Circle of Life – Products life cycle visualization

Recently I re-watched ”The Loin King” with my kids. It’s a truly remarkable film! Do you remember the theme song? It’s called ”Circle of Life”, written and performed by Sir Elton John. The song, and the scene where it’s played, really effected my and I have had it in the back of my head for quite some time now.

Last week I visited ”Agila Sverige 2016” (”Agile Sweden 2016”), that is an agile conference that I have attended and written about before. I promise to write more about this years conference, but first I really need to tell you about an interesting open space called ”Visualizations for the organization” hosted by Jimmy Janlén (@JimmyJanlen) that I attended. One participant tried to remember a visualization for products she had seen at a company she visited, but she didn’t quite remember. It was some kind of spiral.

The idea to visualize the whole life cycle for software products, together with the song kept ringing in my head when I went home from the conference dinner. Just before I got into bead it hit me, it should be a ”circle of life” for products!

”Circle

Circle of Life

Phases

We have a number of products in the example above. Some products are ”young” and in the early phase of their life cycle, while others are ”old” and phasing the end of their life. We have up until now, not visualized this in any way. We have seen the products equal, but the way you work with them is really different depending on which phase in the life cycle they are.

To make it simple, I have divided the circle of life into three different phases:

  1. Build-up – Your product is brand new and you have started to build it up. You add feature by feature to make it compelling to your customers out there.
  2. Serving – Your product is so ready that you can start to make money on it. You continue to add functionality to attract more customers to make even more money. You want your product to be in this phase as long as possible!
  3. Retirement / termination – For some reason it’s time to retire your product. You take it off the market, minimize the maintenance, and migrate over customers to other (new) product(s).

Maybe you want to have more phases in your circle, that is totally fine!

Movement

How does the products move in the circle of life? You have to set up some rules for moving between phases. For example:

  • 1st Customer – When the product have the first customer, it moves into the ”serving”-phase.
  • End of Sales – When you stop selling the product, it moves into the ”retirement”-phase.

Usage and colors

Try to use the same color on the post-its to group ”product families” together. Put up intended releases, with version number and intended release date, on smaller orange post-its on your products (I cut them to that size with a scissors).

First example

”Circle

Here is our first attempt on the circle of life. Maybe we’ll improve it along the way.

Other visualizations

Ok, so you like the idea to show the life cycle for your products, but not the visualization with a circle? Here are some more ideas for you!

”Circle

I think this could be the visualization that the attender tried to remember on the open space.

”Circle

Maybe you like waves better, and want to speak like ”this is the first wave of product A”; ”this is the second wave of product B” and so on.

Summary

Maybe you now have gotten some ideas on how to visualize the whole life cycle for products. As usual, if you have any feedback just let me know!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

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