4 steps for phasing out your products

    

Traditionally End of Life methodologies have focused hardware companies. Where different production methods or parts are becoming obsolete and new products are replacing the old ones. However, End of Life planning for Software and Services is just as relevant. Specifically if there is a plan to change the business logic, target market and/or pricing. Phase out

One of the smartest way to vitalize your product is to redesign your offering. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reusable-product-management-vitalize-you-magnus-billgren/). This is more easily done in the service and software industry than in traditional industrial companies. You can choose to keep and later retire your old offering. By keeping the old version for a period of time you signal a great change in the new offering. Allowing you to build smart market strategies.

After some time there will however be a need to end the availability of the former products/service. In addition you will need to migrate customers to the new solution.

Once you have decided to withdraw your old product - it’s time to plan for execution.

The Phase out of the old service needs go through four phases (Planning, Readiness, Phase Out, Follow Up) and you will need to look at it from different perspectives like:

  • Sales
  • Legal
  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Migration
  • Control
  • Operations
  •  
    1.  THE PLANNING PHASE
    The withdrawal of a product is always a major issue for one or many of your customers. They will not want you to change what is working. They will be hesitant to move. You need  to plan for how to deal with all the issues that will emerge.
  • As often – good understanding of the rationale and how it affects the operations is the basis for success!
  • What is the strategic background for the phase-out decision?
  • Do you expect the product to be replaced by a new modern version?
  • Do customers need support to migrate from the old to the new one. In particular for software and systems products there would be interfaces and integration with other systems to consider.
  • Do you have binding sales agreements with key (or any!) customers?
  • What is your obligation to your existing partners in development, operations and delivery?
  • What other products interface our product, what obligations do we have towards them?

    2.  BUILDING READINESS
    When you start the Phase Out process many areas and perspectives must be considered. Far too often we have seen phase outs being delayed by individual customers, management, onboarding operations or sales. Often because we haven’t built readiness  in the different departments for the change. The easiest way out is to continue as we have done before., ignoring the phase out plan. This is will result in a waste of efforts, energy, time and money. A successful and lean phase out process is built on organizational readiness and firm execution of it. As we start the end of life we do not want to alter the plan. We know that there will be many stakeholders that want to keep the existing solution. And we must not become hesitant In the phase-out operations. It is extremely important that all internal actors understand the rationale behind the sunset of the Product. 


3.  PHASE OUT
Depending on product, market and agreements – the actual phase-out phase can cover a long period. You need to distribute pre-notifications on a future EOL (End-of-Life) – typically a year in advance. The length of the phase out is often driven by the time needed for migration. Product managers would have to interact with most parts of the company – and also the entire Ecosystem.

Sales:  Make sure there is a clear message on a replacement product
Account managers: Shall have the path for migration ready, possibly multiple paths with different prices.
Legal: The legal team shall have secured the end of life process and prepared with answers to avoid unnecessary legal discussions.   
Marketing: Withdrawal of marketing material from web sites, presentations, product catalogues. Add referrals to new solutions.
Support: Be trained in answering first line support in the migration process and how to proceed.
Migration: Build the Migration products/paths. It can be more than one. Possibly these paths should have different prices and bundles with service levels, speed and training. Secure that a feed back loop exists for migration projects.
Control & Operations: Take away the ciosts connected with the the delivery of the product and the service.
ERP and Sales systems: Setting appropriate product status codes
 
4.  FOLLOW-UP
Killing Products is a recurring event. You will need to develop skills in that as well as in launching products. Doing a retrospective – or a lessons learned activity - is a natural thing to become better at it. Maybe after 1 month, half a year of even a longer period – depending on the life time of products in your area. You’ll want to cover hands-on issues such as: did we handle all migration, are products withdrawn from websites at channel partners etc. But also the business results – what happened to sales of other products, are the customers, supply and sales partners happy!?

CONCLUSION

End Of Life is as important for software companies as for hardware companies. Regular planning of the portfolio and controlled phase-out of less attractive offerings are critical for long term sustainability. Phase-out is a critical product process where there is often room for improvements. 

If you are about to phase out one of your products, download the checklist to not miss any part of the process.

Download Checklist

About The Author

Magnus's profession is to turn technology into selling products. He has worked with product management for more than 20 years with electronics, software, services and hardware and is a thought leader within high performance Product Management.