When it comes to problems there is a simple truth to addressing them. First you need to accept that there is a problem. Once you do that you can go ahead and find a solution.
The same thing is true with product options. It’s a two-step process where the first thing is acceptance. You need to accept that some options are not optional. They can actually be mandatory.
I find that hard to believe
This is one of my favorite statements when it comes to product configuration.
– So let me get this straight, your options are optional? I find that hard to believe.
It sounds a little bit crazy, right?
But the truth is that this is the reality for almost all products at all companies. Our experience tells us that there are almost always “it-depends” options and actually some mandatory options.
People always think we are joking when we talk about the mandatory options. I love talking about them, and it always takes the same turn.
At first, after some tweaking, the product manager will admit that some of the options are mandatory under certain conditions. Once we conclude this is the case, one starts to realize that the product actually has some options that can’t be left out of a valid configuration. Some options are actually always mandatory due to nestled conditions.
From a production point of view, something can still be an option. But once we add global and local sales constraints it often turns out that certain options can’t be deselected.
Real, conditional and mandatory options
When we set up the logic for a configurable product, we use categories to understand the product structure. Options have three different categories:
1. Real options
2. Conditional options
3. Mandatory options
The real options are real easy. We only need to make sure there’s a possibility not to select these. We don’t need to add any constraints, because if we do, it become a…
Conditional option. This is a challenge, and it lies in defining when it’s valid NOT to have this option. It often requires a set of logical ANDs and ORs. To be frank, it’s a little bit tricky to get this right.
And the mandatory options are normally not that difficult to define. The difficulty lies in accepting their existence.
This is the first, most difficult and important step when it comes to configuring options.