As a Program Manager in my previous role, I had the great opportunity to work as a program partner with the Made for Google Team as they introduced the newly developed program to the world in 2017. For those who are unfamiliar with Google’s Made for Google (MFG) program, it is a program offered by Google where approved third party companies can submit their products through a series of tests. If the product passes the tests, the product will earn the coveted Made for Google badge to showcase on their product packaging, website and marketing material.
Like pretty much all Google products, the MFG program launched with room to grow and fully take shape based on user feedback, process updates and real world use cases. These mostly circled around testing procedures and the acceptable results for passing. With multiple branches of Google teams involved from software and hardware engineers to legal, I could tell that Google as a company wanted to ensure that all products that earned the Made for Google badge would not cause harm to the end user, their property and/or their Google devices.
Over the three years I developed products for and participated in the MFG program, the team, program and device library not only grew in scale, but also in maturity. Program processes were further defined, additional technical resources and procedures were implemented, and the team shaped the program to really involve it’s third-party partners in the process while adding more structure. Thanks to what seems to me, the autonomy the team had to pivot and adjust the program as needed, they were able to take the long term vision they shared in the first conversations about joining the initial program and scale it into a globally recognized brand it is today.
The certification process
To certify a product, program partners must submit an application to the MFG team for approval to move forward with testing. Once approved, partners must identify all of the required testing procedures for their product category, which ranges from a handful of tests for screen protectors and soft goods to over 10 procedures for electronic products like wireless chargers, power bricks, cables and adapters, etc. Some tests are performed by independent third party labs and some tests are performed by partners, I.e (me) on Google’s Mountain View campus. These tests take place in a secured building, in a secured lab, with the upcoming unreleased products. Before you ask, YES, it is as cool as it sounds for anyone who loves technology and has to have the latest and greatest tech. Going to the lab, working with the MFG team and product engineers, and getting to hands-on time with unreleased hardware was a great perk of my role and the program.
the made for google team
Getting to work with the talented Google team was one of the greatest perks of participating in the MFG program. Collaborating with them on which existing products they would like in the program and new product concepts internal stakeholders wanted in the MFG portfolio. Given the feeling that this was a true development partnership made my team feel comfortable with the level of investment (monetary, time and brand name) it would take to be a lead partner in the program.
Some of the first products we created were one of the first USB-C to 3.5mm adapters with charging passthrough on the market and a standard USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. (When removing the headphone jack was trending) Developing this product in tandem with Google allowed me and my development team to work with some of the greatest product engineers at Google, including one of the world’s leading authorities on USB protocols and Power delivery (PD). It also gave a great behind the scenes look at the amount of resources it takes to manufacture and launch a device globally, like a smartphone or Chromebook. This was for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google’s first attempt at an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) device.
The MFG team are the type of external partners all development teams hope for when working with a third party, let alone an OEM. They worked with my international development team, joining Google Hangouts (now Google Meet) late into the evening or very early in the morning so all members could collaborate together, worked extra hours to complete testing on different product iterations, and share the most up to date information as the Pixel devices were being finalized internally and hardware/software tweaks were being implemented. That was the level of commitment the MFG showed to my team and were one of a handful of key partners at the launch of the MFG program.
made for google program challenges
If you are a project, product or program manager or part of any development team, you know there are NO perfect projects. Now, take multiple projects and roll them together aimed at completing an organizational goal and you get a program. The challenges are then multiplied as more moving parts and teams and stakeholders are involved. In an organization as large and publicized as Google, information, decisions/approvals and team integration can cause longer than ideal delays. These will usually effort the third party partners, but they can be felt by the internal teams as well, which I witnessed along with having to overcome the typical product development challenges along with changing program requirements in a brand new program. The leadership and desire to accommodate and compromise the MFG team provided as these challenges arised internally and externally made me feel like valued partner in the growth of the program.
Large companies like Google have tons of initiatives and after many conversations with Googlers, they can confirm the changing dynamic is part of the appeal working at a company like Google. This does lead to competing priorities and this became evident when looking to promote the product and the participation within the program from the Google side. During my time working with the program, there was little aide from the internal Google sales and marketing teams to promote the products within the program, especially at launch.
Lessons for Program Success
Having developed multiple successful programs for physical and software products for both consumer and B2B customers, it is imperative to have fully conceived marketing campaign(s) and educated sales teams to promote and more importantly sell the product(s). For me, this is a major part of setting up a program for success and if you are not actively working with marketing and sales when developing a program, you should change that immediately. It is a gut wrenching feeling when a new program or project is completed and marketing is late or not well executed or if the sales team is not able to position the product to close sales or gain the projected market share. Having been in both the development and sales positions has ingrained this importance for including marketing and sales into all of my development cycles.