As product people, we all have been practising building the right products rightly, yet if we look around, we find features, processes, and products that aren’t functioning well. In this Sunday Rewind, we look back to when product leader Swanand Marulkar gave us an overview of a five-step approach to tackle this issue. Read on for a recap of what advice he gave.
Zombies are mythical creatures that eat our brains. They are tough to kill, and they drag us down. Product zombies are no different except that they very much exist. Killing them is tricky unless you change your thinking.
Step 1: The mindset change
Having a mentality of outcome rather than output is critical when you discontinue a feature, process or product. Instead of thinking about what we are losing, think about what we will gain. Thinking about the success matrix, failure criteria and challenging ourselves is critical.
Step 2: Finding zombies
Once you understand the importance of killing product zombies, the next challenge is to find them. Some of the prominent areas where you can start your search are listed below.
- The gut feeling of the product team outweighs all other factors
- Reach out to other teams (e.g. higher management, Sales and Marketing) you work with to understand perspectives outside your core team
- Listen to your customers
- Check with your support team about which features/products customers seldom question
Step 3: Evaluate
Once you have a list of potential zombies, it is time to evaluate them. Many factors can define your evaluation results; here are some top ones.
- Company Strategy: Does identified zombie product fit into the company strategy? Or does your feature/process fit into your product strategy? If not, you have zombies at your disposal.
- Cannibalisation: Some features or products cannibalise others. Identify if that is the case for your zombie list.
- Not used anymore: Evaluate if your feature or product worked very well in the past; however, users need to start using it.
- Weaker roadmap: This forces teams to keep adding features to fill the bandwidth.
- Trust data: Trusting the information you collect is essential rather than a bias toward emotions.
- If backed with data, missed revenue projections can help you identify if you are dealing with a zombie.
Step 4: Killing a zombie
After a thorough evaluation, killing the zombies is where the real fun starts. Make sure you plan similarly to what you do to deploy any other feature. Here are a few pointers:
- The first step is to reduce the visibility of your zombie feature/product. Make sure you do not onboard new users on your zombies.
- In some cases, you have to adopt the feature, process, or product to make it relevant again.
- However, you should avoid the trap of putting the plasters. Define a measure for a successful kill and follow diligently.
- You will have to transition your existing users to new alternatives. This duration could be longer depending on the domain and the product. The sunset will be slower in such cases, but you have to keep the momentum going as a product team.
- Be mindful of the cost of killing zombies. Estimate it before you begin the process and agree with your stakeholders.
Step 5: Successful kill
Overcommunicate. Often, miscommunication makes a correct zombie kill a nightmare. If you onboard customers and users earlier in your zombie killing process, you will be surprised to see them being more pragmatic than you believed. You can see this again and again with companies like Slack, Google, and Atlassian.
The most important thing is to celebrate at the end. The sense of accomplishment needs to be felt by everyone involved. Celebrations will pave the way for future iterations of such a process, eventually helping change the mindset.
Each product team and company has a different culture. Sharing your experience with others and offering help will aid change the culture and reducing #ProductWaste.