September 4, 2019 PRODUCT MANAGEMENT SKILLS

Products Meet Culture: Changing Legacy Systems

Abby Crowley Article Author
Sharon Su Plasser
Sam's Club (part of Walmart E-Commerce) Director of Product Management

Sam’s Club Product Lead on Product Meets Culture (Part 3)

Product Managers and Legacy Systems

With companies that are 20 years or older, it’s very likely that there’s legacy tech. It is also really likely that there are teams who still use that technology to do their daily jobs. As a result, unwinding these systems is not straightforward. In fact, PM’s find this to be a big challenge because they don’t want to disrupt the business.

Usually, the best approach you have to replace the system is launching a lightweight MVP. First, you iterate on it running in parallel to the current system. Then, you can replace all of the current system. However, life is not always that simple. Often times you have the operations team reminding you of crucial functions that need to stay on for the time being. 

Crossroads a PM Must Face

Now you must consider several options which is all right. You can still can launch a lightweight MVP and then iterate your way from there. Or, you can build a new system without a lightweight MVP, without iteration, and then cut over to parity. This first option gives you lower product risk but a worse user experience. However, in the second option you have a higher product risk but a better user experience- this is because you just cut overall at once. 

I faced this challenge at my job and in that scenario, I decided to do the second option. This is why:

  • User experience is important, but running the business is even more important
  • New system should have no negative impact on operating metrics. 
  • Trade offs
    • To smooth the transition for users, keep legacy systems in parallel
    • Take a waterfall approach first, then an agile approach.

As a result, the whole project was a success. In fact, we increased execution efficiency by 150%. Plus, the initiative became the most profitable idea for the company!

 

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

About the Speaker
Sharon Su Plasser
Sam's Club (part of Walmart E-Commerce) Director of Product Management
Sharon Su Plasser is a Director of Product at Sam’s Club (part of Walmart E-Commerce) - leading the product team focused on retail operations and reverse logistics. Prior to joining Sam’s Club, she led product management and business operations teams at Yahoo. In addition, Sharon has also held leadership positions at Goldman Sachs and Meebo. Sharon holds a degree from Skidmore College and currently lives in San Francisco

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