The Things I Don’t Know
About Product Retirement
Could Fill A Slide Deck
My Ignorance On Display as a
Research Agenda
Phil...
Done
All products
die.
Signals
Kill?
We put
them down
when their
time is up.

Map

Plan
How?
Stage

Deploy

Close Out

Don...
Done
Signals

Map

Kill?

How?

But we
Plan
don’t talk
about Stage
it.
Deploy

Close Out

Done

@evanwolf
Done
So product
managers
Signals
Kill?
have little
knowledge
and less
experience
in the endof-life stage.

Map

Plan
How?
...
Done
Signals

Map

Kill?

How?

Maybe
you’ll have
Plan
answers to
Stage
some of
these
Deploy
questions.
Or know
Close Out
...
How often do organizations agree
on product retirement criteria
before needing to kill a product?
Is preplanning rare?

@e...
How do chiefs commonly judge the
success of retirement projects?
No problems vs. Value vs. Speed

@evanwolf
Why do product managers delay
pulling the trigger?
Hope
Weak data
Lack of consensus
Distraction

@evanwolf
How do organization attributes
affect speed of product exit
decision making?

How does size affect how
fast and how crispl...
Is it better to turn things off earlier
or later?
You prepare, then turn things off and respond to fallout.
When are you b...
What triggers a “farewell visit”?

A consumer farewell visit might be for…
•  Saying “goodbye” to friends in the system
• ...
What percent of retirement projects
are…
Bullet to the Back Of The Head?
Graceful Exits?
Something in between?

@evanwolf
What percent of retirement projects
fail and restart?
% fail and restart within 90 days
% fail and restart 2 times
% fail ...
What percent of retirement projects
dispose of the product via
Killing it
Harvesting and recycling parts
Selling it
Donati...
Where does the retirement team
come from?
•  __% The existing product team
•  __% Elsewhere in the organization
•  __% In-...
What percent of retirement teams
work together killing products
multiple times in a year?
Does reaper expertise live in gr...
How many product closures do
1000 product managers lead per
year?

@evanwolf
How many weeks per year do
product managers spend on
product closure?

@evanwolf
What percent of product endings
result in something other than
shutting down?
% handed off to another part of the organiza...
Why do some retirement projects
get stalled in the execution stage?
% Underfunded
% Key people missing
% Contractual commi...
How do organizations respond
when customers protest product
closure?

@evanwolf
Who are the decision makers in
product retirement?
Who makes recommendations and who decides?
•  Product
•  Marketing
•  E...
What ToS/EULA elements help or
hinder a graceful exit?

@evanwolf
How, and how well, do leaders of
product closure projects deal with
the strong feelings of the product’s
teams?

@evanwolf
What constitutes meaningful notice
to customers?
By industry/segment
By geography
By age

@evanwolf
What communication plans work
best for meaningful notice?

@evanwolf
What are the
best ways to
tell the product
team “your
product is
about to die”?

@evanwolf
What constitutes meaningful notice
to independent developers and
other business partners?

@evanwolf
What regulatory trends affect
product termination? Product
disposal?

@evanwolf
What works to keep key personnel
working until retirement is
complete?

@evanwolf
How do you value a retirement
project that goes well?

@evanwolf
Does the shift from creation to
destruction harm the product team
after the retirement?
Does it lose unit cohesion?
Is the...
How common are data portability
practices in product retirements?
How strong?
Frequency
•  No portability
•  Contributed d...
What does the law say about
shutting down a service or ending
a product’s life
Jurisdictions?

Bodies of law?

US?
Califor...
How often do IT organizations and startups have
repeatable practices for shutting down products?

Many
products

Lots of
E...
What are the differences between
great product champions and
great project reapers?

@evanwolf
What are the differences between
great product champions and
great project reapers?
Passion vs. Dispassion
Sense and Respo...
How do core values affect exit
project tradeoffs?

@evanwolf
What are the
most common
reasons given
for a fast,
rough, bulletto-the-back-ofthe-head
product
closure? The
real reasons?
...
To what degree do product
communities stay together and
migrate when a product dies?
Why?
Why not?

@evanwolf
What are the seven best
discussions to have in a product
team debriefing workshop?

@evanwolf
Do companies reward or penalize
retirement project managers
differently than they do product
managers?

@evanwolf
“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 yo...
What HR issues are most likely to
screw up an otherwise clean
product retirement project?

@evanwolf
What financial reports are most
useful in a post-retirement product
review?

@evanwolf
Done
Let me ask
you a fewKill?
Signals
questions
about your
own product
hospice
experiences.

Map

Plan
How?
Stage

Deploy...
Done
Signals

Map

Kill?

How?

Are you
Plan
ready to
Stage
prepare for
end-of-life
Deploy
while your
Close is
product Out...
Done
Signals

Map

Kill?

How?

Can you
Plan
shift to the
Stage
happily
grim
Deploy
mindset of
Close Out
a reaper?
Done

@...
Done
Are you,
your
Signals
Kill?
product’s
champion,
best suited
and best
prepared to
deal death
to your own
products?

Ma...
Done
It’s time for
aSignals
new
Kill?
#prodmgmt
specialty.

Map

Plan
How?
Stage

Deploy

The Reaper.

Close Out

Done

@e...
Share your product death stories
to improve reaping
Your stories from real product endings
Anecdotes tell us what to test
...
Product Reaping could become a
standalone product management
discipline
More science, less art
More ROI, less housekeeping...
Done

Map

Plan
Signals

Kill?

How?
Stage

Thanks!

Deploy

Close Out

Done

@evanwolf
Phil Wolff
Hi!
Email or tweet
your stories,
suggestions,
referrals
or just call/skype

e
skype
v
t

phil@LetMyDataGo.org
e...
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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 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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The Things I Don't Know about Product Retirement Could Fill A Slide Deck

  1. 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 Go.org #prodmgmt #eol #killthepwoduct #producthospice #gracefulexit #productmanagement @evanwolf
  2. 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. 3. Done Signals Map Kill? How? But we Plan don’t talk about Stage it. Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  4. 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. 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. 6. How often do organizations agree on product retirement criteria before needing to kill a product? Is preplanning rare? @evanwolf
  7. 7. How do chiefs commonly judge the success of retirement projects? No problems vs. Value vs. Speed @evanwolf
  8. 8. Why do product managers delay pulling the trigger? Hope Weak data Lack of consensus Distraction @evanwolf
  9. 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. 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. 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. 12. What percent of retirement projects are… Bullet to the Back Of The Head? Graceful Exits? Something in between? @evanwolf
  13. 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. 14. What percent of retirement projects dispose of the product via Killing it Harvesting and recycling parts Selling it Donating it @evanwolf
  15. 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. 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. 17. How many product closures do 1000 product managers lead per year? @evanwolf
  18. 18. How many weeks per year do product managers spend on product closure? @evanwolf
  19. 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. 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. 21. How do organizations respond when customers protest product closure? @evanwolf
  22. 22. Who are the decision makers in product retirement? Who makes recommendations and who decides? •  Product •  Marketing •  Engineering •  Finance •  CEO/COO @evanwolf
  23. 23. What ToS/EULA elements help or hinder a graceful exit? @evanwolf
  24. 24. How, and how well, do leaders of product closure projects deal with the strong feelings of the product’s teams? @evanwolf
  25. 25. What constitutes meaningful notice to customers? By industry/segment By geography By age @evanwolf
  26. 26. What communication plans work best for meaningful notice? @evanwolf
  27. 27. What are the best ways to tell the product team “your product is about to die”? @evanwolf
  28. 28. What constitutes meaningful notice to independent developers and other business partners? @evanwolf
  29. 29. What regulatory trends affect product termination? Product disposal? @evanwolf
  30. 30. What works to keep key personnel working until retirement is complete? @evanwolf
  31. 31. How do you value a retirement project that goes well? @evanwolf
  32. 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. 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. 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. 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. 36. What are the differences between great product champions and great project reapers? @evanwolf
  37. 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. 38. How do core values affect exit project tradeoffs? @evanwolf
  39. 39. What are the most common reasons given for a fast, rough, bulletto-the-back-ofthe-head product closure? The real reasons? @evanwolf
  40. 40. To what degree do product communities stay together and migrate when a product dies? Why? Why not? @evanwolf
  41. 41. What are the seven best discussions to have in a product team debriefing workshop? @evanwolf
  42. 42. Do companies reward or penalize retirement project managers differently than they do product managers? @evanwolf
  43. 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. 44. What HR issues are most likely to screw up an otherwise clean product retirement project? @evanwolf
  45. 45. What financial reports are most useful in a post-retirement product review? @evanwolf
  46. 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. 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. 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. 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. 50. Done It’s time for aSignals new Kill? #prodmgmt specialty. Map Plan How? Stage Deploy The Reaper. Close Out Done @evanwolf
  51. 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. 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. 53. Done Map Plan Signals Kill? How? Stage Thanks! Deploy Close Out Done @evanwolf
  54. 54. Phil Wolff Hi! Email or tweet your stories, suggestions, referrals or just call/skype e skype v t phil@LetMyDataGo.org evanwolf +1-510-343-5664 @evanwolf @letmydatago bio cv blog About.me/evanwolf Linkedin.com/in/philwolff Letmydatago.org 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

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