Category Archives: Innovation

Technical Debt Assessment framework for Product Managers

a.k.a. Why & How Product Managers must assess, account & groom technical debt


Technical Debt explained (c)
Technical Debt explained (c)

When I started conceptualizing a new product 5 years back, the concept of technical debt only existed in theory. Over a period, the pressure of time & customers, drove features cuts, compromises, and unfortunately, some quick-and-dirty solutions. Post the short-term wins, its not too long before technical debt surfaces and forces a resolution.


Technical debt is taken up for short-term advantages such as shorter time-to-market, and preserving capital. But in the long run, it reduces productivity, time available for new feature development and, God forbid, might keep you from crossing the chasm.

While Product Managers balance out the short and long term benefits/impact of every product decision, it is important that they keep track of the debt that is being baked in with every story. At the same time, having some framework to preempt the debt that is inadvertently introduced and proactively manage it as a roadmap item.

The Debt Assessment Framework

Fowler categorizes debt as Reckless v/s Prudent, or Deliberate v/s Inadvertent. While this classification answers the ‘how’, it doesn’t provide visibility into ‘what’ and ‘where’ of debt is added. Without further classification, accounting debt is like having a balance sheet with just one account for liabilities. I would like to further categorize all the debt that is deliberately added and assess its risk upfront. Here’s how:

Risk assessment for (deliberate) technical debt
Type Potentially lacks.. User Visible Sales Risk Ops Risk
Business value Comprehensiveness in all business scenarios, Browser/Language support, Super admin rights, etc. Y Y N
User Experience Simple task flows, help cues, consistent design, mobility, Usability or A/B testing Y Y N
Performance Quick response, High availability, Clustering, CDN, Load/Stress test suite Y Y Y
Maintainability Data redundancy, Recovery, Migration, Configuration management, Sizing estimates, Documentation N N Y
Design/Architectural Portability, Modularity, Coding standards, & styles, Web services, Latest component versions; Has glue or duplicate code N Y Y
Test Automation Comprehensive coverage of functional/unit tests, either brittle or missing N N Y

If you’re wondering why (missing) features and defects don’t show in the list, that’s because they are the fundamental work units for development and not actually debt.

Practical use

Using the above framework as checklist for all new feature development, even non-technical Product managers can easily assess Continue reading Technical Debt Assessment framework for Product Managers

There isn’t one great trip planner for my vacation!

A few months back I was planning my vacation and things weren’t as easy as I thought. I had figured out the destination, booked air tickets, short-listed places to see and hired a car. The challenge however was to set up a local itinerary. I had X places to cover in Y days with optimized routes so we weren’t spending all our time travelling.  This required finding exact locations & distances between them so as to figure how much could be covered in available time. I had nothing at my disposal but Google Maps & notepad.

Based on my own needs, and the way I go about planning my vacation, here are some high-level ‘market needs’:

  • Itinerary Planer: Create, visualize & execute itineraries on interactive maps & calendar
  • Vacation Content: Genuine holiday suggestions, based on demographics, with verified itineraries[
  • Marketplace: Get quotes from interested agents on my itinerary
  • Integration: Link with booking, review, customer engagement & social media platforms
Google map created for my Singapore holiday
Google map created for my Singapore holiday

Am I working on this project? Continue reading There isn’t one great trip planner for my vacation!

3 reasons you should innovate all the time, even in relationships

To be very honest, I don’t see a reason why someone should stray away from innovation. Thinking ‘New’ keeps your idea muscle toned for tough challenges. But here’s 3 reasons why you should innovate all the time: not just on the professional front, but also in relationships. After all, as LinkedIn says, relationships matter.

1. Not all ideas from the past scale


There could have been some things that worked very well for you in the past. But everything changes with time, ideas get stale, and they won’t always scale to match the situation – if at all they still work. A 20 picture photo album might have made for a lovely Valentine’s day, but that does not mean that a 200-slide story board – full of pictures and promises – can save a relationship. You have to think fresh! Eat Subway if it takes that :)

2. Not all ideas click (plan for failure)

What I tore & stitched back :(

I once had to put some things together in a paper bag (like the McDonalds carry bag – sorry can’t think outside food), and snail mail it. I had to attach a note, and trying to be creative, I decided to use the inside of the bag. So, I cut the edges of the bag to make it one long sheet of paper (kinda rotulus), wrote the message on it (in black so it would be noticed) and stitched it back with tape. Outcome? It hit the trash can – unnoticed. I failed to deliver the message. Don’t be shy of failure, the world today is chasing failure, and the Tata’s are even giving out awards for failing. But make sure you have enough alternatives to compensate for the failure, without really having to start over.
Make yourself a promise:
I will always have 5 alternate ideas or planned for 5  un-happy scenarios (what does not fall on the happy path) before executing an idea

3. Competition is catching up fast

Need I say more?


Innovate or perish. Sharpen your axe. Work out your idea muscle. Have coffee, or Subway, or whatever helps you think. Do something special for that special one: be it your better half or your project/product. It’s up to you to save it!

Marginalia: If you are planning to make them coffee, remember that if you make a heart with Hershey’s on it, it will sink. Instead, try rangoli (sprinkling) with coffee powder.

Share/Tweet: @prasadgupte: 3 reasons you should keep innovating, even in relationships

Gazelle – Paying you for used gadgets

I sometimes spend a lot of my time and blog-space publicizing (often, through criticism) other products, websites, hotels, etc. But sometimes I just want to show respect for  great ideas. And nothing excites me more than green initiatives! While going through Gopal Shenoy‘s blog on Product Management tips, I got to learn of this cool company called Gazelle he joined. Gazelle, based out of Boston, pays you for taking away used electronics which it recycles. So instead of going to landfills, you’re gadgets are erased and either re-used or sold in the secondary market. It takes a week after receiving the gadget to complete inspect it and issue the payment. What more could you be asking for with Money in one hand and carbon-credit in the other!

I got too excited and checked what I will get for my 4 year old Nokia 6600! Have a look at the disheartening result!

Gazelle will pay me $9 for Nokia 6600
Gazelle will pay me $9 for Nokia 6600

PS: No links on this page have referral commissions :)