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Three Steps to Simplify Product Lines at Midsized Enterprises

by Vivek Swaminathan  |  September 10, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

contributed by Lara Beecher, Gartner for Midsize Enterprises

Product lines. Heard of them but not sure where to start? Sometimes called end-to-end services, platforms, experiences, or value streams, the term product lines refers to the organization of technology resources around a desired, repeatable outcome. This contrasts with the traditional IT delivery model, which arranges technology resources around discrete projects instead.

According to Gartner’s Midsize Enterprise (MSE) IT Budget Benchmark, 53% of MSEs adopted product line management in some form in 2018, compared with only 35% the year before. And to support that adoption, midsize companies revealed that 23% plan to develop the product line manager role in the next three years.

Beyond changes to the IT org structure, product lines also have an impact on how technology work is funded. Rather than the more traditional IT operating model that allocates funds to specific projects, a product line model apportions funds to products (that may include projects) instead. Accordingly, IT people, projects and systems all come together to better serve the products your business cares about.

Still confused? See how a midsize company, Service King, realigned their IT structure around product lines familiar to the business, like customer intake and scheduling or business intelligence.

If you understand the value of product line management, but just aren’t sure where to start, here are three tips to introduce product lines at your midsized organization.

  1. Recognize alternative approaches. There is no single path to product lines. Two options, a hybrid model and a decentralized model, scale well for midsized organizations. A hybrid model organizes some IT processes into product lines, while leaving others in the traditional plan-build-run model. Alternatively, a decentralized model establishes product lines in the IT department that can then be utilized by other parts of the organization. Benefits include more efficient management of existing legacy systems and a foundation that can be easily scaled.
  2. Start small. Regardless of the model you choose to adopt, transitioning in stages will reduce risks, spread costs over time, and ease team concerns over the shift. First, evaluate your organization’s top business priorities to define your key product lines and balance needs against available resources. Then, identify one to two product lines to start your transition. For an example of a phased service migration, see how FCO Services did it.
  3. Regularly monitor your progress. Product line managers measure performance through business partner satisfaction. One straightforward method is to leverage “moments of truth” to identify points in product lines that lent themselves to monitoring. These points are the critical instances of interaction between IT services and users.

Whether you are curious to understand product line management at midsize enterprises, making the transition or looking to become more mature, there is no reason for anyone to build that knowledge from scratch. Instead, it makes sense to leverage the lessons and best practices of other midsize companies that have already figured out the best way forward.  Access additional midsize enterprise guidance on Gartner.com or tap into our community of Midsize Enterprise Executive Partners to product line management for your organization.  Can’t access links?  Talk to us about becoming a client.

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Vivek Swaminathan
VP, Team Manager, Midsize Enterprise
9 years at Gartner

Vivek Swaminathan is a Vice President of Peer and Practitioner Research for Midsized Enterprises at Gartner. His team supports a peer network of CIOs at midsized companies with tools, benchmarks and case studies designed to empower small IT teams to do big things. Critically, teams that face similar challenges as larger companies need innovative and actionable solutions to deliver the same results with fewer people. Read Full Bio




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