Product Transformation Christian Idiodi

Failure as a Springboard to Success

By Christian Idiodi

On September 4, 1882, Thomas Edison flipped the switch on his power station on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan and the New York Times Building was illuminated within candescent light. The massed crowd of New Yorkers that had come out to witness the spectacle cheered wildly and the Age of Electricity was born.

But what if nothing happened when Edison flipped the switch? What if the Times Building had simply remained dark? Would the Edison Illuminating Company have been able to survive such a high-profile failure? Would any company?

Driven by Urgency

Datasite is a premier provider of SaaS solutions for mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, IPOs, bankruptcies, fundraising and more. The company provides end-to-end, digital tools for every stage of the dealmaking process.But it wasn’t always this way. Previously, Datasite had operated as Merrill Corporation, a paper-based financial printer, far removed from the digital world. Then, as its clients began to move to the Cloud the company realized that it had to move there with them. Datasite as a platform had existed since 2001. The company quickly realized that the platform was woefully outdated. The engineering and product management teams would have to rebuild the entire apparatus from scratch. The problem was that the rebuild was driven not from a shared vision but from a sense of urgency. The company did not want to lose customers.

A Watershed Moment

Once the platform was ready, the company selected a “beta client” from Ireland which it brought on board. By this time, everything had been tested and demoed, so the company’s expectations were for a smooth transition. Instead, it all fell apart. The platform was simply not ready for prime time.According the Chief Marketing Officer Doug Cullen, this was Datasite’s watershed moment. “The easy response would have been to point fingers, assign blame, and cancel the project. Fortunately, the company wasn’t looking for the easy way out. Datasite wanted solutions. For that to happen, we decided to transform failure into a moment of opportunity; an event that would bring us together and galvanize the entire organization.”

During a three-day meeting, Datasite realized that there was little alignment among the different areas of the company. Engineering, product development, sales, marketing, finance and human resources may have been working together–but they were not working together as a team. Each had a different purpose as well as a different idea of what a digital transformation really encompassed.

To remedy the misalignment, the company created a list of more than 150 things it needed for a successful product launch. It then ranked these things in order of priority. The goal was to go from zero to 100% of its clients on the platform. The agreed-to deadline was eight months. Datasite used these eight months to align its entire culture behind a shard digital vision. This resulted in a better understanding of its customers as well as faster decision-making. Organization align mental so created greater respect, trust, and productivity within the team. Between 2019 and 2021, Datasite’s revenue increased by 37%, as it facilitated nearly 10,000 deals annually, including half of the top 10 biggest M&A deals in the United States. Dealmakers in more than 170 countries make their deals in Datasite, including 74 of the top 100 legal firms, all the top 20 global financial advisory firms. In 2021, Datasite attained second place on the SellingPower“ 50 Best Companies to Sell For” list. It was the company’s fifth straight year to be included on the list.

And it all started with a near-catastrophic failure.

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