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What Is a Vertical Slice?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: Feb 28, 2024

As it related to business, a vertical slice is a term that is applied in a number of different applications. The broadest definition of the term has to do with the achievement of a specific milestone in the life of a project or business operation. Other applications of the term usually are connected with elements that have some impact on the overall function of a good or service, although as a stand-alone component, that element would have little to no impact on the usability of that product. With most applications, a vertical slice is associated with something that is functioning properly and is considered an asset in some manner.

One of the most common examples of a vertical slice is found in the forward movement of a business project. In this scenario, the slice often serves as a benchmark that makes it possible to measure the progress of some aspect of that project. For example, if a project calls for certain tasks to be completed by a specified deadline and those tasks are actually completed by or before that stated deadline, then the vertical slice can refer to the confirmation that those goals were reached and the next phase of the project can be undertaken either on schedule or possibly even ahead of schedule.

As it relates to the general operation of a business, a vertical slice can be a sort of snapshot of some aspect of the operating structure of the company and an indicator of how well that slice is functioning as a part of the whole. Here, the idea is to see each department or process within a department as a sort of business logic layer, evaluating how it performs in terms of efficiency and productivity, and then projecting how those activities benefit the company operation as a whole. In this scenario, the vertical slice can be used as a means of targeting a particular function or aspect of the company for evaluation, and possibly determining how to make that part of the operation even more valuable.

Typically, the vertical slice is helpful in looking closely at one layer or one aspect of a project or even a company operation. In the best of scenarios, the slice indicates that good things happening which are moving the effort forward. At other times, the slice or even the lack of a slice will indicate something is wrong and steps must be taken to correct issues before any forward movement can continue.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By David09 — On Dec 30, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - It’s kind of an abstract term but I see what you mean. I suppose that by contrast a horizontal slice (if there is such a thing) would be looking at only one domain.

I imagine that if you were using project management software, then the vertical slice might be tracked across a Gantt chart or something like that, which is effective at showing the progression of milestones.

By SkyWhisperer — On Dec 29, 2011

I think I’ve heard the term “vertical slice” used in software development concepts. The term “vertical” is important in this context.

Usually when you develop software you have the back end of the software and the front end (or its interface). A vertical slice is a measurement of how well you’re doing with both of these sections – in other words, a slice across both layers.

This is different from a regular milestone, where you are measuring say one thing, like the back end layer. A vertical slice measures your progress across a whole bunch of domains at once.

I assume that is the application in business logic or project management usage. You want to see where you’re at with a certain milestone that tests a bunch of different aspects of the project at once.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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