Question: What are best practices for discontinuing a product?
We have decided to End of Life a Product from our portfolio as there is another improved product that does the same job and have an upgrade path from the old product. We are a channel driven organization and operate in B2B space. What are the things that we have to have in mind to EOL the product? We are also doing some government deals that take a long time to end/change which involve the product that we are trying to EOL.
Answer from Greg Cohen of 280 Group: There are really a number of factors to consider, such as whether
- the new product will cost less, more, or the same.
- the migration is very involved or relatively transparent to the customer
- there is a cost to migrating. (e.g. Does the customer have to pay the channel partner for migrating?)
- the customer needs to train their staff, rewrite interfaces or other customizations, change any processes.
- the company is willing to support the legacy product for an extended period of time.
Understanding the above would influence the approach. But there is one aspect I will assume and that is:
90% of the current customers are satisfied by the legacy product and do not consider the benefits of the new product worth the effort and/or cost of migrating.
With that, I would offer the following advice:
- Brief the channel well in advance of any public or customer announcement. And arm them with everything they need to know to address any customer concerns.
- Focus communications on customer and channel business benefits respectively. Don’t focus on features or benefits to your company. Having some reference customers could also prove beneficial.
- Meet all contractual obligations and accept the fact that the govt accounts will require longer term planning and execution.
- Work with each channel partner to manage the timing of each account migration. Thus, this will take dedicated account and project management time. Budget appropriately and develop a consistent and repeatable process. You need to provide the framework for your channel partners and the customer.
- Depending on urgency of migrations and costs, you might consider offering incentives to all customers and channel partners who complete their migrations by a given date.