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What vertical slicing is and how it’s used in project management

monday.com 8 min read
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Successfully completing a project may leave you feeling as victorious as slaying the final boss of a video game, but that’s not the only connection between project management and video game development. The concept of a vertical slice, which offers a view of a project segment upon reaching a milestone, is equally applicable to managing a project or developing software and video games.

In this article, you will learn what vertical slices are and how they create a more collaborative and efficient work process. We’ll also share how monday.com’s Work OS can help you take full advantage of vertical slicing benefits. Using vertical slices to demonstrate the success of a project component or a software feature not only offers value to your customers and stakeholders, but also allows you to incorporate feedback and make improvements early in the process, enhancing the finished product.

“Vertical slice” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!

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What is a vertical slice? 

The term vertical slice has origins in the world of video game development. A vertical slice is a portion of a game that developers can use as proof of concept to procure funding from stakeholders. The slice can be played independently and offers a glimpse of the impressive features that the final game will include. However, other fields use vertical slicing too.

It’s important to note that a vertical slice is not the same thing as a minimum viable product (MVP). While developers often use a vertical slice to garner interest and funding, they generally use MVPs to test a game concept, determine whether there is a market, and generate ideas for improvements.

Applications of vertical slicing

There are several other applications of vertical slicing outside of video games. While completing a project or operation, businesses can provide a vertical slice upon achieving a particular milestone. Managers and business owners often use them to demonstrate that a phase of a project or aspect of a business has been successful.

The specific number and kinds of layers of the vertical slice depend on the type of project, business, or development. For example, in a development project, the layers might include:

  • User interface
  • Business logic
  • Data access

It’s important to recognize that a vertical slice contains some piece of each layer. When combined, the layers should offer some form of practical value to the stakeholders or users.

Comparison to horizontal slicing

Vertical slicing is an alternative approach to a strategy known as horizontal slicing. When using the horizontal slicing method, you examine a single layer of a project in isolation rather than consider multiple parts together. If you think of a cake, you can imagine that a horizontal slice— while delicious—would deprive you of enjoying every flavor. This same concept applies to horizontal slicing in project management or development. It allows the user to examine only one part of a much larger project, thus missing out on the overall experience.

Benefits of vertical slicing 

One of the most important aspects of a vertical slice is that it is cross-sectional — it includes information from all layers. This allows stakeholders and clients to get a better idea of the full project scope rather than limit them to seeing only a segment, which is unusable and potentially confusing or incomprehensible by itself.

There are many benefits founded on the cross-sectional nature of a vertical slice. For example, vertical slicing:

  • Allows you to receive feedback at a faster rate so that you can make adjustments and corrections at an earlier stage of the project
  • Increases the focus on the user experience rather than the independent parts of the project
  • Improves opportunities for collaboration and cross-functional teamwork
  • Offers business value to the customer or stakeholder much more quickly

Vertical slicing is advantageous not only to managers or developers but also to users and stakeholders who can offer and use insight into the project much earlier than when using horizontal slices.

Vertical slicing in project management

The principles of vertical slicing in video game development are equally applicable to the realms of business and project management. Managers create vertical slices when they make benchmarks or milestones for a project.

For example, imagine a project that includes marketing, design, and research teams. A project that does not use vertical slicing might provide separate updates to stakeholders for each component of the project. However, it is impossible for the stakeholder to fully determine whether the marketing will be effective without seeing the design. Likewise, it’s challenging to provide feedback on the design without knowing if the research supports it.

Alternatively, imagine that the team provides stakeholders with a vertical slice that incorporates marketing, design, and research. The stakeholders can now see how all the pieces will fit together and offer useful feedback on improvements or changes. In addition, it may be possible for them to use the vertical slice as an enticing preview of the overall product that they can roll out to customers.

Applications of vertical slicing in Agile development

Vertical slices go hand in hand with Agile software development. This development methodology focuses on cross-functional teams that constantly strive to improve quality and adapt to customer needs by offering smaller deliverables.

Slicing in Agile development

As in traditional project management, you can divide software development work into layers, such as user interface, business, and data. Teams can work independently on each project component and then provide it to stakeholders for review. However, because each section is independent, it offers almost no practical value. In contrast, a vertical slice breaks down a user story with a bit of each layer, allowing for the review of a workable version of a specific feature of the finished product.

Clean architecture

Clean architecture is a form of layered architecture that is popular for software development. When software developers use clean architecture, they separate the elements into layers based on technical concerns. Clean architecture intends to:

  • Keep the business logic separate from the delivery mechanism
  • Reduce dependencies
  • Improve code performance

Keep in mind that clean architecture and vertical slicing are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some developers work with both frameworks, sometimes even within a single application.

Vertical slice architecture

Vertical architecture focuses on features. Developers organize the code base by grouping all the technical concerns for a particular feature. Vertical slice architecture is beneficial because it:

  • Connects all of the layers necessary for a feature
  • Groups the code, thereby simplifying the process of editing or removing a feature
  • Makes the code more cohesive

Vertical slicing is beneficial in other forums, such as business operations, because it encourages interconnection between various project elements.

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How monday.com helps your team manage cross-functional work 

To use vertical slices appropriately, teams must be collaborative and cross-functional. Members of each project team must be able to communicate, share their progress, and offer feedback throughout the process.

Among its many features, monday.com’s Work OS allows you to track projects across departments and communicate with all interested parties. The cross-departmental project tracking template makes it easy for team members to offer support and monitor the status of each component of the project.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a vertical slice in Agile? 

Teams that use Agile development create products in increments, or vertical slices, that are independently usable. A vertical slice incorporates pieces of each aspect of the final product in a smaller form so that the user gets a better idea of the full experience and gains value faster.

What is a vertical slice of a product feature? 

A vertical slice of a product feature is a piece of the feature that includes all its various layers. In contrast, a horizontal slice includes only a single aspect of the feature and ignores all others.

Increasing collaboration with vertical slicing

Whether you are a project manager, software developer, video game designer, or business owner, vertical slicing may improve the quality of your outcomes and make your work process more effective. By offering stakeholders and users a view of every aspect of a project rather than a glimpse of only one small piece, you can invite more useful feedback, demonstrate your success more effectively, and offer value far earlier in the process.

The ability to use vertical slicing rests on whether you have a cross-functional team. Fortunately, the communication and collaboration tools available through monday.com’s Work OS simplify the processes you need to take full advantage of a vertical slice.

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