Users value this feature so we can’t remove it?

“You can’t get rid of that. Some of our users really need that.”

If you add a feature to your site then chances are that some customers will find it and some customers will use it. Some of them will even use it repeatedly and come to rely on it.

But just because some users rely on a feature, doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of it. As a Product Manager of a middle-aged transactional website I’m most challenged on the requirements that specify the removal of something that some users value having but that I think even more users will value not having.

It’s always a struggle to get these requirements into production. This is because the argument that I face sounds pretty convincing:

“If you remove that then it will negatively impact these customers. We don’t want to negatively impact any customers even if it makes some customers happier.”

That’s true. We don’t want to negatively impact customers. It’s hard to challenge that. It’s similarly hard to quantify just how much happier the happier customers will be from the reduced cognitive overload/reduced friction/greater decision guidance provided by removing the feature.

So what do you do? A lot of the time I quantify the size of each group and show how the soon-to-be-happier group is the much larger one, possibly illuminating it with a feature-use board like this one. Unfortunately though, that doesn’t always win me the right to remove the feature because I can’t quantify the happiness of the larger group or the negative impact on the smaller group.

When that fails I fall back on the bank of trust I’ve built up over time with my stakeholders and encourage them to back my instincts.

Has anyone else encountered similar problems? How do you objectively evaluate these type of situations?