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The Things I Don't Know about Product Retirement Could Fill A Slide Deck


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My Ignorance On Display as a Research Agenda. There are millions of consumer apps to kill in the next few years. Perhaps that many enterprise apps too. We do a horrible job of shutting down systems …

My Ignorance On Display as a Research Agenda. There are millions of consumer apps to kill in the next few years. Perhaps that many enterprise apps too. We do a horrible job of shutting down systems well. It's typically a frenetic, last second, disorganized, incomplete, bridge-burning, costly, career limiting exercise. We don't talk about it and we have little data. I want to start a conversation about product death. In this deck I'm showing how little I know by asking you how to lead product retirement projects, how to design them, current practices, which forces drive success and which risks induce failure.

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  • 1. The Things I Don’t Know About Product Retirement Could Fill A Slide Deck My Ignorance On Display as a Research Agenda Phil Wolff Product Grim Reaper Graceful Exits at Let My Data #prodmgmt #eol #killthepwoduct #producthospice #gracefulexit #productmanagement @evanwolf
  • 2. Done All products die. Signals Kill? We put them down when their time is up. Map Plan How? Stage Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 3. Done Signals Map Kill? How? But we Plan don’t talk about Stage it. Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 4. Done So product managers Signals Kill? have little knowledge and less experience in the endof-life stage. Map Plan How? Stage Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 5. Done Signals Map Kill? How? Maybe you’ll have Plan answers to Stage some of these Deploy questions. Or know Close Out someone. Or have a theory Done a or story. @evanwolf
  • 6. How often do organizations agree on product retirement criteria before needing to kill a product? Is preplanning rare? @evanwolf
  • 7. How do chiefs commonly judge the success of retirement projects? No problems vs. Value vs. Speed @evanwolf
  • 8. Why do product managers delay pulling the trigger? Hope Weak data Lack of consensus Distraction @evanwolf
  • 9. How do organization attributes affect speed of product exit decision making? How does size affect how fast and how crisply you make exit decisions? @evanwolf
  • 10. Is it better to turn things off earlier or later? You prepare, then turn things off and respond to fallout. When are you better off… •  closing early to see what things break? •  (and breaking more things, breaking them worse, but giving you more time to respond) or •  thoroughly preparing a seamless closure? •  (minimizing breakage quantity and severity)? @evanwolf
  • 11. What triggers a “farewell visit”? A consumer farewell visit might be for… •  Saying “goodbye” to friends in the system •  Data export/migration •  Petition to restore features, products, services •  Learn terms of retirement Q. What induces the farewell visit? Q. What converts a farewell visit into action? @evanwolf
  • 12. What percent of retirement projects are… Bullet to the Back Of The Head? Graceful Exits? Something in between? @evanwolf
  • 13. What percent of retirement projects fail and restart? % fail and restart within 90 days % fail and restart 2 times % fail and restart 3+ times % fail and don’t restart @evanwolf
  • 14. What percent of retirement projects dispose of the product via Killing it Harvesting and recycling parts Selling it Donating it @evanwolf
  • 15. Where does the retirement team come from? •  __% The existing product team •  __% Elsewhere in the organization •  __% In-house product retirement specialists •  __% Outside product retirement specialists @evanwolf
  • 16. What percent of retirement teams work together killing products multiple times in a year? Does reaper expertise live in groups, in individuals, or not at all? @evanwolf
  • 17. How many product closures do 1000 product managers lead per year? @evanwolf
  • 18. How many weeks per year do product managers spend on product closure? @evanwolf
  • 19. What percent of product endings result in something other than shutting down? % handed off to another part of the organization % sold to a company % donated to an NGO % released to open source @evanwolf
  • 20. Why do some retirement projects get stalled in the execution stage? % Underfunded % Key people missing % Contractual commitments % Regulatory duty % Unwilling to break dependent systems % Hope @evanwolf
  • 21. How do organizations respond when customers protest product closure? @evanwolf
  • 22. Who are the decision makers in product retirement? Who makes recommendations and who decides? •  Product •  Marketing •  Engineering •  Finance •  CEO/COO @evanwolf
  • 23. What ToS/EULA elements help or hinder a graceful exit? @evanwolf
  • 24. How, and how well, do leaders of product closure projects deal with the strong feelings of the product’s teams? @evanwolf
  • 25. What constitutes meaningful notice to customers? By industry/segment By geography By age @evanwolf
  • 26. What communication plans work best for meaningful notice? @evanwolf
  • 27. What are the best ways to tell the product team “your product is about to die”? @evanwolf
  • 28. What constitutes meaningful notice to independent developers and other business partners? @evanwolf
  • 29. What regulatory trends affect product termination? Product disposal? @evanwolf
  • 30. What works to keep key personnel working until retirement is complete? @evanwolf
  • 31. How do you value a retirement project that goes well? @evanwolf
  • 32. Does the shift from creation to destruction harm the product team after the retirement? Does it lose unit cohesion? Is there some institutional version of PTSD? Or is it a useful break? A lagniappe? @evanwolf
  • 33. How common are data portability practices in product retirements? How strong? Frequency •  No portability •  Contributed data export •  API/json •  Profiles •  Contacts •  Conversations & Gestures Factors correlated with high portability and low portability •  Org size •  Industry/Customer Segment •  Product revenue •  Funding type/stage •  History •  Migration tools @evanwolf
  • 34. What does the law say about shutting down a service or ending a product’s life Jurisdictions? Bodies of law? US? California, New York, Texas? Privacy/data protection EU? UK? Consumer/patient/client protection Japan? Canada, Commonwealth? Telecom BRIC? Anti-trust @evanwolf
  • 35. How often do IT organizations and startups have repeatable practices for shutting down products? Many products Lots of Experi ence Portfolio Few Startup s Startup s Brief Long Product Lifespan @evanwolf
  • 36. What are the differences between great product champions and great project reapers? @evanwolf
  • 37. What are the differences between great product champions and great project reapers? Passion vs. Dispassion Sense and Respond vs. Map and Conquer Soft Power vs. Formal Authority Continuous Process vs. Hard Deadlines Creater vs. Destroyer Mark on the world vs. No trace left behind @evanwolf
  • 38. How do core values affect exit project tradeoffs? @evanwolf
  • 39. What are the most common reasons given for a fast, rough, bulletto-the-back-ofthe-head product closure? The real reasons? @evanwolf
  • 40. To what degree do product communities stay together and migrate when a product dies? Why? Why not? @evanwolf
  • 41. What are the seven best discussions to have in a product team debriefing workshop? @evanwolf
  • 42. Do companies reward or penalize retirement project managers differently than they do product managers? @evanwolf
  • 43. “You come back from lunch and are told to shut down your product by the end of the day. Could you? How well? What would you expect to go wrong?” @evanwolf
  • 44. What HR issues are most likely to screw up an otherwise clean product retirement project? @evanwolf
  • 45. What financial reports are most useful in a post-retirement product review? @evanwolf
  • 46. Done Let me ask you a fewKill? Signals questions about your own product hospice experiences. Map Plan How? Stage Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 47. Done Signals Map Kill? How? Are you Plan ready to Stage prepare for end-of-life Deploy while your Close is product Out still healthy? Done @evanwolf
  • 48. Done Signals Map Kill? How? Can you Plan shift to the Stage happily grim Deploy mindset of Close Out a reaper? Done @evanwolf
  • 49. Done Are you, your Signals Kill? product’s champion, best suited and best prepared to deal death to your own products? Map Plan How? Stage Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 50. Done It’s time for aSignals new Kill? #prodmgmt specialty. Map Plan How? Stage Deploy The Reaper. Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 51. Share your product death stories to improve reaping Your stories from real product endings Anecdotes tell us what to test Instrumented experiments Share hard data Surveys How people think Prediction markets Test conclusions @evanwolf
  • 52. Product Reaping could become a standalone product management discipline More science, less art More ROI, less housekeeping More brand building, less brand protection More experience, less “ooh, that’s a wheel” More up front planning and prep, less last minute scramble More reaping ecosystem: •  apps (or features in #prodmgmt apps) •  markets (for selling features, products) •  services (project support) @evanwolf
  • 53. Done Map Plan Signals Kill? How? Stage Thanks! Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  • 54. Phil Wolff Hi! Email or tweet your stories, suggestions, referrals or just call/skype e skype v t evanwolf +1-510-343-5664 @evanwolf @letmydatago bio cv blog Phil Wolff is a consulting product manager in Oakland, California. Phil co-founded four startups, worked as a programmer, project manager, business analyst, technology architect, industry analyst, operations researcher, and tech journalist at Bechtel National, Wang Labs, LSI Logic, Adecco SA, NavSup, and privacy NGOs. He volunteers in Code for America’s #OpenOakland brigade. @evanwolf