We continue to explore how prioritization techniques can change over the life cycle of a product. Using a simple product life cycle it is easy to recognize the different strategies embraced by product managers and owners. When a product is new, the goal is to establish a competitive advantage and to develop distance from its rivals. Prioritization methods such as, cost of delay and weighted shortest job first can be used to identify features that can get to market quickly, matching the product strategy. In the growth and maturity phases, models such as Kano expose the distinction between features that excite and those that satisfy. The feature mix is a function of which strategy is being pursued. For example, overweighting new features during growth will be useful, however as the product matures more and more legacy functionality needs to be maintained. Maintenance costs increase as more and more legacy functionality is accumulated leading to an inevitable decline. Prioritization, at this stage, leverages impact on crucial clients and/or cash flow to determine what to fix. This why ticketing systems exist and become the primary source of requirements for older products. As products decline revitalization projects/programs are often undertaken in an attempt to resurrect the product — a true cycle akin to rivers in the natural world. So-called next-generation products attempt to shift a product back into the growth phase which requires prioritization techniques again.  

Life Cycle and Strategy

As a product ages, often it’s strategic importance diminishes.  Most organizations view a growing product as more strategic than one in decline, this is common sense. However, assuming that the transition from maturity to decline can be recognized, a product owner can start to underweight differentiation to generate cash for the next product or an attempt to rejuvenate the older product. The combination of strategy and prioritization combine to channel a product manager’s will.