(Or How Major Platform Migrations Really Happen)

Many companies have replatforming efforts underway. Architectures get old, new kinds of partners or integrations emerge, hard-to-maintain monolithic code gets broken into microservices, acquisitions force integration of dissimilar systems, etc. This is an essential part of the software product business, but fraught with poor assumptions and lack of experience/understanding. And the majority of replatforming and reimplementation efforts I’ve seen have failed.

IMHO the #1 source of failure is setting entirely wrong expectations. I typically hear this: “We’ll shift a majority of development effort onto our NextGen system, build a 100% plug-compatible replacement for…


Angels dancing on the head of a pin

As good product folks, we know that customers must recognize a problem before they consider buying our solution. Companies that don’t have supply chain issues (or think they don’t) are not in the market for ERP systems. Organizations that don’t think they are hacking targets don’t invest in security infrastructure. Couch potatoes don’t care about traction metrics for running shoes. Households without pets (mostly) don’t buy cute doggy sweaters. We don’t shop for antidotes to unrecognized diseases.

But I often see product managers / product leaders forget this when dealing with internal stakeholders and executives. We push our companies to…


It’s pretty easy to tell if Sales is hitting its goals. (“Are we on track to hit this quarter’s revenue?”) Slightly tougher for Marketing (top of funnel metrics or qualified leads). HR tracks hiring, employee churn and internal sentiment. Engineering tends toward semi-vanity productivity metric (releases, velocity or bug counts).

It’s much harder to measure if a product management (PM) team is doing a good job. With lots of responsibility but no authority, we often struggle to connect specific actions with specific revenue outcomes or partnerships or increased customer satisfaction. And we’re trained to share credit/success as widely as possible…


1925: Atwater Kent radio assembly plant

I often have conversations with CEOs of software companies or software-powered (ecommerce) companies who aren’t steeped in how software is designed and built. They come from the sales side, finance, or are subject experts (veteran recruiters now running recruiting software firms). Understandably, they tend to apply analogies from more familiar business contexts to the creation of software. But this takes us in a wrong direction if the analogy doesn’t work. Let’s unpack two.

“Building Software Is Like Building Cars”

Most of us have seen pictures of an automotive assembly line. Parts are sourced from suppliers or other plants, each step is carefully choreographed, robots increasingly take…


woman executive

I’m sometimes pulled into difficult discussions with CEOs, where I’m trying to describe systematic product-side failures that directly conflict with how the CEO sees the world. Even after dozens of similar discussions, I have only moderate success. But it seems worth framing this leadership-level challenge from both sides.

For me, this is typically at a company in a heavily tech-dependent business (ecommerce, banking, medical devices, gaming…) that’s not directly selling software for revenue. Or an early-stage enterprise software company with a hard-charging sales executive in a first-time CEO role. …


One of my VP Product coachees raised a topic that comes up often: “I want to become a much better coach for my reports, both around product issues and people management. How do I ask powerful questions to lead my team through that rather than giving the answer?”

This is a hard (and interesting) question because it mixes subject expertise with management styles and essential soft skills. Content critiques alongside motivation and organizational hierarchy.

I like to start by unpacking and understanding our coaching goals. Typically this is about improved delegation: our goal as product leaders should be to delegate…


Every week, I talk with CEOs who tell me they want to speed up innovation. In fact, they want to schedule it. Recently a product leader shared with me an OKR to ship one major innovation each quarter, measured as “users will give each innovative feature a top rating.”

This frustrates me deeply, but I try to restrain myself and sympathize with CEOs. Instead of getting indignant or overly academic, let’s unpack what various folks MEAN by innovation, and then come back to why “scheduling innovation” doesn’t make much sense.

Stakeholder by stakeholder …

  • When we lose a deal, the…


The problem of prioritization comes up in many of my coaching discussions with product leaders, and in almost every product forum. We want it to be a trivial mechanical process: pick a metric (usually current revenue), estimate ROI for the entire backlog, then do whatever scores highest. But that very rarely works in practice. Prioritization fits into a larger strategic and organizational framework.

Some frequent symptoms:

  • Requests for a magical universal prioritization spreadsheet. …


I talk with CPOs/VPs of Product almost every day. And with CTOs/VPs of Engineering every week. A frequent topic is how to collaborate and support each other — even as we sometimes need to raise uncomfortable issues. My starting point is always that VPs of Product and Engineering need to be fully aligned in public, aka “shoulder to shoulder.”

At most (tech) companies, product managers are more than transmitters of requirements or sales demands. More than checklist completers. If we’re living up to our potential, we have a unique birds-eye view of where customer value meets great technology. And we…


automobile speedometer

Half of the calls I get from CEOs include requests for Product Management to boost productivity in Engineering (aka Development aka Makers). To ship more stuff, faster. To hit more roadmap dates. To reduce some fictitious cost-per-feature financial goal. To get more for less.

This reflects confusion about what product managers do (and how we really add value), and often poor role definition where product managers are also project/program managers or engineering leads. It also signals a lack of trust between the executive team and the development organization: “how do I know I’m getting my money’s worth out of this…

Rich Mironov

Tech start-up veteran, smokejumper CPO/product management VP, writer, coach for product leaders, analogy wrangler, product camp founder.

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