Big Lever Software, Inc.

BIGLEVER NEWSLETTER: Introductory Series

The 3-Tiered Methodology for Software Product Lines: The Base Tier

Greetings from BigLever:

Welcome to Part 1 of my 4-part introductory series on the 3-Tiered Methodology for software product line (SPL) engineering. This informational newsletter series provides insight into a pragmatic, new generation SPL methodology that is enabling companies of all types and sizes to realize a new level of benefits -- in terms of both technical and business impact.

The 3-Tiered Methodology comprises three tiers of capabilities and benefits, where each tier builds upon and is enabled by the capabilities and benefits of the previous tier.

  • The Base Tier, Variation Management and Automated Production, provides a tactical set of developer capabilities and benefits that optimize productivity.
  • The Middle Tier, Core Asset Focused Development, provides part-tactical, part-strategic engineering management capabilities and benefits that optimize product portfolio quality.
  • The Top Tier, Feature Based Portfolio Evolution, provides highly strategic business capabilities and benefits that optimize time-to-market and portfolio scalability.

The base tier of the methodology is outlined in the following section, while the middle and top tiers will be covered in the next installments of the newsletter series.

>> See newsletter series introduction.

The Base Tier: Variation Management and Automated Production

The base tier provides the foundation for a SPL practice. The focus is on the basic infrastructure for first-class variation management in the product line, including feature modeling capabilities, a uniform mechanism that supports variation points in the software assets, and an automated production mechanism to instantiate products from the feature models, software assets and implementation-level variation points.

At the base tier, conventional software assets, such as legacy source code, and conventional organizational structures, such as teams organized around products, are sufficient. That is, in the base tier of the 3-Tiered Methodology, there is no need for specially engineered software product line architectures and core assets, or a dichotomy of engineering roles for domain engineering and application engineering.

First-class variation management and automated production serve to:

  • eliminate duplication, cloning, divergence and merging
  • consolidate the multiple ad hoc variation management mechanisms typically found in legacy software
  • eliminate the manual and parallel production efforts found in conventional approaches

The primary benefit gained from these capabilities is lower development overhead compared to conventional approaches -- and therefore higher developer productivity and lower per-product development cost.

Compared with first generation SPL methodologies, the base tier of the 3-Tiered Methodology provides a much simpler entry point into SPL practice.

Variation management and automated production can be adopted incrementally with little disruption to ongoing production schedules, particularly when using commercially available product configurators -- such as BigLever Software Gears -- that provide these capabilities out of the box. Legacy software assets can be heavily leveraged with little or no re-engineering. Existing team structures can be maintained with little or no reorganization. The processes and day-to-day activities remain virtually unchanged.

The capabilities and benefits delivered in the base tier enable the middle tier of the methodology, Core Asset Focused Development. Stay tuned as we explore this middle tier in Part 2 of our introductory 3-Tiered Methodology series.

I welcome your comments, input and real world business experiences with software product line methodologies.

Best Regards,

Charles W. Krueger
BigLever Software CEO
SoftwareProductLines.com Moderator
ckrueger@biglever.com

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