Product Line Engineering Overview

Product-centric thinking impedes product line portfolio production

The state of the systems and software engineering field today is a bevy of sophisticated product-centric development tools that can be effectively applied to the development lifecycle of an individual product – from inception to design, implementation, testing, deployment and maintenance.

However, these product-centric tools do not offer an effective means for managing the "commonalities and variabilities" among products for efficient development of a product line portfoliProduct-centric perspectiveo.

With a product-centric approach, the creation of a product line entails tangled and labor-intensive interactions, dependencies and coordination activities that create complexity and dissonance across the stages of the lifecycle. The complexity barriers increase exponentially, as the product line portfolio expands and evolves over time. (Click image to enlarge.)

These tactical development challenges are so large that they impede a company's ability to efficiently expand the scale and scope of the portfolio – inhibiting strategic business objectives.

A shift in perspective to an efficient means of production

Organizations mired in the pain of engineering product line from a product-centric perspective experience a "PLE epiphany" when a shift in perspective reveals a simpler solution to the problem. Analogous to engineering a product line of hard goods, it is much more effective to view systems and software product line engineering (PLE) as creating a means of productioSoftware product line perspectiven – a single production system capable of automatically producing all of the products in a product line – rather than creating a multitude of interrelated products.

The powerful, though subtle, essence of the PLE epiphany is the focus on that singular means of production, rather than the multitude of products. (Click image to enlarge.)

With this single production system approach, the exponential complexity of manually managing product interdependencies is eliminated and replaced by automated production, resulting in dramatic increases in the number of products that can be effectively created, deployed and maintained.

The scale and scope of a product line portfolio can be based on business opportunities and profitability, rather than the complexity limitations imposed by a product-centric perspective.

For more information, see Product Line Engineering Solutions for Systems and Software.