There has been an outcry the last few days due to the decision of Google to drop its Google Reader application. Jim Aley concludes in his article that life will continue even without Google Reader, but it is painful to a lot of people that have relied on the service. Google has announced that Google Reader will not be available after July 1, 2013. Reading this annoucement, I reflected a bit on what I have seen during my career in respect to discontinued software solutions and issues around that decision.
What Google did is something that we all have probably run into in some shape or form. I used to run software product development teams earlier in my career and have had to “kill” products due to different reasons; some of them being based on economics and some of them purely on the change in competition and changes in strategy. I have also been consulting software companies that have killed products along the way because they company has had to change direction of their strategy.
When I see companies grown their operations, I have also seen a tendency to increase the complexity of the solution portfolio which typically leads to complexity in the entire operations. Suddenly your operation has become more complex from support and delivery perspective, your channel partners do not understand what you are trying to accomplish and your sales is scratching its head to figure out how to position the solution as there are so many moving parts.
Looking back at my career, I can say that I am guilty of this as well so I have experienced it first hand and have had to do difficult decisions along the way. Just the fact that the software vendor has to inform the customer that something that they use on a daily basis does not get enhanced anymore can be very difficult to message to a customer. How do you inform this kind of decision to an end user customer without getting a blooded nose?
When I select software solutions, I typically also consider the strength of the software vendor whether I will be investing my resources and future into it. There has been a few times during my career when I have “seen the signs” of weakening of a software vendor and then made a decision to transform my operations to something else. I am sure this will be the case also in the future. This is extremely true specifically in the cloud space as the investment to start a cloud business is almost zero (if not considering the labor) from infrastructure perspective so anybody can now come with an idea but for the business to be sustainable, it is another story altogether.
What do we learn from the Google Reader case? In my opinion, we can easily say that even large companies with loads of money will make decisions that can hurt the client base even if it is a non-paid solution. Secondly, I think we need to learn to understand that nothing exists for ever and if you select a solution for your operation, you better analyze the vendor first to see if they are for real or just a hobbyist organization.