Estimating Project Costs

Even though we’ve been estimating project costs since the beginning of software, it’s remarkable to me how much confusion remains. I think the root cause of this confusion is that management needs cost information very early in the process, yet engineering...

Make a Friend in Finance

How many of you understand the economics of your product? Do you know your exact revenue model? Do you know the total costs of your product? Do you know how much you pay for each new customer? Do you know their lifetime value to the company? Do you know the return...

Build New or Fix Old?

Often I’m asked what the right balance is between new product development and investing in improving existing products. I suppose it’s natural for companies to want to have some sort of percentage guideline, but I try to get companies to think about these investments...

Don’t talk to Customers?

Every so often I meet a product manager that tells me that they are not allowed to talk to their users or customers. Sometimes it’s because the sale reps want to control all access; or maybe it’s because marketing is supposed to be the interface with the customer; and...

The Origins of Agile

If your engineering team hasn’t already moved to some form of Agile methods (like Scrum or XP), then it’s likely they’re at least considering it. Agile really does attack some key problems that have plagued software teams for decades. But many product managers and...

Measuring Product Managers

Very often I’m asked how product managers should be measured. I have long believed that the only true measure of the product manager is the success of his or her product. While I still believe that, it’s not a very satisfying answer, as it’s not clear what the best...

Roles and Ratios

Last week I attended a truly unusual conference (www.gelconference.com).  Anyway, as I was walking around I met quite a few people that recognized my name from the newsletter, and soon it became apparent that there’s some common questions out there, and I thought I’d...

Design vs. Implementation

NOTE: “Design” below refers to User Experience Design, and not Architectural or Systems Design. There are many things in the software development process that can and should be done in parallel. For example, I have long argued that requirements and design...

Engineering Wants to Rewrite!

Few words are more dreaded by product managers than being told by engineering: “No more new features! We need to stop and rewrite! Our code base is a mess, it can’t keep up with the number of users, it’s a house of cards, we can’t maintain it, the site is a dog!” This...

That Dog Won’t Hunt

In the previous article I argued for some very significant changes to the way most teams produce software. Several of you wrote to me and asked that I elaborate on my final point, which had to do with the fact that once you have a product definition that works, you...