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October 2, 2009

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How to Neglect a Product to Death

by Dan

My friend and former co-worker Matt Ryan recently commented on the impending death of Novell Forge. A message on the Novell Forge site confirms that Novell will be shutting things down soon. I can corroborate some of Matt’s story as I was on the Forge team for about a year during its heyday.

But what really interests me about the situation are the implied instructions on how to neglect a successful product into a slow death that can be blamed on the product itself.

  1. Avoid rewarding or recognizing any of the people involved. Even better, reward someone else.
  2. Do not feed its success. Withhold funding, staffing and career growth opportunities.
  3. Provide poor support. Delay fixing problems.
  4. Set unrealistic goals and expectations. Blame the product or team for failure.
  5. Find excuses to kill the project. Focus on the negative in all meetings with executives.

This was a particular worry at Mozy when it was acquired by EMC. They promised that EMC did not want to be the lumbering elephant that accidentally squashed its shiny new purchase. And it was true. But we worried about accidental squashing anyway.

It has been two years, and I have seen projects and executives come and go. Though I do not believe it was intentional, at times it felt like Mozy was being neglected. But the core of Mozy has remained strong and continues to grow.

Based on my experience, here is what to do to keep a successful product moving forward:

  1. Execute anyway. Deliver a quality product in the face of neglect.

There is precious little a neglected production team can do other than produce. I heard something once I have always remembered: nothing succeeds like success. It is much harder to produce in the face of neglect, but it is also nearly impossible to ignore or argue with.

Mozy is clearly not perfect, but despite occasional neglect it continues to provides a valuable, profitable service. Working with smart people helps. Working for smart people helps. Working with people you like helps. Working on something you care about helps. Working with cool technology helps. But over time, delivering a useful, profitable product is what matters.

1 Comment
  1. Oct 2 2009

    You’re right Dan – the correct thing, and really the only thing, for the product team to do is just continue to execute. I think that was one of the biggest things I learned from my experience on the Novell Forge project. Doing so doesn’t guarantee success, but it does help keep people focused on addressing the problem the way they can do it best.

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