DISA no longer supports sunset products due to various reasons; some may have become obsolete while others have been replaced by newer vendor offerings.
An effective way to discontinue a product (or feature) is with everyone on board and by setting clear communication strategies and carefully pricing to make the transition seamless and straightforward.
Identifying the Problem
“Sunset” in business refers to the intentional termination of something such as a brand, partnership agreement, policy decision or hardware or software product. Often this decision is made when their value has declined over time or because companies want to focus on other areas within their operations.
Sunsetting means no longer selling or supporting the product for whatever reason; this may include being replaced with another product altogether or phased out altogether. Sunsetting allows teams to focus on newer offerings; an essential aspect of being an effective product manager: curating a portfolio to meet future demands.
Product managers relying solely on intuition may erroneously assume when it comes time for sunseting of features; however, to execute an effective sunset properly requires conducting thorough analysis on data in order to make an informed decision.
Every company – no matter how large or successful – has some old features in their application that might still be popular among their customer base, yet these extraneous additions take time and resources that could otherwise be put toward improving its core value proposition.
Additionally, features that appeal only to some customers may not warrant maintaining. Maybe they offer unique benefits for just a segment of customers and therefore the costs involved don’t justify keeping it around; particularly since other products serve a wider customer base or tackle different problems.
As part of the process of identifying features to sunset, it’s crucial that all stakeholders involved be included, including employees, management, and customers affected by this transition. Furthermore, communication of your plans early and often so customers can prepare for it and the organization can minimize negative impacts – with such an approach you could see the sunsetting process as an opportunity to enhance customer experiences while making room for future growth.
Developing a Plan
As any product manager knows, making the decision to sunset a product can be emotionally taxing. Sometimes though it’s necessary for business growth strategies by freeing up resources for more promising projects. To reduce customer churn and internal dissatisfaction in these cases, it’s critical that plans for its sunset include detailed communication, adequate notice periods and incentives designed to assist employees and customers through this transition process.
Start by setting a schedule for when and how the product will be phased out, along with its transition process. Engage all relevant stakeholders and employees as early as possible – especially customer support teams which may handle user inquiries about its discontinuance – as this will allow the team to anticipate potential impacts and prepare communications strategies in an effective manner.
Collect data that will inform the decision to close down a product, including usage metrics and market trends, through Customer Advisory Council meetings or consulting industry analysts. Doing this will also give an in-depth understanding of any overall business implications involved with shutting down that product.
Consider how many customers are currently using the product and whether or not they can be transitioned over to a different solution. While it may not always be feasible, giving key clients plenty of notice and offering discounts can often hasten their migration process. In some cases, developing a tool or service to assist users migrate data from a sunsetted product onto its replacement is also helpful.
Once the process has begun, it’s essential that employees and customers regularly monitor progress and offer feedback on its implementation. This allows the team to make necessary adjustments as required and meet any legal or regulatory requirements if customer data is involved – for instance when Google decided to sunset its popular RSS reader Google Reader in 2013, they provided plenty of notice and provided a tool to assist users migrate their data easily.
Testing the Plan
Once it becomes evident that a product no longer meets its value promise or has been rendered obsolete by newer technologies, the next step should be deciding how best to discontinue it. Testing different approaches before coming to a final decision and consulting users may help guide this process.
Ideal data-driven decision making should take the form of data analytics rather than subjective judgments, which means reviewing usage metrics, customer feedback and market trends to understand how your product affects business operations. At this stage, engaging customers as early as possible in order to build trust and reduce uncertainty is highly recommended – this can be accomplished by explaining the process as well as offering transparent information regarding timelines, reasons and potential alternatives.
One common strategy is to gradually disable features by temporarily hiding them behind feature flags before completely eliminating them, enabling you to test and measure their impact without negatively affecting end-user experience. You also gain the flexibility of rolling back any changes that turn out to be bad moves. Another approach may involve offering short-term incentives for existing users to switch products or platforms while reallocating resources and prioritizing more valuable features for the team.
Early action should be taken to address sunset products so as to prevent dissatisfied customers and ensure your product-driven growth efforts are as successful as possible. By adhering to best practices, engaging customers transparently, and testing different approaches, you can maximize effectiveness of product-led growth strategies.
Sunsetting may be hard, but it’s an inevitable part of product lifecycle management. By reviewing your existing software and investing in features that drive growth while eliminating those no longer relevant, you can stay true to the vision of your leadership and deliver what your customers require from your products or services.
Communicating the Plan
Sunsetting an existing product should be treated with equal diligence to developing new ones, to avoid direct negative repercussions for revenue and team morale. Any proposed changes must be carefully planned out and communicated to both teams involved; often this requires creating an integrated plan including communication channels as well as incentives.
Sunsetting a product requires multiple moving pieces to come together seamlessly; otherwise it could leave customers disappointed and the PM team unprepared to address all impacts and risks to pricing, revenue and image in the marketplace. Before undertaking major changes to a product, it is vital that they fully comprehend all impacts and risks involved, including any downstream effects on prices, revenue and image of their company in the marketplace.
Take time to understand why certain features may be declining in usage before initiating product sunsets simply due to time passing. Declining usage could indicate too complex or difficult use, which might be remedied instead of sunsetting it immediately.
Once you understand all of the implications, it’s time to craft a comprehensive communication plan about the change to all. This should include setting out when and how a product will be sunsetted; transition plans; user notification mechanisms and any other processes needed – and should involve product management, marketing and any other departments who interact with this feature.
Understand that all communications around product sunseting will be judged by customers as part of a company decision, making every statement and action uttered during this process significant to customer perceptions and decisions. Therefore, to reduce negative customer reactions it is crucial that a thoughtful communication strategy be created, tested, reviewed and implemented properly. Furthermore, working closely with marketing throughout ensures all channels are utilized appropriately for effective communications during this process.