The product portfolio architecture developed by a design team will have a tremendous impact upon customer satisfaction and market acceptance of the set of products offered by the firm. Yet most work in architecture centers around cost savings, manufacturability, and other production-driven concerns. Here, we propose a customer need basis for defining the architecture of a portfolio of products. Customer needs analysis provides a list of requirements for a product to sell. At any moment in time, one can assess a market population to establish target values for product features and represent those targets as probability distributions. Similarly, one can also trace the product through its use over time, and establish a separate set of desired target values, also as a set of distributions. Comparing these two distribution sets for every important customer need can point to the type of architecture a market population desires. When population and time distributions match, feature adjustability is required. When these distributions are different but constant in time, a family of product variants is more appropriate. When the population distribution changes over time, the feature must be isolated so it can be upgraded over time. If the distributions across both time and population are narrow, a single offering will supply the needs of the market. An instant film camera product is used as an example of the relationship between customer need distributions and appropriate product architecture.

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