A story of change management: We just killed your product

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futuramaI’ve recently gone through an interesting, yet challenging moment when the basic message I got was “we’ve got a great product and you’re doing good, but, umm…. yeah, we just killed your the product”.  Fear, uncertainty, and mixed with frustration dawned upon me…. yet I’m sure its not the first time nor the last.

 A changing competitive landscape

Its been years the solution has been successful.  Then slowly the industry goes through spurts of integration – horizontal and or vertical – and then Boom! you have new competitors coming out of nowhere.  Sound familiar?

Next thing you know, your once king-of-the-hill solution is at the laughingstock of the courtyard. But its too late!  You’re too far in the product development to change anything massive, but you can’t financially continue.  Literally, a catch 22 moment (or stuck between a rock a hard place for others).

And then you wake up one morning getting ready for your monthly review and you’re slapped with: Great job so far, but ummm ….how to say… we just killed your product.

Change management when decommissioning an IT product, is a real challenge for any sales in the complex solution industry.  Not only is it a challenge for sales working in the acquisition cycle (new customer), its even more a headache for sales dealing in account management.  Those have to deal with breaking the news to the customer and deal with the wrath & backlash.

For someone dealing with the story of change management, the first questions that need to be addressed:

  • What is the timeline for maintenance mode (how long do we keep it alive?)?
  • What is the deadline for when its officially ‘game-over’?
  • Are there alternatives to to the solution?
  • If no 1-to-1 alternatives, what do you?

Answers to these are critical to answer your next most important following mission statement:

 

How are we going to manage: Customer Expectation’s, their Frustrations, while ensuring a smooth transition from point A to Point B?

managing customer expectations

A story of change management

Managing customer expectations is critical!  And effective communications is the starting point.  Complex solutions have profound impacts on a customer’s internal and external processes – any change to the solution has to be communicated and managed with care.  If not, you seriously risk alienating your customer and worse, with today’s open platform for voicing your thoughts and opinions (i.e social media) – the word spreads like fire.

customer opinions spread like wildfire

Having alternative solutions is manageable – you just have to make sure that you handle the delta between the old and the new, that you have an adequate pricing strategy that will compensate the “pain-in-a$$-factor” of having to change, and that the missing functionality (if) gap is handled.

In case you don have an alternative – well that leaves right back at the catch 22 phase.  Nothing to fix and you don’t want to loose the customer.  You can only hope that:

A) you have other complimentary solutions in your portfolio to fill a partial gap

or

B) that you have local partners that are not too threatening to your business model

Conclusion: Don’t go too far down the rabbit hole

Arrogance has a price to pay.  Typically corporations that get to such a corner have waited too long and sat too long on their laurels.  Dealing with these situations leaves the front line staff and customers in very awkward and unpleasant situations.  This can lead to unhappiness in the workforce, gossip, and worse – turnover.

Keep a humble view, be tough on your product, and always have a “get out of jail free card” for these situations.  It can happen that you go too far down the rabbit hole.  Just make sure you’ve already thought of the escape path ….. or you will end in a very unexpected and unpleasant situation vis-a-vis your customers and the market.

Easy said than done…. admittingly.

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