Production Plans

Software Product Line Practice Framework Graphic

A production plan describes how the products are produced from the core assets. Core assets should each have an attached process that defines how it will be used in product development. The production plan is essentially a set of these attached processes with the necessary glue. It describes the overall scheme for how these individual processes can be fit together to build a product. It is, in effect, the reuser's guide to product development within the product line.

Each product in the product line will vary consistent with predefined variation points. How these variation points can be accommodated will vary from product line to product line. For example, variation could be achieved by selecting from an assortment of components to provide a given feature, by adding or deleting components, or by tailoring one or more components via inheritance or parameterization. It could also be the case that products are automatically generated.

The exact vehicle to be used to provide the requisite variation among products is described in the production plan. Without the production plan, the product builder would not know the linkage among the core assets nor how to utilize them effectively and within the constraints of the product line.

To develop a production plan, you need to understand who will be building the products: the audience for the production plan. Knowing who the audience is will give you a better idea of how to format the production plan. Production plans can range from a detailed process model to a much more informal guidebook. The degree of specificity required in the production plan depends upon the background of the intended product builders, the structure of the organization, the culture of the organization, and the concept of operations for the product line. It will be useful to have at least a preliminary definition of the product line organization before developing the production plan.

The production plan should describe how specific tools are to be applied in order to use, tailor, and evolve the core assets. The production plan should also incorporate any metric defined to measure organizational improvement as a result of the product line (or other process improvement) practices and the plan for collecting the data to feed those metrics.

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Related Reading

Guidelines for Developing a Product Line Production Plan
Gary Chastek & John D. McGregor

Product Line Production Planning for the Home Integration System Example
Gary Chastek, Patrick Donohoe, & John D. McGregor

A Study of Product Production in Software Product Lines
Gary Chastek, Patrick Donohoe, & John D. McGregor