Close this search box.

3 Powerful Frameworks to Reimagine Your Products and Services for the Digital Age

By Hari Harikrishnan Chief Product Officer, The Cerebrus Group

Understanding the broader context surrounding a product is crucial. This context significantly influences the decisions made regarding the product, whether they are current or future decisions. Today, the flexibility in shaping a product is vast. Thus, considering these broader contexts and dimensions, which might not be part of the daily routine, becomes essential. This comprehensive approach is referred to as “beyond product.” It’s about expanding perspectives and incorporating various factors that can affect a product. Key areas of focus are growth, innovation, and disruption.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ensure that all product and service decisions are driven by the organization’s core mission. This alignment supports cohesive strategies and effective execution.
  • Expand beyond the traditional product life cycle to consider the entire journey of a product or service, from design and development to procurement and use. This holistic approach enhances innovation and market relevance.
  • Recognize the evolving dimensions of consumption—mode, ownership, operations, and payment. Adapting to these changes can create new opportunities for product offerings and business models.
  • Utilize external resources and orchestrate ecosystems effectively to enhance service delivery and innovation. This approach is essential for staying competitive in a digital business environment.
  • Continuously evaluate your business structure, revenue models, and innovation strategies. Understanding your Business DNA helps identify areas for improvement and ensures sustainable competitive advantage.
In this article
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    These frameworks will enable you to:

    • Compare yourself with partners, customers, and competitors.
    • Understand your business DNA and consider if it needs to evolve for the new age.
    • Gauge potential disruptions that might not be immediately apparent in your day-to-day interactions.

    By exploring these areas, you’ll gain insights into how to position your product in a dynamic market. This strategic approach will help you stay ahead of trends, adapt to changes, and drive sustained growth and innovation.

    Businesses are eager to figure out how to grow, innovate, and avoid disruption. The frameworks discussed here are tools to help think about these aspects effectively. Everyone is eager to figure out how to grow, innovate, and avoid disruption. The frameworks we’ll discuss today are tools to help you think about these aspects effectively.

    Contextualizing Product and Service Decisions in Business Strategy

    To understand how product and service conversations fit into the overall business context, it is essential to recognize the mission and purpose driving each business or business division. Every organization operates with a clear mission, which serves as the foundation for productizing offers and developing services.

    This broader mission influences critical decisions regarding what to build, what to sell, and the methods employed in these processes. The key areas driving these decisions are:

    • What to Build and Sell
    • How to Build
    • How to Sell

    These aspects are crucial for making both strategic and short-term product decisions, impacting actions on a quarter-to-quarter and month-to-month basis. When prioritizing features, these elements—why, what, and how—must be kept in mind to align product development with the organization’s core mission and objectives.

    By maintaining this alignment, businesses can ensure that their product decisions support their overarching goals, leading to more cohesive and effective strategies.

    Framework 1: Understanding the "Thing" Life Cycle

    The concept of the “thing” life cycle broadens the traditional understanding of product life cycles. In this framework, a “thing” can be anything from a tangible product like a robot or a coffee cup to an intangible service or software.

    Traditional Product Life Cycle

    Traditionally, the product life cycle has been viewed as a series of stages from introduction to growth, maturity, and decline. Businesses manage multiple products through these stages, planning for new products or extensions to maintain innovation and revenue growth. This approach involves juggling various products at different life cycle stages to optimize the product mix and revenue.

    The “Thing” Life Cycle

    The “thing” life cycle provides a more granular perspective. It focuses on the journey of a product from design and development to procurement and use. This approach applies to both tangible hardware and intangible software products. The stages of this life cycle include:

    1. Design and Development: Whether it’s hardware like computers and phones or software, every product starts with a design and development phase. For hardware, this includes manufacturing; for software, it involves development.

    2. Procurement by the Buyer: Once developed, the product is procured by a buyer. This stage varies depending on whether the product is bought outright or acquired through a subscription model.

    3. Use: After procurement, the product is used by the buyer. This use phase can differ significantly between hardware and software, particularly in terms of connectivity and ongoing maintenance.

    Distinguishing Product and Asset Life Cycles

    While businesses focus on the product and thing life cycles, buyers often view products as assets that need to be managed throughout their life cycle. This perspective highlights the importance of considering how products are perceived and utilized by end-users.

    Examples Across Industries

    1. Hardware: Hardware products, such as blood pressure monitors, have evolved from unconnected devices to smart, connected devices, especially in consumer and industrial markets.

    2. Software: Software has transitioned from standalone applications to connected, cloud-based models, changing how software is consumed and maintained.

    3. Healthcare: Products and services in healthcare, such as monitoring devices and healthcare services, follow similar life cycles but are adapted to the specific needs of the industry.

    4. Professional Services: Services such as building implementation and management also follow a life cycle from design to delivery and maintenance.

    Impact of Digital Transformation

    The digital age has significantly altered the life cycles of products. Materials-based products now incorporate smart technology and connectivity. Electronic and industrial manufacturing processes have merged, and software designed for managing hardware has become essential. These changes require a shift in how products are designed, manufactured, procured, and used.

    Design for Use and Procurement: Design thinking has become crucial, focusing on rethinking product usage and operations. Additionally, designing for procurement, especially in subscription and on-demand models, requires careful consideration.

    By understanding and applying the “thing” life cycle framework, businesses can better manage the evolution of their products and services, ensuring they meet the needs of both the market and the end-users effectively.

    Framework 2: Consumption of a Thing

    Consumption involves the use of products or services, ranging from software to everyday items like drinking water and reading books. In the industry, consumption, and business models are often discussed, but the focus here is on breaking down the dimensions of consumption to understand what drives it.

    Examples of Consumption Evolution


      • Historical Form Factors:

    -Dig a Well: Do-it-yourself water collection.

    -Commercial Bottled Water: Purchase off the shelf.

    -Tap Water: Direct, convenient consumption at home.


    -Physical Book: Traditional printed format.

    -E-Book: Digital format for reading on devices.

    -Audiobook: Subscription-based service where books are read aloud.

    These examples highlight how both the form factor and the consumption model evolve together. When thinking about products, consider the form factor and the consumption model as interconnected elements.

    Dimensions of Consumption

    Consumption can be broken down into four key dimensions:

      1. Mode: On-demand vs. not on-demand.
      2. Ownership: Owned vs. used.
      3. Operations: Do-it-yourself vs. outsourced.
      4. Payment: One-time transaction vs. subscription.

    Transportation Industry Example

    The transportation industry exemplifies these dimensions:

      • Traditional Car Ownership: Buy a car outright, pay a lump sum, and drive it yourself.
      • Leasing a Car: Lease for a period, paying monthly, with the right to use but not own.
      • Car Rentals: Rent a car for a short period as a one-time transaction.
      • Taxi Services: Pay for the service of being driven without owning the car.
      • Ride-sharing (e.g., Uber, Lyft): On-demand service where you don’t own the car and pay per use, with operations outsourced to the driver.

    These scenarios illustrate how different combinations of mode, ownership, operations, and payment create various consumption models.

    Technology Products Example


      • Buy Outright: Own the phone immediately after a one-time payment.
      • Subscription Plans: Pay monthly, with the option to upgrade after a certain period, without owning the phone initially.

    Technology Services:

      • Amazon Web Services (AWS): On-demand cloud service, paid for as used.
      • Netflix: On-demand streaming service, paid for via subscription.

    Cross-Industry Patterns

    Across industries, similar consumption patterns emerge. Consider how different consumption models can impact a business:

      • Water Supply: Treated as a utility with automated service, similar to on-demand tech services.
      • Medical Devices: Transitioning from outright purchase to potentially being part of a connected, subscription-based service.

    Impact on Business Models

    Businesses must understand their consumption models and those of their partners and competitors. For instance, product makers often sell to other product makers or service providers, who then sell to end customers. Recognizing where a business fits in this value chain and adapting consumption models accordingly is crucial for innovation and competitiveness.

    Framework 3: Business DNA

    In digital business, understanding the intricate dimensions of your product or service is crucial. The concept of Business DNA, particularly Digital Business DNA, offers a powerful analytical framework to navigate this complexity. This framework encompasses various dimensions that help businesses plan, innovate, and avoid disruption.

    Key Dimensions of Business DNA

    1. Offer Form Factor:

    • Example: The evolution from physical books to e-books and audiobooks.
    • Implication: Understanding how the physical form of a product or service can change to meet modern demands.

    2. Monetization Models:

    • Example: The shift from one-time car purchases to leasing and subscription models like Netflix or AWS.
    • Implication: Adapting monetization strategies from traditional transactions to subscription-based services.

    3. Ecosystem Leverage:

    • Example: The difference between traditional taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber.
    • Implication: Leveraging external resources and orchestrating ecosystems effectively to deliver services.

    4. Technology and Assets:

    • Example: Transition from hardware-based businesses to software-as-a-service (SaaS).
    • Implication: Integrating technology to create innovative products and services.

    Understanding the Framework

    Traditional vs. Digital Business Models:

    • Traditional hardware businesses focus on selling physical products through one-time transactions, relying heavily on internal resources.
    • Software businesses evolved to include subscription services, adding a layer of recurring revenue and customer engagement.
    • SaaS businesses represent a further shift, offering software on a subscription basis, often leveraging cloud technology and external ecosystems.

    Ecosystem Orchestration:

    • Modern services like ride-sharing illustrate how leveraging an ecosystem of independent contractors can disrupt traditional models.
    • Companies need to consider how they can flip traditional service models by integrating more external resources and technologies.

    Analyzing Business DNA:

    • By examining a company’s business structure, revenue models, and innovation strategies, one can determine its DNA.
    • Understanding this DNA helps in identifying areas for innovation, whether in operations, go-to-market strategies, or technology integration.

    Practical Application of the Framework

    Example: Automotive Industry:

    • Traditional car sales involve a one-time transaction where the customer owns and operates the vehicle.
    • Leasing changes this to a recurring payment model, providing the right to use the car.
    • Ride-sharing services like Uber offer on-demand, outsourced transportation without ownership, leveraging a vast ecosystem of drivers.

    Example: Technology Products:

    Key Takeaways

    1. Consumption Models Drive Innovation:

    Understanding consumer expectations and preferences is crucial for innovation. The job to be done remains the same, but how it’s achieved can vary widely.

    2. Rethink Life Cycles:

    Whether dealing with products, services, software, or hardware, reconsidering the life cycle in the context of modern consumption models is essential.

    3. Integrate Business DNA:

    Combining consumption models, productization plans, and ecosystem leverage creates a holistic view. This helps in determining the necessary transformations for staying competitive.

    4. Assess Disruption Potential:

    Regularly analyzing whether your business can be disrupted by new entrants helps in stay ahead. This involves looking beyond the immediate product to the broader digital landscape.

    By understanding and applying these frameworks, businesses can better manage the evolution of their products and services, ensuring they meet the needs of both the market and the end-users effectively. Aligning product decisions with the organization’s mission, embracing the “thing” life cycle, adapting consumption models, leveraging ecosystem resources, and analyzing Business DNA are essential strategies for thriving today. These frameworks not only help in handling current challenges but also in anticipating and preparing for future disruptions, ensuring sustainable growth and innovation.

    About the Author:

    Hari Harikrishnan Chief Product Officer, The Cerebrus Group

    Frequently Asked Questions

    A product framework is a strategic tool that helps businesses understand and manage the lifecycle and dimensions of their products and services. It encompasses various elements such as design, development, procurement, use, monetization models, and ecosystem leverage, guiding decision-making and aligning product strategies with the organization’s mission and market needs.

    To build a product framework, start by identifying the key dimensions relevant to your product, such as design, development, procurement, and use. Incorporate monetization models, from transactions to subscriptions, and consider how to leverage internal and external ecosystems. Ensure the framework aligns with your business mission and market needs, enabling effective product management and strategic decision-making.

    A product design framework is a structured approach used to guide the creation and development of products. It encompasses various aspects such as user research, ideation, prototyping, and testing, aimed at ensuring the product meets user needs and achieves business objectives. By following a product design framework, teams can systematically iterate and refine product concepts, resulting in more successful and user-centered products.

    A product strategy framework outlines the key elements and approaches involved in developing and managing a product portfolio to achieve business goals. It typically includes components such as market analysis, customer segmentation, competitive positioning, and roadmap planning. By using a product strategy framework, organizations can align their product development efforts with overall business objectives, ensuring sustainable growth and competitiveness in the market.