The problem with successful products

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I was reading Ian Lunn’s recent post, “Judged on the success of your product“, on Product Focus’s new blog and it reminded me of a story:

I once worked with a chap who managed an online service, which charged by amount of data stored. The service was popular and growing its revenues, however the P&L model assumed that data was stored compressed, when in fact the reverse was true. Thus, the more popular the service became, the more it lost money on running costs…

a product manager who thinks they’ve got an easy ride because their product is a cash cow is probably missing the point

A slightly more serious observation on the article is that a product manager who thinks they’ve got an easy ride because their product is a cash cow is probably missing the point. While failing or unpopular products have a more obvious set of problems to tackle, successful ones have a different set of arguably trickier problems:

  • How do I keep my product relevant in a market of changing needs and evolving competitors?
  • How do I maintain customer satisfaction with the product?
  • How do I (and should I) revitalise or extend the product to generate incremental revenue?
  • When does it make most sense to phase out this product?
  • What product do I create to replace this one?

Perhaps one cause of this may be that we’re so easily enamoured with the immediate success of our products that we’re distracted from considering how to evolve, grow and replicate that success elsewhere.

How would you go about answering these questions?

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2 thoughts on “The problem with successful products

  1. Jock,

    I agree that judging on the immediate success is short changing the review. I also think the best way to judge will be over an extended time period of the product lifecycle but this can be difficult. Some products have very extended lifecycles and need to slowly evolve over time.

    One way I have seen this addressed is by rotating the product manager team. This way the entire team get experience working on the cash cow products and working on new products.

    In added benefit of this approach is that your experienced product managers don’t get bored working on the slow changing cash cow and can really help mentor jr. team members.

    Thanks for the post!


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