Platform-lever Mistakes

What’s not a Product-lever in Product Line Strategy

When teaching product line strategy, I hear managers argue about what is and isn’t a platform-lever. To aid the discussion I offer two quick tests.  The first test is whether the factor in question can cut across cross multiple products. The second test is whether the factor delivers leverage. You may measure leverage as faster product development and higher feature performance per unit cost.

Here are the top seven mistakes.

 Common MistakeReason It’s a Mistake


Market Segments and ClustersPlatform-levers enable products to fulfill common customer needs within market segments. Managers often use the common need’s label as a title for a segment. This may sound like the name of a platform-lever. But market segments do not deliver leverage.


GeographiesGeographies are a distinct market segment type, earmarked by sales or distribution. These are powerful in business strategy. They are also helpful for segmentation schemes on a product line roadmaps. However, segments do not enable leverage in the product line. Therefore, a geography isn’t a platform-lever.


Reusable ModulesDesigners and engineers often call reusable configurations and modules “platforms.”  But declaring a configuration a “platform-levers” in a product line strategy may  be a mistake. Confusion arises because reusable modules have  potential to be platform-levers. The key is whether the product line strategy focuses on the module purposely and intensely.  Such deliberate focus promotes a module to be a platform-lever. Otherwise, it remains a building block.


Skills and CompetenciesThe intense focus organizations place on platform-levers comes from fulcrums set deliberately. Each fulcrum includes organizational structure, roles and responsibilities, and managing competencies. Skills and competencies are forces directed at platform-levers. They are not platform-levers.


Functions and Chain-LinksSome managers confuse business strategy and product line strategy. You hear this when they say a function or chain-link within a business is a “platform.” For example, the sales force may be a powerful link in business strategy. However, this does not make the sales force the platform-lever in the product line strategy.


Intellectual PropertyIntellectual property and trade secrets can be powerful in both business and product line strategies. However, intellectual property and trade secrets are forces that drive or support platform-levers, not the levers themselves. Intellectual properties and trade secrets management is a chain-links strategy. It needs alignment with the product line chain-link.


BrandsManagers often confuse brands and platform-levers because, for some product lines, a one-to-one relationship may exist. This is an anomaly of business strategy.  When developing and improving a product line strategy, the two should be separated. The product line strategy then seeks leverage from a recognizable platform-lever. Business units should seek to unite the product line strategy with brand strategy. Each is a separate chain-link in the business unit strategy.

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