It’s fair weather season once again in Minnesota. In preparation for the auto racing season, I was writing my to-do list of activities needed to perform on my Mazda Miata in preparation for the autocross racing events. I’ve got wheels and tires, suspension parts, radio, timing electronics, trailer modification, etc., that need to be built or installed. As I looked at my list I realized that some items have to be completed before I can start on other items.

With this in mind, I was reminded of a recent seminar I attended presented by Paul O’Connor, titled “Strategizing and Roadmapping the Product Line” which was held in Fort Lauderdale. During the seminar there were two key notions presented that I believe are important for good Product Line Strategies. One being the definition of a platform and the other, the concept of PIMs (products in market), PIDs (products in development) and PICs (product innovation charters).

Paul defines the platform as being the key foundation for any product line strategy. The platform is the key component used for leverage to gain that coveted strategic advantage. Referencing my auto racing, my Miata becomes the platform. Whatever components I install on my car need to be designed for the car and more importantly, my purpose for the car. For example, tires. Larger tires typically allow for faster speeds but I know on a low horsepower car like mine, it would take more effort to drive those tires which in turn will make it slower. Therefore, I’m installing a low profile tire. Just because I can put larger tires on, it doesn’t mean that I should. So, when laying out your product line roadmap you need to make sure that you understand the platform and the limits to its capabilities.

There will come a time that as your platform matures you will find that it’s harder to gain leverage from it. The advantage of roadmapping your product line is so you can see in advance when you run out of better ideas to support the platform due to limitations of the platform. To remain competitive you will need to either retire the platform and/or focus on a new platform. I know I will run out of improvements to my car (current platform) and I know that my next car (new platform) will have a whole new set of products that will allow me to be more competitive than my old car could.

This leads me to my second take-away from Paul’s seminar. With a product line platform, advantages over the competition is not with just one product but a full line of products. There are PIMs, PIDs, and PICs. PIMs are products or technologies that already exist in the market that are delivered from the platform to your market segments. PIDs are projects/products that are currently in development. And lastly, what I consider most important, are PICs. PICs are a target for a concept, a target for innovation that gives focus on the concept generation process.

With my involvement in roadmapping I’ve pretty much considered that future concepts were actual items or products. But after listening to Paul, PICs should be an idea for a concept, a set of guidelines to prove focus toward the target and a rough estimate of value of hitting the target.

Getting back to my car analogy, my PIMs consist of the stock motor, stock wheels and upgraded suspension system. PIDs that I’m working on for this year are lighter wheels, stickier tires and suspension enhancements. My PICs however, are not specific products. My concept is to make my car faster. Should that be engine replacement or adding a supercharger or adding a turbocharger? Any of the three would work, now I just need to decide which method will allow me to achieve my target of being quicker around the track than my competitors.

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