s created by us, but designed by the customer. Only then can you truly be proud of something you’ve designed.

Q. You talk about products needing to create ‘magical moments’ in a customer’s life. What exactly does this mean?

By that I mean a moment when a customer is really blown away by something. Big, recent examples could be: no longer waiting in the rain for a black cab and instead watching your Uber draw near in an app. But they don’t have to be these big grandiose headlines.

At Hive we were so lucky to have created many magic moments over the past six years. Let’s say, a mum is coming back with her son from football on a Sunday. All of a sudden, she presses a button to boost the hot water so she knows she can run a hot bath for him when they get back home.

A sensor turning on a light, for example, means nothing. And yet, if you start to describe that as: ‘my 15-year-old daughter is coming home from school, and when she walks through the door, a light and perhaps a radio turn on’, then that sensor makes her feel like she’s not in an empty house. That’s personal and means something.

Q. How did you fulfil customer demands at Hive, then?

At the very beginning at Hive, there were three clear customer needs that we addressed head-on: I don’t know how to use my thermostat; it doesn’t look great; and I don’t want to be wasteful (why am I heating a home when I’m not there?).

Within 12 months of development – more like nine months once bums were on seats – we had a product (Hive 1) and an app in market. We were distributed through British Gas, and we were in all of the major retailers (Apple, Amazon, Dixons etc).

Q. Can you give any insider insight as to the kinds of products you’ll be developing in your new role?

We don’t know what those products are yet, but it’s clear what the customer needs and what their requirements are. We will focus on people and things that are important to them.

Whether it’s about children or elderly loved ones, there are some significant problems in that market that need to be solved. Of course, it’s easy to build something, but we want to build the right thing. I’ve seen a few plans and they’re really exciting.

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