Software PMs: Are you managing software debt?

This post is for the Product Managers who work with software development teams.  Not just those working on commercial offerings, but also those who work with IT teams to build internally-used applications and systems.

“What’s software debt?”  you ask.  You know that long list of bugs in the tracker?  That – and more.  All diagnosed, analyzed, and explained in Chris Sterling’s new book, Managing Software Debt – Building for Inevitable Change.

51g63S1AW1L__SL160_AA160_Here are some indicators we’ve experienced that show unmanaged or excess debt:

  • Tweaking a feature ‘here’ breaks something ‘there’ – someplace that should be totally unrelated.
  • The estimate for a simple feature is “That’ll take weeks – that section of code is a mess.”
  • Nothing after your ‘code complete’ milestone stays on schedule (even the revised, updated, re-baselined schedule).
  • Dev teams blow every schedule due to putting out production fires.

These all sound like technical or quality problems – so what should and can a Product Manager do about it?

We believe that anything a PM can do to improve product profitability falls in the scope of your job.  Addressing software debt decreases development effort and increases productivity, leading to more features for your money in each release.  Now are you interested?


Read Managing Software Debt.  While it’s written for developers, Product Managers will gain a good understanding of the causes of software debt and the role that you and other business stakeholders can play in reducing it.  In addition, you’ll get answers to some of your questions about how software design and architecture are addressed in an Agile environment.  Plus, you’ll find a great checklist of non-functional requirements on pages 184-185!

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