Combining Two Legacy Platforms into One – Feature Selection

By Frank Shaw, January 28, 2020
Combining Two Legacy Platforms into One - Feature Selection

ZoomInfo recently created the combined DiscoverOrg and ZoomInfo platform to replace both the legacy DiscoverOrg and the legacy ZoomInfo platforms. In doing so, some features were retained from DiscoverOrg, some from ZoomInfo, and sometimes a new version of an existing feature was created (of course, there were lots of new features as well).

While the goal of the combined platform is to include all features of both legacy platforms, it was not possible to get to 100% coverage in the initial release (features that were not included in the initial release will be added in future versions). One of the main issues encountered planning the combined application was that several features prominent in both legacy platforms solved similar use cases for the customers but behaved differently. Deciding how to handle these features was an important part of creating the combined platform. One of the main tools used to do this was customer research.

What Does ZoomInfo Mean By Customer Research?

There are lots of ways to do customer research. In the case of ZoomInfo, our customer research primarily involved two things:

  1. Customer support issues filed for each legacy platform
  2. Customer surveys sent to customers of each legacy platform

How ZoomInfo Used Customer Support Issues

Product managers at ZoomInfo examined the customer support records for both legacy systems to identify areas in each system that might be more challenging for customers. This helped to determine features where one system was more effective, more intuitive to users, or easier to use than the same or similar feature in the other system. They also identified areas where small improvements to the user interface or feature design might improve the user experience as a whole.

How ZoomInfo Used Customer Surveys

ZoomInfo identified people who used both the ZoomInfo and the DiscoverOrg legacy systems and made at least ten searches within a month-long period. These users were sent a popup survey within the legacy applications to gather information about their thoughts on both platforms and how they compare to each other. This survey was primarily focused on search functionality with a strong emphasis on user interface elements and the user experience. 190 such users responded to the survey.

These surveys supported open ended, freeform responses that ZoomInfo collected into buckets of similar topics to identify areas of focus. In addition, 11 of the survey respondents participated in interviews expanding on their responses about their search preferences.

This research was collated and reported to product management as baseline data for their decision making process.

The Feature Selection Process

Once customer research is used to identify issues, concerns, and suggestions around each of the features that worked differently in the two legacy platforms, the features were evaluated to determine the best way to implement them in the combined platform and to prioritize their inclusion in the initial release.

Goals for Initial DiscoverOrg and ZoomInfo Combined Platform Release

The following goals were kept front of mind when deciding how to implement features and which ones to include in the initial release of the combined platform:

  1. Speed of design and implementation – the initial release had a set timeframe that made efficient development a priority. A quicker solution that was good but not perfect was generally preferable to a perfect solution that took longer to implement.
  2. Implementing as many existing features as possible – a priority was given to feature parity with the legacy platforms over completely new features. Of course, new features were developed too, but existing features were given preference over new features of approximately equal priority.
  3. Reuse as much legacy behavior and code as possible – when the existing implementation in the legacy ZoomInfo platform was good enough and met customer needs it was retained as is or close to it. This goal is a logical extension of the first goal, speed.
  4. Improve usability and consistency of features – a priority was set to make features work uniformly across the combined platform.

Determining the Initial Feature Set

The following process was used to determine what features to implement in the initial version:

In slightly more detail, the steps are:

  1. User Research: A combination of review of customer support issues for both legacy platforms and surveys of users of both platforms to determine user preferences
  2. Product Management Decisions: Product managers set goals for the project then review the user research and use it to determine what to implement in the new combined platform and the priority of each item
  3. Feature Breakdown: Product managers take the desired features and break them down into specific small features to consider for implementation. New features and legacy features (determined based on the user research process) were combined and then prioritized together for the combined application.
  4. Development Evaluation: Developers and other engineers look at the desired features in detail and determine how difficult they expect the implementation of each to be and what some of the potential road blocks might be.
  5. Inclusion Decision: Product management and engineering work together to determine a final list of planned features for the initial release and their relative priority based on a combination of project goals, the desired features, and the analysis of development options and difficulty.

Final Thoughts

Deciding how to merge the legacy DiscoverOrg and ZoomInfo platforms and features was a complex process. One of the main tools that drove this process was user research with people who had used both of the legacy systems. This user research provided the data used by product management to determine the desired feature set and its relative priority. While not a perfect process, having knowledge of user preferences made the process much smoother than it might have been otherwise and helped ensure that the resulting combined platform met the needs of users of both legacy platforms.

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