Product Line Hoarding: Don't let this happen to you

I have recently become obsessed with the TV Show Hoarding: Buried Alive.  If you are unfamiliar, it is a reality show that profiles people who hoard stuff -- tons of worthless artifacts and even unsanitary crap (literally crap! think rotten food!  old diapers! full cat boxes!) -- until the point that they are buried under 10' mounds of germ-ridden garbage, their homes are rotting underneath the filth and about to be condemned,  Child Protective Services is about to take their children away, and Animal Control is confiscating their pets.

It is super depressing.

Why I watch, I do not know.  I don't exactly "like" the show.  But it is kind of addictive.

I guess some of the allure is that it makes me feel like I'm pretty damn organized and productive compared to these people.  Isn't that cruel, though?  Taking comfort in the misery of others?  Plus, really, what is the great achievement in keeping a nicer environment than people who have a bona fide mental illness?  So, the fact that I watch this show should tell you something not-so-nice about my character.

But ANYWAYS... Like EVERYTHING (pretty much), it reminded me just a teensy bit of life a.s a product manager

(Watch with utter amazement, as I attempt to segue -- like a local TV newscaster -- to a completely unrelated topic).

Because so many enterprise software companies are HOARDERS.

These companies have hardly EVER thrown out a feature, truly de-supported a platform, nor dropped an obsolete product.  No matter how decrepit, bug-ridden and just FOUL those hardly-used-but-now-completely-obsolete features are.  No matter how ridiculously costly it is to continue supporting that horrible Active X plug-in from 10 years ago. Who really cares if the thing integrates with Adobe Reader 4 anymore????

(To be clear, not all software companies are hoarders, but I'd estimate a good 40% are.)

The resulta of Product Line Hoarding?

  • Making changes to your code base becomes that much more cryptic and complicated -- vastly limiting your ability to adapt your product to current customer needs.
  • The price list is out of control and so freaking confusing because it has tons of space devoted to products and licensing options that no one ever uses (or if they do use them, let's face it, they're freaks), slowing down sales and confusing sales reps and customers alike. 
  • The automated test suite -- which is supposed to run every hour -- now takes over 5 hours to run.
  • The product documentation gets clogged to the point of complete obscurity with all this junk. 
  • Your marketing messages become similarly cluttered, leaving people confused about what your company actually does.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Product Line Hoarding makes everything more costly: customer support, professional services, finance, legal, order fulfillment. EVERYTHING. For virtually NO incremental gain.

Don't let your company become a HOARDER. 

Just remember, if you refuse to pick up your house now and then, clearing it of unnecessary junk and unsanitary filth, well, one day it will collapse under its own weight, with you inside! And for your product line, unless you occasionally clear out the dead products, obsolete and bug-ridden features, and obsolete supported integrations, your development costs will skyrocket, your sales process will slow, and your marketing will become the opposite of crisp and compelling (limp and repellent).

Don't let this happen to you.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com