Is product architecture a product management issue?
We’re working with a couple of organisations at the moment where the biggest threat to success over the next couple of years is centered on poor product architecture decisions in the past. Many Product Managers will recognise the issue – we’ve built out a solution, and for perfectly justifiable reasons at the time we’ve taken a short term view, bolting on new features and components to meet an immediate need in our market without paying much attention to the long term consequences. And then one day we find our product has become almost unmanageable – a simple change to a user interface takes huge amounts of development and test because our product has become an amorphous mass. We grind to a halt as faster competitors respond to customer needs much quicker and at much lower cost – the product death spiral is difficult to pull out of.
So how do we avoid this? Product Managers should obsess on the product architecture – not simply working at a feature or problem statement level, but thinking through how they plan to extend and improve their product throughout lifecycle. This means thinking of your product in terms of ‘core’, ‘application’, ‘display’ and ‘delivery’ components with clear protocol between these levels. Take a look at Salesforce.com for this in action – a core engine that gives a reliable and robust platform for fast moving apps to be built upon. Also, take a look at the apple app store – a strong platform that allows third parties to develop applications on a clean API. In both of these examples the net result is an organisation that has developed an extensible product architecture that enables them to respond to quickly market needs without compromising the quality of the underlying platform.
So is product architecture a product management issue? It is if you’re planning for long term success