What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) ?
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
Most people who work with a product know what a product manager does and they typically know how their development teams operate for example if they use agile software development or waterfall software development but what is less common is if they know what the product lifecycle management or PLM cycle entails and how your product team is executing it.
The Product Lifecycle Management refers to the entire life of a product from the origination of the idea all the way until the retirement and/or replacement of the product in the future. Like all things, products have lifecycles that get born with an idea and eventually die in the future. The average life of a product can range based on the type of product and industry but all products typically follow a similar lifecycle and one of the main roles of a product manager is to execute the product lifecycle management to ensure that the product successfully achieves and excels in the stages to prolong the life of the product.
The Product Life Cycle Stages are typically broken down into the following:
1. Introduction: This is the upfront work when a product idea is born. This can include customer validation that the idea is a real business opportunity, the competitor analysis that goes along with the verification, the creation of your initial minimum viable product and management of your product through your beta testing stages to ensure you have a product that is ready to go to market. Product management needs at this point can be chaotic as startups pivot often and many ideas and features requests are coming in from users and team members on what the final product should look like in addition to the ideas that are generated from customer interviews and competitor analysis which helps shape what your go to market looks like. The product manager has successfully exited this stage of the product lifecycle when the beta program ends and there is a product ready for market.
2. Scale: During this stage you have launched your product and starting to gain revenue. Your growth may start slow but as you gain traction becomes exponential as you gain more market awareness to your brand and traffic to your website. This can also be a very chaotic time to be a product manager because you now need to balance multiple needs for your product. During the introduction, you have 1 specific focus, finish the product and get it launched, during the scaling stage you now need to increase your business revenue and complete the features that will accomplish that, you need to keep existing customers happy and continue to release features that will reduce churn and manage your competitive edge and continue to release features that will keep your product ahead of the curve. This stage of your product lifecycle can take a while based on your growth and opportunity and a good product manager can keep you scaling quickly with user adoption for a while. The exit of this stage is typically a number of factors such as profitability as a company, stability of your workflows and numbers for conversions and churn, consistent and steady growth and no longer seeing rapid adoption but steady and healthy adoption. As a product manager as you find yourself out of fire drill mode, you know you may have graduated from the scaling stage of a product lifecycle management.
3. Maturity: Once the product manager has established the product and business in your space it can become a different challenge at this stage of your product lifecycle than you ever experienced before. Without constant innovation and competitor edge, your product will slowly become obsolete and loose ground to new products. A mature product is financially sound, stable and has matured all of the product lifecycle workflows and processes. However, becoming content at this stage as a product manager is one of the worst mistakes possible and will drastically shorten the life of your product. During this stage is your biggest opportunity to really drive the product to completion and beyond the initial product plans. This stage requires a product manager to work even closer with users to learn the constant changes in their needs and implement features that are game changing and continues to find new users for your product. The challenge at this stage is to continue to keep your product fresh and new as the technologies around you change and over time you need to continue to focus on growth at the fastest rate possible.
4. Scale Down: Like all life cycles, the last stage deals with the end. At some point, all products come to end of life and this can come in a number of ways for products. Product lifecycles can end with the merging of one product into another or a complete rewrite of the product and relaunch as a new product. Alternatively, if sales decline and the business comes to a close it may be a complete end of product without a transition to a new solution. The scale down stage comes to all products as technology and innovation is constantly increasing and it is difficult to keep a product in scale or maturity stage forever as eventually a competitor catches up or you have saturated your market and the growth is no longer able to continue. The product lifecycle management can take years or decades to achieve this point but again it really depends on the product manager and their ability to continue to innovate and grow the product throughout the earlier stages.
Product Lifecycle Management or PLM is the overall management from start to finish of a product and all products eventually work through the 4 stages defined however each stage can vary widely on how long a product can stay in a specific stage and avoid the final stage. PLM Software exists to help manage products through the stages and help prolong the growth stages by helping to efficiently manage costs, focus on the best features and continue to innovate through scaling and maturity stages.