Evaluation of a Product Platform Strategy for Analytical Application Software

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2004-09-08
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Information Systems Science
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316 s.
Acta Universitatis oeconomicae Helsingiensis. A, 239
The challenge for software business executives is to bring new software products to the market rapidly, using both a software development approach that enables effective delivery of products and a robust software product architecture that addresses the needs of selected market segments. This study addresses the development of analytical application software solutions that are the foundation for a decision support solution, providing to end user organization executive management the needed tools to track critical key performance indicators using technologies such as digital dashboard software. Unfortunately, executive management has to make several decisions long before the actual software product is delivered, and some of these decisions can have a long-lasting impact on both future software development and the market segmentation of the software product. To alleviate the challenge of long-term strategic software product development, researchers have applied the concept of the product platform from mechanical engineering to software development, enabling the utilization of a common core product platform that becomes the foundation for derivative product development within a product family. The product platform concept has been demonstrated within several industries, for example, the automobile industry (Ford automobiles) and the electronics industry (Hewlett Packard printers). Existing software related product platform literature does not address the practical implications of building software products using a product platform approach. This study introduces software product line engineering as a viable alternative foundation for software product family development using the product platform approach. Its aim is to identify an optimal analytical application software architecture that becomes the foundation for longterm derivative software development using the same common core (the product platform) across different derivative products for given market segments. The product platform development approach has the aim, contrary to that of the traditional software development approach, of maximizing the revenue (and not of minimizing the cost) that can be leveraged from a product platform using a product architecture that is specifi cally designed to be common to all selected market segments. The study also introduces six different alignment perspectives that demonstrate the relationships between the selected product architecture, market segment, and technology dimensions. Each alignment perspective has characteristics which depend on the emphasis given any of the three dimensions. When setting long-term product development strategy, each of these dimensions must be carefully evaluated against the others before management makes a decision on any of the dimensions. Negligence in this evaluation could result in a disconnect between the dimensions, with long-lasting impact. From our analysis, it is evident that each alignment perspective can be specifi c to each software vendor due to the characteristics of the vendor, such as its core competence in technology, its software application domain, and its selected market segment. The results of this longitudinal (ten year) single-case study demonstrate the use of the product platform concepts and alignment perspectives introduced herein. These alignment perspectives help to show how changes in product architecture, market segmentation, or technology can impact a software vendor’s product development effectiveness, and how executive management can assess the impact and reasons for these changes. The empirical evidence reinforces the researcher’s view that a software vendor can achieve signifi cant benefi ts using the product platform concept in its software development. The study also demonstrates how technology selections can impact future market segmentation strategies for a software vendor and how these selections can impact software development.
Supervising professor
Sääksjärvi, Markku, professor
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