A big part of my research agenda for this year is productization. Many app dev teams see productization as a way to innovate better, achieve more sustainable results at a lower cost, deal with some of the tough challenges downstream, and in general lead a happier and more productive life. The allure of productization varies across different types of organization, as do the approaches. Therefore, to do the product justice, we're going to look at five different settings in which app dev teams are striving to productize their work:

  • Companies that have customer-facing applications on their websites. The classic example is online banking, but there are plenty of others. Some of these applications are tools for existing customers, while others are mechanisms for interactive marketing.
  • IT departments. In this case, productization is a way to improve the long-term return on technology investments, by treating them as products and assigning them a product owner. 
  • Services companies. Productization may reduce inefficiencies in developing and delivering offerings, as well as marketing and selling them.
  • Embedded software. The ubiquity of software as a component of a larger product (car, medical device, etc.) creates new challenges in defining what the product is, and where software development fits into it. That's one reason why PTC, a product lifecycle management (PLM) vendor, was interested in acquiring MKS. (Other than their shared interest in TLAs.)
  • Software companies. While you might think that productization is a no-brainer for ISVs, it's still a source of challenges. Does the software fit into a larger portfolio? How do you treat mature products differently from newer ones? How do you turn experimental projects into real products? (Not everyone is as good at IBM in answering that last question.)

We've started the initial research on this topic, but we're still looking for people from any of these backgrounds who have wrestled with productization. If you're interested in participating, please drop me an email. We'll be digging into each of these areas in detail, so even if we can't talk to you before finishing the first study, we'll have more documents coming down the research assembly line.

While we're on this topic, we recently published a document about the people responsible for productization, product managers. It's a short primer on what separates product managers from other roles that straddle the business and technical sides of software development, such as business analysts and project managers. If you're interested in seeing the human face of productization, click here.