I'd like to comment on this issue because we're going through a similar
set of events. My employer has bought up several competing products
and has sent a new manager around looking for products that can be
end of lifed to save money.
The products share nothing in common other than some of the tasks
they perform. Some similarities include the ability to initiate pages,
send emails, and manage alarm systems. All the product lines have
an existing customer base, each of which may be offended by end-
of-lifing a product that they are used to.
I brought this issue up with management because they didn't realize
that they were doing useless work. You see each of the product lines
that have overlapping functionality are stable code bases. There are
enhancements elsewhere but no real ongoing maintenance.
Combining the products by eliminating "paging" from one product
in order to use the "paging" system of another was actually more
work at this point.
Worse management bought up these competing lines, allowed
development of all products to continue for a year and suddenly
want to axe something. They didn't notice that while the various
products did compete against one another, there were clear
preferences given by customers as to which products they
wanted to have. The actual overlap didn't amount to much.
The customers have also rejected the notion that one product
meets all potential customer needs. Each product was created
with a specific usability and functionality to address. In the end,
management has backed off the focus of actally axing products
just to save costs.
We've entered a period where each of the groups have tried to
cooperate more and management has started to see where each
development group has something to offer the company as a
whole. Some groups are better at Agile Development, one
is better at producing features at a low cost, and another has
some moderate success at providing a better user experience.
At this point managment has finally taken the approach that
they want to look at what works and then make decisions.
Blindly cutting off projects doesn't make sense in this case.
I am currently involved in a project to evaluate two similar products
to determine which one should be end-of-lifed and which we should
continue to sell. The products are web hosting platforms that
customers access and managed via a gui interface.
Of course this will be an extremely politically charged issue, thus I
would like to use some recognized usability criteria for evaluation and
ultimately move forward with the product that is easiest for our
customers to use.
I was thinking of creating some task based criteria. For example, how
many steps does it take a user to create a simple website or add email
user accounts. What other ways could i evaluate the products? Has
anyone ever done this type of evaluation before?
I don't want to get bogged down in how the information should be
presented (because I out of my league on that type of evaluation) and
will recommend that an expert take on that job.
I look forward to any advice and guidance.