Satisfying your members’ seemingly insatiable needs for new content when they want it and where they want it has introduced extraordinary pressure on your new product development process. Front-and-center pressure points to generate these new always-available products include financial resources and human capital. So how do you free up these resources to respond to the urgent need to produce new products that your members want? One required method as explored extensively at the Doody’s Digital Workshop held in November of 2016 is to sunset legacy programs that are creating a drag on your operations and your bottom line.

Which legacy programs should you target? It starts with a thoroughly objective review of all of your current product and service offerings.  Translated: pet projects and sacred cows must be part of the review. We can’t prescribe the process you should employ to evaluate the continued viability of your legacy programs because every society’s environment (and governance) present a unique set of circumstances.

But we suggest a good place to start a new process for evaluating legacy programs is by utilizing the same internal review processes you use to approve new products and services. You should come up with what we presume will be a new set of quantitative (e.g., sales and financial hurdles) and qualitative standards (e.g., mission-critical or not) for determining the continued investment in legacy programs. Once these new standards are developed, schedule all legacy programs for review at upcoming new product development review meetings, scheduling first the most time-sensitive or the ones creating the biggest drag on the operation.

Staff members who are charged with bringing new products through the new product review process are reasonable candidates to assume responsibility for completing the paperwork for evaluating the continued viability of legacy programs and presenting the case to retire or continue the program to the new product review committee(s).

This is not an easy process; it requires discipline and persistence. Further, reviewing legacy programs for potential retirement is likely to be a more emotionally-charged process than reviewing new product proposals. After all, some staff will have strong connections to legacy programs. Nevertheless, making these tough decisions will be freeing on many levels. Most of all, as you systematically retire legacy programs for all the right reasons, you will be freeing up staff time and financial resources to invest in critical new product development activities.

A new workbook published by ASAE, Focus on What Matters: A 3-Step Workbook for Selecting and Sunsetting Association Programs, Products, and Services, offers practical guidelines and useful forms, in addition to a detailed description of a 7-step process to arrive at go / no-go decisions.