The closing of a product has a precarious status in the business world. While every publication from Time to Harvard Business Review like to remind us that risk and failure are essential to design and the startup community, very few words are written on the act of closing a product — what it takes, what to consider and what to expect.
Many of us will work on a failing product at some point in our careers. While some of these failures will follow the long, quiet realization that very few people use the product, other situations will require you to proactively stand up, admit that something is not working and take action.
Why products fail has already been discussed, but the key factor determining whether you should leave a product running in the background or close it is the weight of its burden on you.
You would likely want to close a product if it is a burden in one of the following ways:
- Financial burden
Is the product making money? All products cost money to develop and maintain. Even if your only cost is server hosting, it is still a financial burden. If the product is making less money than it costs, then it is a financial burden.
- Resources burden
Do you have the staff to ensure good customer service? Users will ask questions, raise issues and initiate support tickets, all of which demand resources. Many of these resources will be in the form of customer support, but they could also require development effort. If a company does not have the people or resources to maintain a positive customer service, then the product is a burden on resources.
- Technical burden
What will it take to keep the product fully functional? Bugs and usability issues will be discovered and will require planning and development to be resolved. If the company cannot afford the development resources for these issues, then it is a technical burden.
- Legacy burden
Is the product affecting other areas of your business? Multiple products will often share a code base. If the existence of the product creates more work for other (more successful) products, then it can be considered a legacy burden.
Deciding whether to keep the product alive quietly in the background or close it is a personal and subjective decision. Understanding the financial burden seems simple, but it might not take into account how the product could perform in the future.
This decision is ultimately subjective and will often be based on a combination of the factors above.