Product managers play a crucial role in determining product pathways. In the pursuit of growth and the noise of discovering new opportunities, we are not only bombarded with feature requests and ideas but also consumed by our drive to launch “new” or “improved” features to deliver business and user goals.
In our pursuit of innovation, we must be aware of the crucial aspect of letting go — the decision to shut down a product feature. I’ll expand on why this is necessary.
Remember, this write-up is to figure out why feature shutdown is required. Not feature improvement, simply a shutdown. Less is more.
Let’s dive in!
There’s a constant need to audit the different features that exist on a product. Especially the rockstar ones. Ask yourself, are they rockstars anymore? Are they relevant anymore?
As the market evolves, so do consumer needs. So, the next time you run a feature audit while you are on your opportunity discovery exercise, do look for features that need shutting down. Force yourself to check if it is worth the time and effort to improve it or if there is more value in just shutting it down. Once you do that, you’ll make room for innovation and ensure that our products remain focused on providing real value to users.
Antipatterns to be aware of: once a rockstar feature, always a rockstar feature
Take a strategic approach that forces you to think and act beyond the ops-heavy approach of just being a feature factory. Every feature demands not only heavy resources, but always has the potential to dilute the efficacy of other features — peripheral features or complementary features that may end up cannibalizing each other and working against each other.
Use this lens to leverage the resources at hand and build your case on why shutting down a feature is better. It can move you away from maintenance and free your resources for something new and better. Trust me, your engineering team will thank you.
Antipatterns to be aware of: feature maintenance has become tech-debt over time
Many of us have read and heard that product development is a journey, but how many of us remind ourselves regularly? One key aspect of this reminder is that over time, some features might not resonate with users as expected.
Instead of holding onto these unfruitful endeavors, the PM should humbly embrace customer feedback and product data, acknowledging when a feature is not meeting its intended purpose.
Listening to users and acknowledging their needs, even when it means parting ways with a cherished feature, reinforces customer-centricity and builds trust with our user base.
Antipatterns to be aware of: feature discovery is happening in isolation and far away from the voice of the customer
Tech is rapidly growing, as always. You were probably just getting to learn what Metaverse has to offer when the trend cooled off and suddenly you have generative AI taking everything in control.
Whether you follow the trend or not, your customers are expecting you to be innovative and agile while being consistent in product quality or experience. Adaptability and agility are key differentiators for successful products. Shutting down a feature that no longer serves its purpose allows us to pivot swiftly and invest our resources in exploring cutting-edge ideas and emerging trends.
Embracing change empowers us to stay ahead of the curve, continuously iterating, and pushing the boundaries of what our products can achieve.
Antipatterns to be aware of: the product has too many “trendy” features and tries to be everything for everyone, thus making it feel dated and overwhelming at the same time
I am consciously calling this the “farewell” ritual for a reason. Farewells are about a goodbye, cherishing the good memories one once lived and experienced but also accepting that the end time has come.
Similarly for product features that were once celebrated because they moved metrics, due to changing conditions, their end time has come. As a PM, the decision to shut down a feature should not be seen as a failure, but as a growth opportunity.
By celebrating its contributions, we foster a culture of innovation and demonstrate that, in our product management journey, we are unafraid to let go of the past to forge a better future.
Antipatterns to be aware of: teams not showing a growth mindset while moving on from a feature. The current assessment of the feature overshadows the good days, thus making the feature turn-off process painful and reducing it to a trivial blame game
I want to conclude by giving you a few questions that you can ask yourself to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of becoming a mindless feature factory. Every time you think of evaluating an existing feature, ask yourself:
Embrace the art of letting go, and your products will emerge stronger, more focused, and better equipped to meet the ever-changing needs of your users.
Featured image source: IconScout
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