Product Compatibility Management

    When they talk about the skills that a product manager should possess, strategic thinking, planning, management of new requirements, and communication with customers immediately come to mind. However, there are many more mundane tasks that a product manager / product owner must be able to handle. One of these is compatibility management. For me, this is probably the most difficult task.

    Imagine that your application is a website that is accompanied by its own technical team. Since there is a web interface, you need to track compatibility with common browsers. Three key players: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer. So now you have three third-party compatibility applications with which you need to track and plan. This means that you need to remember which versions are relevant, do not forget to take into account the time for testing and fixing compatibility errors.

    Let's complicate things a bit. The product will have a mobile layout for work on smartphones. So you need to add more Google Chrome for Android, Google Chrome for iOS, Apple Safari for iOS. The number of tracked third-party products quickly increased to 6. But it still looks good.

    The real situation is a bit more complicated. The product has a server part, right? Using a database? What operating system does the server part run on? All of these systems have a limited period of support, and you will update them someday.

    As you can see, even in such a simple example, you need to monitor compatibility with 7 - 10 third-party products. Tracking implies control over their life cycle and release dates of new versions. Sophisticated software has large compatibility projects, especially for corporate applications. Exporting or importing data - watch for third-party systems such as ECM, ERP or mail servers. Have a mobile client? Great, your list has expanded to Android and iOS versions. Is there an installable client on the desktop? Add versions of Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS.

    The task is difficult, but feasible. The minimum set for controlling the situation is an application for maintaining tables, for example, Microsoft Excel and a list of resources where companies publish support terms and roadmaps for their products. For example,

    Having only this, you will already have control over the situation. The main thing to remember to put time to check compatibility in the release plan.

    Ideally, when a separate team is responsible for the management of such projects, sometimes it is brought under the control of a QA or Program manager.

    Compatibility management can also include control over the components being implemented. Remember how many third-party libraries does your development team use? They also have their own life cycle.

    How is this done in your projects? Plan ahead or on request. Who is responsible for this?

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