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How I Communicated It: Shutting Down Software Support

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Credit: istockphoto.com/fizkes

Editor’s Note: Srinivas Ramanathan is the president, founder and CEO of eG Innovations. Headquartered in Singapore, eG Innovations is a global IT performance monitoring technology company with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, South Korea, Germany and India. Prior to founding eG Innovations, Ramanathan worked at Hewlett Packard Labs in Palo Alto, California, where he was the chief architect of Firehunter, an internet service provider performance monitoring solution. Here, Ramanathan explains how he and his team communicate with clients about a decision to stop supporting a given technology.

At eG Innovations, we release new products from time to time that feature new functionality. It is oftentimes exciting when new software updates are released. We also have to answer questions regarding whether our updated products will still support old technologies — for example, Microsoft Windows 2003 and XP — that our clients could be using.

Our software supports over 150 different technologies and vendors, so with every new release we have to answer the question, “What technologies are we no longer going to support?”

The last thing we want is for our clients to be surprised that we are stopping support for a technology that they use. As CEO, it is important that I have processes in place to handle these situations.

For us, it starts with being proactive with our communications to our clients. We don’t want any of our clients to be caught off guard. We start by communicating with our clients up to a year in advance when we are developing software updates for our technology.

I have the engineers speak with our clients’ engineers to learn what technologies our clients plan to be using, or will be discontinuing in the future. This way, we learn which clients need which support.

We take this information and determine which technologies have reached the end of their life and which we need to continue developing support for. We have to decide what the cost will be for us to continue supporting a given technology if only a single client is using it.

When it is time to let clients know that we will not be continuing support for a technology, I have the engineers get in contact with the clients’ engineers. I start the flow of communications with the engineers, because they are the most knowledgeable on the subject and can speak to why the decision was made from a technical standpoint. Then our sales team leaders will start to share the news of the change with our clients’ management teams.

The news needs to be communicated in a way that does not hurt the relationship with the clients. We want the clients to still consider us a trusted vendor. We want to make sure that our software update doesn’t leave customers in the lurch, which is why we start communicating to them so far in advance of the product release. We also let them know that our updates won’t leave them with zero functionality, but rather they may not be able to access all the latest features and the product may not work 100% efficiently.

To sum up, it is about being proactive and communicating well in advance of any changes, not forcing the changes on the client, and keeping the communications channels open internally as well as externally, so that everyone who is impacted by the change knows about it.

—As told to Michael Tomko

Michael Tomko

Michael Tomko is a freelance writer.

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