Managing Product during Platform migration
There is umpteen articles out there which talks about platform migration from tech perspective. However, I had always struggled to understand the mindset required for product managers during platform migration. Since I have managed to cross that hurdle (not once but twice), this is a reflection of product mindset required during a migration phase of a tech platform for a consumer product.
Definition: Migration is a process of upgrading a product from its current version to an updated version (either revamping with UX benefits or to a new technology stack for the benefits of latest tech)
Scenarios: Migrating a website to a new web framework (OR) Revamping an web/app to upgrade the UX flow along with new framework etc.
Myth 1: Build it as it is today (Reality: Product vision is required!)
Product management is about the vision required to build a product even if it is built “as it is” with a new tech stack. As a PM, it is imperative to question all decisions made along the lines to validate whether the migrated features are required to fulfill the product vision. It is important to have a product vision charted out clearly to make decisions along the lines for the best interest of the product. As a PM, I have killed features and made decisions to rebuild product features to solve the customer problems in a right way.
Myth 2: Stakeholders alignment is required when the product is ready to ship
Stakeholders alignment is a critical step in building any product, however it is a crucial step during migration process as the vision has to be aligned with various stakeholders within the organization. It is imperative to do product discovery session with stakeholders in order to identify, understand, validate and align the use-cases that is required to build the product in a right way.
Myth 3: Communication (read over-communication) is trivial
Communication is crucial for the success of the product at every step of the migration. As a PM, it is important to take every stakeholders through the migration journey i.e. from defining vision, design sprints, product demos, defining success metrics, rollout strategy etc. The key reason is that migration requires other teams to align and work towards the goal — as Marketing needs to understand when to double down on their marketing efforts or customer support team needs to know how to support the new experience or legal team needs to understand what changes are made to the platform so that the policy reflect those changes accurately.
Myth 4: Migration is far away so build features in two product stack (old & new)
The risk/reward ratio of a migration project is greater than 1 at the start of the project as it is a very high risk project (given the time taken and resources involved). However, the ratio would be less than 1 at some point in the journey which is a sweet spot to double down on your migration investment. This can be measured by the time taken (effort) to build vs % of product shipped in the market (mostly the latter would be 0 till you made significant progress to ship parts of your product in new platform).
This is a really difficult product decision to make as you have to balance out your company’s current growth on the existing platform vs the move towards the new platform to cater to the long-term growth. This decision can hamper your company’s growth in the short-term as there would be overlapping period where you cannot action much of your customer’s feedback as your core team is focused on migration efforts for the long term. One of the best way to tackle this problem is to deliver in smaller chunks (no big bang!) to establish sustainable value (eg: performance, faster time to market etc.) in your new stack.
Myth 5: Product analytics plays a critical role post-migration
Analytics plays a critical role to measure the success of your new platform, however it starts with measuring your old platform to validate what metrics you are planning to improve in your new platform. One of the common PM mistakes is that they assume that the new platform will be the way forward so they tend to focus on measuring new platform without baseline metrics from old platform. The key to measuring success is to understand the baseline metrics from old platform and set a clear target on how much your new platform will improve (eg: improve by 5% or maintain the same numbers as old platform). And iterative on it till your achieve your numbers. Thus, it is imperative to define what ‘success’ looks like and how much to improve in terms of metrics across pre/peri/post-migration.
In summary, product manager plays a critical role in the platform migration journey and have experienced that PMs might churn during migration project (avg. churn of 2–3 PMs) as it is a time-consuming process to rollout a migration plan to your customer base. It requires a great amount of grit (passion + perseverance!) to rollout the migration project to a success.