Rethinking the Data Room: This is Not a Feature War

By Jeff Williams, Altvia

In the last year or so that we’ve been building out our new ShareSecure Data Room, we’ve found it tempting to just look at other data rooms or portal solutions in the market and simply copy all the features they have. I think its a natural instinct for software developers to envision being able to answer yes whenever a prospect asks about whether your software offers a particular feature. But with ShareSecure (and with our AIM product, for that matter), we’ve made a conscious effort to reject the notion that great software is the result of simply having more features.

Instead, we prefer to be more thoughtful about what features we add by asking ourselves how a feature (or lack thereof) solves a problem, which actually is the gateway to a product that is ‘better’, easier to use, and more efficient.

 

So why not include every feature?

It seems that many of our competitors in the data room and portal space would disagree, but we think there are a number of drawbacks to including every imagined feature.

One is that each additional feature makes the product incrementally more expensive and those costs get passed on to consumers. We see this play out in the home appliance market with the LG internet TV refrigerator.  

It does what any other ordinary refrigerator does, but it has so many more features!

My favorite is the 37-centimeter LCD display on which you can watch Internet TV–if you have a phone jack behind your refrigerator.

Then, and only then do you get to watch TV on your fridge! And it’s only 5x the price of other refrigerators. Don’t get me wrong–this product and its features have their place, but most of us would prefer to watch TV elsewhere, and can’t justify this price tag. Which of your data room’s features are you paying for but don’t use?

The second reason we don’t want to include every feature is that more features result in more confusion. It is cumbersome for users to have to wade through a host of features that don’t necessarily add value and potentially distract them from doing what the software was intended for in the first place.

This rule applies to most software tools but perhaps it applies uniquely to data rooms since fund managers use data rooms to serve their own clients and providing LPs with complicated tools can frustrate them and make them less satisfied with your service as a GP.

 

So what features do you need?

The other day we were on a call with a client who currently uses a competitor’s product and they asked if ShareSecure prevents end users from taking a screenshot. We answered that it does not, that we feel preventing screenshots makes sharing documents more difficult, and that the existence of that feature is unnecessary. The client’s response was “Okay. We have that feature now and we never use it.” Clearly the client was curious and may have been doing a formal feature comparison, but the point is that it was irrelevant to the client whether we had that feature or not.

We’ve been through 15 years or so of data rooms now that were just copying each other’s features and the result is a customer base that has a very standard set of unfounded expectations and that asks a lot of the wrong questions. Like the client I mentioned above, you need to ask whether or not you’re going to use a certain feature, but its also crucial to focus on whether or not that feature really adds value to your end users’ experience and whether it makes you more effective in serving your clients.

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