Posted On: Sunday, 27 March 2011 by Rajiv Popat

You know what a stale product is, right? We've all worked on them. Every product company has a portfolio of products where some products click and some gather dust on a beta build waiting for the first set of users to show up.

Even Microsoft had the classic Microsoft Bob. There is nothing wrong with having stale products started within your organization. Ideas have to be implemented before you can test their validity.

Having said that, your ability to identify a stale product early on, defines your awesomeness as an organization or a software development team.

Here are some rather simple guidelines which might help you figure out if the product you are working on a stale product or it needs more effort.

You know you are working on or dealing with a stale product when:

  1. None of the best people in your organization want to work on the product.
  2. When every potential client you show the product to says, "looks good" but doesn't sign up or really use the product everyday.
  3. When more than two really capable marketing guys who have sold other products in the past are unable get any customers for the product.
  4. When you have been working on a problem without any real user feedback for more than a couple of years.
  5. When you try eating your own dog food but other departments within your own organization find the dog food too yucky to eat or too hard to digest.
  6. When you find the team building more and more features in the product to impress the management or the marketing department instead of building features your customers will genuinely need.
  7. When you see managers discussing technology instead of what the product should do. "Search is going to be hot. Let's see if we can integrate lucent with this product".
  8. When you find your business analyst building fictional requirements based on common sense mixed with their fetish. "Let's integrate the advertising module with the time and expense module to keep a track of the time spent on advertising. Yeah! That's going to be so fu@#king cool! I bet no one out there has anything like that! That's what we should do in the next version."
  9. When your development team moves to auto pilot or hibernation and stops asking why they are building the features they are building.
  10. When the marketing department starts telling the development team that adding this one User Interface enhancement before next week will help them land their first customer. i.e. When you are continuously doing Demo Driven Development Cycles.
  11. When one quick sniff at the product tells you that it is rotting and stinking beyond repair and everyone is just busy ignoring the problems instead of getting down in the sewages and cleaning up the mess.

Anytime you start seeing more than half of the above in a single product, you are probably working on a stale product. You are better off quitting or surrendering. Quitting is not such a bad thing after all.

How do you spot dead projects in your organization?

How do you convince your management to move these projects to the graveyard?

Just a little something to think about and discuss.

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