Audience: Industry Practitioners

The standard for minimum acceptable product development performance is high and rising in many industries. It is no longer possible to dominate large markets by developing one product at a time. Increasingly, good product development means good platform development. A platform is the collection of assets that are shared by a set of products. These assets may include components, knowledge, and production processes. Effective platform planning balances the market value of product differentiation against the economies achieved through commonality. Platform planning is difficult: firms may achieve high commonality but fail to differentiate the products; firms may differentiate the products, but create products with excessive costs; or firms may create viable platform plans that are subsequently never realized. This article presents three tools for supporting platform planning: (1) the product plan, (2) the differentiation plan, and (3) the commonality plan. These tools are intended to facilitate the planning process by providing a common language for the marketing, design, and manufacturing functions of the firm.