After the innovation phase, assuming your product made it through the abyss, it came to growth. But there will come a time when your product will enter the maturity phase. This is inevitable, we just need to review the S curve of technology adoption in several practical cases:
This chart was created and published by Peter Brimelow in the article “The Silent Boom” in Forbes, July 7, 1997 issue. I did a quick search but couldn’t find an updated version. Most likely Internet, PC, and mobile have already reached 100%. Perhaps what is growing now is Artificial Intelligence and I believe that what is in the initial phase is NFT and metaverse, which seem not to have crossed the abyss yet.
There are three reasons for a product to reach the maturity stage of its lifecycle:
It’s not too hard to tell when you’re coming to the maturity phase. If it is a programmed maturity, you will define when it will happen. If it is not programmed, just look at the growth of your product and notice that it is growing more slowly. Another point that happens is that growth; when there is, it will always be organic, that is, there is no point in investing in advertising and marketing as you will not have new sales no matter how much you invest.
It’s a little unsettling to enter the product maturity phase, especially if it’s not a scheduled maturity. At that time, nostalgic phrases like “in the good times…” begin, but the important thing is not to get discouraged. First of all, you need to make sure that your product has really reached maturity, or if there is some other reason for the slowdown in growth. To make sure your product has reached maturity, you should ask yourself a few questions:
As can be seen in the domain registration curve, from mid-2013 onwards, there seems to be a slowdown in the number of .br domains registered per year. At that moment it was a little early to be sure that there was a slowdown happening, but this information already gave indications. This overshadowed us a bit when we analyzed the slowdown of Locaweb’s Web Hosting product. So even if you evaluate the market and come to the conclusion that it is slowing down, you and the product development team can never lose focus on the problem it solves and on ensuring that it is solving it in the best way possible. Even with the market slowing down, it is possible to have growth if your product is an excellent solution to the problem of a group of people.
Between 2016 and 2017 the deceleration seems to have become very clear, doesn’t it? What in mid-2013 seemed just a possibility is clearly confirmed. However, care must be taken not to confuse circumstantial deceleration with deceleration due to maturity. As you can see in the real-life S-curve image, some technologies such as the telephone, the automobile, and electricity have had circumstantial slowdowns before reaching maturity. Economic crisis scenarios can impose a circumstantial slowdown or a circumstantial acceleration. See below what happened during the pandemic crisis, when several businesses had to digitize:
In short, before accepting that your product has really reached the maturity stage, it is very important to be sure of this. In the example I gave of Locaweb, it is clear that there was still room for growth if we focused on the customer’s problem.
Assuming that it is not a programmed maturity, that you have carried out the analysis shown, and that, even turning the focus of the product manager and the development team to the problem that your product solves, you have not managed to resume growth: this is the time to accept the situation and begin to reduce the investment in development and marketing of your product.
You may also decide to move your development and marketing efforts to another product in your portfolio. We’ll see more about product portfolio management and how to allocate investments to different products in that portfolio in Part IV – Product Portfolio Management of this book.
Another important point is the need to reduce operating costs. You can’t have a mature software product that costs a lot to operate. The operating cost typically comes in the form of human labor, i.e. cost to fix problems and customer service costs. Ideally, from the growth stage, your product has a very low operating cost, with low rates of problems and service costs.
To make such a product, the product development team must ensure the quality of the product being put into operation, both from the point of view of technical quality and concern of the engineering team and from the point of view of ease of use and concern. from the UX team.
Once you make these divestments in development and marketing, probably by allocating them to another product in your portfolio and lowering operating costs, your product can still have a long life in maturity. It all depends on whether the software product still gives back to its owner while continuing to solve the problem for existing customers.
This situation can be sustained for months or years. Even if there is no more investment in development, it is necessary to maintain a minimum investment in maintenance, which should make sense within the analysis of the return of your product. This minimum investment in maintenance must be coordinated by the product manager. He should assess his situation and decide to invest effort only when bug fixes and updates are needed.
It is worth remembering that by maintaining the product in this way, you will be periodically shifting the focus of the development team, which is now focused on another product. Therefore, such maintenance should be kept to a minimum. The need for maintenance is likely to increase over time due to the aging of the code that makes up the software, and over time this can make the cost of maintaining that product greater than the return.
If you eventually get to the point where the cost of maintaining the product no longer outweighs the return it gives, it’s most likely time to prepare for your next phase: the end of life, the subject of our next chapter.
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