We looked in the previous articles at restaurant menus as a different way to look at an artist’s musical offer. The same solution can be used to present your product catalogue. However, there is a limitation: the menu only shows what you serve TODAY.
Another way to look at an artist’s creations is to use an info-disco-graphic, focused on the evolution of the artist in different genres and groups over a long period of time. Could we use them also for our products?
Let’s take three examples of prog-rock artists and see how their discographies could be used to reveal different product strategies.
One product, regularly updated and improved
Think of a band that records a studio album one year, then a live record the next. And they do this for 10, 15, or 20 years, with very few breaks. Let’s take the example of the British rock band Marillion.
Use this kind of infodiscographic to show different product generations and the respective releases. Different lanes can be also used to add more context to your visualization, e.g. competition or domain-related events. Examples: Magento, Notion, Linux. When a company’s organization affects the product strategy, use separate lanes for separate entities: Windows, Office, LinkedIn (all Microsoft products today).
Parallel product lines making a product tree
You can go back to the recent articles presenting Neal Morse’s discography, which includes many groups and different styles, but all revolving around prog-rock concept albums.
One such graphic is useful for a company that continues to develop multiple products in parallel, some related, some not, with the main product. As time passes by, success brings closer the various products by adding intermediate products mixing parts of two or more others. Amazon could be an example of such a company, with the bookstore, the later e-commerce shops, AWS cloud services, and other marketplaces thriving in parallel and orbiting all around the same website.
Product composition or transversal product development
After a long career as drummer, composer, and Dream Theater’s heart, Mike Portnoy left the group in 2010. In his 25 years with the band, he greatly participated in the success of their 10 albums recorded in this period. One less-known fact is that he was developing a special album in parallel, one album to celebrate his break from alcohol addiction.
For his 50th birthday, he presented live the (also called Alcoholics Anonymous Suite). For 10 years or more he added one more piece to the puzzle he wanted to build as a “thank you” to the Alcoholic Anonymous Twelve-step method.
Products are often built using different pieces. Sometimes these pieces can be used to compose a new product altogether. In this case, you can use discography to show the “regular” product releases and a different timeline for mixed-tape products. Once acquired by Microsoft, Skype was decomposed and reused first to create Skype for Business (without a big success), then Lync, and finally Teams. The “apps” that add specific features to Teams are another example of product composition. The “no-code” movement and the APIs are some further examples.
The map is not the territory
Visualizing your products like an artist’s discography allows you to understand and apply your product strategy. Are you regularly building a single product? Are you generating variations of the same product line? Or could you reuse parts of different products to build a completely new one? However, it is important to remember: the map is not the territory.
The menu is a snapshot, use infodiscographies to tell a story
Developing products like your company discography is sometimes better than thinking like a chef in a restaurant. Doing work in public, letting it be used, clarifying your strategy, will get you more feedback and help you learn faster.
Except if you are a Michelin-guide chef, and own 5-6 restaurants. Then it is perhaps better to show your menu, as you want to serve only the newest and the best dishes each night.