A product line is a set of products that together address a particular market segment or fulfill a particular mission. Product lines are nothing new in manufacturing. But software product lines based on interproduct commonality are a relatively new concept that is rapidly emerging as a viable and important software development paradigm. Product flexibility is the anthem of the software marketplace, and product lines fulfill the promise of tailor-made systems built specifically for the needs of particular customers or customer groups. A product line succeeds because the commonalities shared by the software products can be exploited to achieve economies of production. Organizations are finding that this practice of building sets of related systems from common assets can yield remarkable quantitative improvements in productivity, time to market, product quality, and customer satisfaction. But along with the gains come risks. Using a product line approach constitutes a new technical strategy for the organization. Organizational and management issues constitute obstacles that are critical to overcome and often add more risk, because they are less obvious. Building a software product line and bringing it to market require a blend of skillful engineering as well as both technical and organizational management. These skills are necessary to overcome the pitfalls that may bring failure to an unsophisticated organization.
This bibliography lists SEI and non-SEI resources that have informed the SEI Product Lines efforts. It includes examples of real software product lines listed in the Catalog of Software Product Lines. The examples cover diverse domains and show the kind of improvements your organization can achieve using a product line approach.