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Product-centric Application Portfolio Management is Taking Over

by Bill Swanton  |  May 31, 2017  |  2 Comments

Six years ago, my colleague Matt Hotle wrote a piece of what Gartner calls Maverick Research – breakthrough, innovative and disruptive ideas from our research incubator.  Maverick* Research: The Shift From Projects to Products Will Drive Major Application Organization Changes (2011) accurately predicted a major shift in how enterprises will change their approach to application portfolio management and application strategy.

We are finding many companies large and small embracing the product-centric approach.  Instead of planning projects to make changes to their applications, they are constantly evolving the software like an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) would, regardless of whether the “customer” is the enterprise’s paying customer or an internal user of the application.  Product road maps chart the course of new capabilities to be added and their priority.

road map vs project
A product-centric approach usually goes hand in hand with adopting agile development at scale.  A product road map is a lot like a back log of stories but at a higher level and providing a future vision of where the product is going.  Governance changes from approving projects to approving allocation of a team or teams to execute the road map.  Like all things agile, the road map is subject to reprioritization as the team learns more about what the customer needs and finds valuable.

Digital business is also forcing this shift.  By its nature, digital is exploratory Mode 2 work best done using agile methods.  The resulting digital service is a product that you sell to a customer and requires disciplined product management.  Finally, the new application architectures needed to build a digital service blur the lines of what an application is.  Mike Gilpin and Richard Marshall recently published Reinventing Applications as Products for the Digital World exploring this trend.

I’ll continue to track the evolution of product-centric application management in future posts.


Bill Swanton
VP Distinguished Analyst
22 years at Gartner
22 years IT Industry

Bill Swanton came to Gartner through the AMR Research acquisition and brings more than 34 years of enterprise manufacturing expertise to his role as VP and Distinguished Analyst. Mr. Swanton covers application strategy and the business value of IT, including IT benefit realization techniques used by Fortune 1000 companies to expand the value they receive from their ERP and other application investments. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Product-centric Application Portfolio Management is Taking Over

  1. Nice post and I agree product roadmaps are very important in today’s agile environments with rapidly changing customer needs. We have been using top-down analytical approaches to support agile at scale frameworks like SAFe to forecast product roadmaps and maximize the value/demand that can be delivered within a fixed resource capacity. We definitely need to be able to look down the road to anticipate what changes may be looming on the horizon.

  2. Absolutely. I’ll go one more step. Any digital business or digital transformation effort managed like a project is doomed to fail. When you are sailing into uncharted waters, the whole crew should be focused on the mission, not on spitting out some code before moving onto the next ship.

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