What is Product Portfolio Management?

Question: "I define Product Portfolio Management as: 'Prioritizing creation, enhancement or termination of an offering, process or product feature.' What principles of product portfolio management have been developed, and preferably used successfully?

Choosing between many very different potential initiatives is often hotly debated, as there can be significant implications. (Initiatives for us might include themes of land grabs, new business model threats, improved user experience, platform investment and monetization.)

After several years of managing the prioritization process across a network of websites I've not had any really helpful external insights here. I'm interested in others' thoughts, their principles or hypotheses, forum suggestions, etc."

Answer: Many people have different interpretations of what is Product Portfolio Management. The definition or interpretation of Product Portfolio Management which you have provided is extremely broad. Ostensibly, this definition encompasses many topics which include: market opportunity assessment (Business Case), product feature prioritization (Feature Matrix), product enhancement (roadmapping and versioning via an MRD), and product/feature termination. These are all independent topics.

As part of the PMTK Product Tree Model, Blackblot's definition of a Product Portfolio hinges on the definition of a Product Line.

  • Product Line – set of products that are technologically different yet provide similar functionality that serves the same target market needs.
  • Product Portfolio – product line in which the products are properly diversified and balanced along the timeline and stages of the product life cycle model.

For example, Microsoft's product line of desktop operating systems includes the Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 products. The current location of these desktop operating systems along the timeline and stages of the product life cycle model constitutes a Product Portfolio.

The key question is if Microsoft's Product Portfolio of desktop operating systems is properly managed. Are Microsoft's desktop operating systems properly diversified and balanced along the timeline and stages of the product life cycle model? Is Microsoft practicing good Product Portfolio Management of its desktop operating systems' Product Line?

The above prelude is required as we must first understand and agree upon what Product Portfolio Management is before we can proceed with any analysis.

For more information, please see Blackblot's glossary of product management. The topic of product life cycle model is explained at length in the "Extending Product Life Cycle Stages" chapter in the PMTK Book.