Product management using business architecture

As product designs and launches become more complicated and are executed at a quicker pace, product managers and business/enterprise architects need to work together more often to deliver products.

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I would not be surprised if most digital transformation initiatives in the future involve product (and service) management. Yet, literature about this subject is scarce. Product managers often work in isolation from the rest of the company, even if product management — which can be either the creation of a new product or, more often, the revamping of an existing one — involves multiple types of customers, business units, functionalities, capabilities, and sets of business strategies from an organization.

To make sense of this complexity, and to increase the odds of getting it right more rapidly and within budget, amalgamating business/enterprise architecture and product management is required. A tool like such as Customer Value Map as seen in Figure 1 below can help:

figure 1 customer value map Daniel Lambert

Business architecture and product management today

Large corporations today have a very complex product portfolio that can include one, several or all the following:

  • Physical material
  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Business process outsourcing
  • Warranty services
  • Customer service/support
  • ...and more

To add to this complexity, many products may have been introduced through acquired businesses. Various capabilities are required to deliver these products to their respective markets. Driven by intensive competition, companies try to expose more capabilities (products and services) to the market, increasing further the complexity of product management.

“Product managers are responsible among other things for product vision, market research, competitive analysis, target market, customer requirements and roadmap,” says Ganesh Balasubramaniam in “Business Architects and Product Managers.”

Some of these tasks can be executed with the assistance of business architecture that articulates its model around product mapping using mostly these basic relationships, where a product is:

  1. Part of a product line
  2. Impacted by one or several strategies
  3. Relies on several value streams and capabilities, offered/managed by business unit(s), impacted by an initiative, sometimes sourced from a partner and enabled by capabilities (as per the BIZBOK Guide's Product Mapping Section on page 229 of Version 6.0.).

Figure 2 below shows a three-dimensional table on how product lines can be enabled by capabilities and offered/managed by business units. (Figure 2 is somewhat like Figure 2.7.10 from the BIZBOK Guide's Product Mapping Section on page 245 of Version 6.0.)

figure 2 product business unit capability crossmap Daniel Lambert

Examples of product management using business architecture

Some companies are using business architecture to address their product management. Two examples are VF Corporation and Nordea.

Let’s start with VF Corporation, as seen in Amy Crockett’s presentation made at the Business Architecture Guild in 2016. VF Corporation is a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel with more than 30 brands and $12.3 billion in revenue.

In 2012, a Product Line Management (PLM) business solution was implemented in Europe at Kipling, one of VF’s line of products. With escalating concerns regarding functionality, customization, complexity and region-specific terminology, Kipling reverted to a manual solution. Without a business solution in place, there was a risk that its rate of growth could be impeded.

VF decided to use Enterprise Business Architecture to consolidate successfully the implementation of the PLM business solution at Kipling Europe to maintain VF’s simple business model and lean team approach. They did this by defining goals and needs, understanding current operations, identifying potential technology solutions, comparing capabilities/features to technology solutions and targeting state business solution options to finally come up with a VF Enterprise Product Management Best Practice Guide reusable for every brand.

Nordea’s approach to product management using business architecture was very different, as seen in Christina Honoré’s and Lene Østerberg’s presentation made at the Business Architecture Guild in 2015.

Nordea is one of the Top 10 European Retail Banks doing most of its business in Scandinavia and the Baltics. It has applied more precise business architecture to product control, since there is an increasing demand from regulators on reporting and control standards. Banks need to adjust more and more rapidly to the market conditions with more complex combined products that need to be constantly streamlined and simplified.

To increase product control in a far more dynamic market, Nordea has started using value mapping and stakeholder identification, capability map and value stage/capability cross-map, information map and capability/information cross-map, and root cause map delivered in a database using business architecture tools for additional analysis and continued evolution. This business architecture modeling applied to product control is resulting in an enhanced stakeholder experience throughout the bank.

Customer value mapping

By no means should business architecture replace product management. Still, business architecture modeling could contribute substantially more to product management and at the same time enhance the holistic view of their enterprise using the Customer Value Map, as shown in Figure 1 above. (A customer value map is somewhat like a Value Proposition Canvas.)

A Customer Value Map addresses product design, enhancement and management. It is more complete, rigorous, and linked not just to a Business Model Canvas, but also mapped to a business architecture model. A Customer Value Map includes two main sections, the customer profile and the value proposition profile. The customer profile for each type of customer is made of needs, gains and pains. The value proposition profile is made of the covered products/services, benefits and features.

Each need should ideally be covered by a product/service. Each gain and pain should be addressed or remediated by a benefit and/or a feature of one of the covered products/services. Once needs, gains and pains for each targeted customer type are addressed, a product manager or a business architect can start planning which capabilities, information, business units and initiatives are required to execute and deliver properly the products/services of a value proposition.

Conclusion

As product designs and launches become more complicated and are executed at a quicker pace, product managers and business/enterprise architects need to work together more often. Their combined efforts can deliver products planned in line with the specificity of all types of customers, all involved business units, with all the necessary enabling capabilities, and all aligned to specific sets of corporate strategies. This will certainly increase the odds of getting it right more rapidly and within budget.

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