Software sunsetting is as much a reality as software development, but it’s not as frequently discussed.

There are many reasons why a mature business may choose to retire a product: High maintenance costs, diminishing customer value, or better market-based tools. A younger business may get acquired, and the parent company decides to sunset applications deemed redundant.

Whatever the reasons, channel partners today can leverage their strategic roles to help vendors — and, by extension, customers — transition during this tricky phase of business. Here are a few ways to add value to their vendor if and when an application retirement looms.

Seize the Opportunity

In recent years, the relationship between channel partners and vendors has changed dramatically. No longer simply system integrators, partners now play much more critical roles as agents of change in the vendor’s business — in everything from providing thought leadership to making decisions on new technology adoption, such as AI, IoT, 5G, and augmented reality.

This means that as the pace of IT continues to explode, channel partners are becoming more like extensions of the business than customers. This empowerment makes all the difference, too, when it comes to managing the product lifecycle. After all, choosing to sunset a piece of software can be as comprehensive as building a new product. This is why channel partners should seize upon their elevated responsibilities to help vendors make the most of this transition from planning to implementation.

Guide the Roadmap

Channel partners are, in many ways, the “boots on the ground” of a vendor relationship. They can see things about the product that may not be obvious to company leadership. When sunsetting a product, a wise company will want to gather extensive input from channel partners on the best path forward. Channel partners can help by ensuring the roadmap to product retirement is clearly spelled out for everyone in the business lifecycle. Central to this discussion are questions about revenue impacts/opportunities, the timeline for product sunsetting, and the migration and support plan for a replacement.

Upskill Your Network

Another major opportunity for channel partners is providing impacted customers with customized training as they offboard from the old software and upskill to the new product. The learning and development industry is a global juggernaut worth more than $370 billion. Channel partners can provide strategic inputs on new types of online or in-person courses, certifications, and technical skill sets that will provide the most value for employees and customers during the migration away from legacy tools to modern applications.

Relationship-Building Is Key

Keep in mind that software retirements are also tricky, and vendors will want to avoid the perception of pulling the plug on their customers. Channel partners can provide a big win here by nurturing customer relationships with support and integration services and help with possible renewals and upsells to new products and services. Whatever a partner can do to ensure customers are happy will only lead to more favorable outcomes for everyone involved.

Communicate Frequently and Clearly

When software is phased out, it creates a lot of disruptions. Not only are customers faced with the sudden prospect of a major shift in business, but there are many direct and indirect factors to consider, such as revenue impacts, costs of product replacement, and employee retraining. Communication can make or break the customer relationship. This is precisely where channel partners can help offload the responsibilities.

Begin by constructing a communications plan that provides customers with a clearly defined timeline of the transition phase, what actions are needed by all parties, and the specific support protocols to be put in place. Channel partners should pitch themselves as strategic partners in this sunsetting phase and do everything possible to make their value known and appreciated to vendors and customers alike.

The Sun Also Rises Again

Technological transformation today is fast-paced, and the need for agile, disciplined, and quick-thinking channel partners has never been greater. Application retirement is an inevitable part of this process; in fact, all software will eventually be sunset. However, remember that this unique phase doesn’t just represent the end of an era — it opens doors to new opportunities.

If you’re a channel partner, keep yourself engaged and proactive with your company leadership. Remember that sunsetting software is just as stressful for the vendor as it is for the customer. Therefore, everything you can do to ensure this transition goes smoothly and favorably will only help to boost your personal value and drive better business outcomes.

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