Whole Product Planning Services
Whole Product Planning transforms market and product strategies into the execution world of Market Requirements Documents (MRDs), product management, and release planning.
INSTEP's whole product planning services include:
Development of Market Requirements Document (MRD)
A central part of our approach to preparing MRDs is the development of one or more conceptual views of the product. The conceptual views represent the external characteristics of the product from different viewpoints. For example, what concepts underlying the product does a user need to understand in order to use it effectively? What does an installer or systems administrator need to understand in order to deploy the product effectively? The conceptual views provide the basic structure for the refinement of the descriptions of the individual components. We use well-proven description techniques for these models, but we emphasize that we are modeling external conceptual models, rather than internal structure and organization.
INSTEP has developed an MRD template that we adapt to the needs of each engagement and company. The MRD template includes discussion of product feature definitions, non-functional product attributes, platforms supported, post-delivery services, anticipated changes, product migration, retirement and rollout considerations. We work with product management, marketing, and engineering through an active creation and review process to achieve an agreed MRD.
The MRD is a living document that evolves as technologies and markets change. INSTEP can also help define and guide the execution of the product management processes that keep the MRD alive and relevant.
Development of Product Architectures
The engineering process often begins with the development of a product architecture or the adaptation of an existing architecture. The architecture describes the disposition of software components over the sites of distributed systems, if necessary, as well as the decomposition into components.
Key architectural elements include:
- service requirements across product families
- general architectural requirements such as scalability, reliability, interoperability, etc.
- a logical architecture to satisfy service and architectural requirements
- a physical architecture that realizes the logical architecture
- a componentization strategy that describes the modularity and packaging of physical architecture into individual elements that can be separately released
Today's thrust towards component-based architectures means that many elements of the architecture can be purchased as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology. Build versus buy decisions, and their trade-offs with functionality, need to be viewed within the context of first mover advantage that may be a cornerstone of the company's market strategy.
INSTEP's staff can work with your Engineering and Product Management groups to develop a product architecture (or a product architecture evolution) that provides a sound basis for your short and longer-term product structure. Typical activities and deliverables from such an engagement include:
- architectural approach
- facilitation and creation of documented architecture
- facilitation and creation of plan to realize the architecture incrementally, with specific attention given to use of 3rd party products/services where appropriate.
Review of Product Architecture
We view product architectures as being engineering solutions to business problems defined and characterized by product management. An architecture has no commercial merit outside the business context in which it was created. INSTEP's staff is skilled at reviewing architectures in the light of the market strategies, Whole Product Plannings, COTS technology availability (that can affect time-to-market), and technology evolutions in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the architecture.
For early market companies in young product categories, architectural flexibility is invaluable. At this stage, customer needs are not well-understood, are evolving as the customers gain more experience with the technology and products, and competition between vendors in similar categories is fierce. Architectural flexibility gives the company the agility it will need to stay ahead of developments in these areas.
Development of Product Roadmaps
A Product Roadmap captures a company's vision of the core product elements and how the company's product offering will evolve over a period of time. We take input from executive management, sales and marketing, analysts' reports, customer feedback, and industry sources to identify trends in technology and market. We understand the current products' capabilities, and we construct, using an iterative process with the executive team and other stakeholders, the roadmap for product features.
Development of Product Release Plans
Effective execution of a product development and delivery strategy for software companies requires great product release planning. Release Planning encompasses a number of activities and disciplines. We help companies to define release types, recognizing the differences between software license and ASP models of software product delivery. We have template release description documents to help structure a company's information about a release's content. A release plan describes one or more release streams, with each release stream containing multiple releases of different types. We help companies prepare an initial version of the release plan, and show them the processes they need to maintain it and execute against it, including the product management processes controlling release plan changes and release content management.
Release deployment is very different for software license and ASP models of software delivery. We can help you understand those differences and plan for them effectively.
Participation in Product Advisory Boards
Often times companies would like an outside perspective on market, technology, and product trends. In such cases, INSTEP assists companies in the formation of product advisory boards for these purposes and may also participate on a product advisory board.
Mentoring and Coaching of Executives
Start-up companies that have focused on technology development sometimes lack the depth of product and engineering infrastructure that is needed to bring the technology effectively through product definition, release planning and development. INSTEP staff is skilled at assisting existing staff with execution, coaching them through unfamiliar processes and occurrences. We can also suggest organizational structures that have proven effectiveness and respect the talents and interests of the company's staff.
Many clients have specific needs that do not fit neatly into any single INSTEP service offering. In these cases, we work with the senior management of the client company to develop a customized engagement scope of work and plan to meet its individual needs. Such engagements often involve elements from several of our service offerings.