How Google Pulls the Plug

Google pulled the plug on several products recently which were not doing so well, including competitors for Twitter and Second Life. Does Google have a similar intent as GE, where if they are not number one in their industry then they pull out? Things are probably not that draconian at Google, but an article on the NY Times sheds some light on how they choose what to continue and what to cancel:

When evaluating nascent projects, Google takes a hard look at interest — and in these cases, the interest simply wasn’t there.

“There’s no single equation that describes us, but we try to use data wherever possible,” said Jeff Huber, the company’s senior vice president of engineering. “What products have found an audience? Which ones are growing?”

All of the shuttered projects failed several of Google’s key tests for continued incubation: They were not especially popular with customers; they had difficulty attracting Google employees to develop them; they didn’t solve a big enough problem; or they failed to achieve internal performance targets known as “objectives and key results.”

The expected metrics of advertising revenue, uptake by users, and strategic fit are obvious enough. The one that I was struck by was the internal measure of whether employees were fired up about the product and flocked to it. Google’s employees thus have a Darwinian effect on what continues to be developed, with the assumption being that their interest level reflects a maximum potential interest level in the market.

I wouldn’t want to go so far and say that it’s an example of crowdsourcing (which only works effectively if there is a definitive, objective answer), but obviously Google pays attention to the group’s collective consensus about whether a product has legs.

This isn’t for everyone - it really depends on how well your staff’s interests align with your customers’. Ideally they are a very close match, but people get excited about products for lots of different reasons that have little to do with whether customers will want them. And if you are a smaller organization then you won’t have the scale of a large corporation and its bell-curve of perspectives on a particular product under development.

Nevertheless, it’s a metric worth considering when deciding whether to drown a puppy.

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