It can be a balancing act when deciding what features to build into your software products. Some features have intrinsic value to the core functionality of the product, some features add a lot of marketing value, and there are some features that do nothing. How would you know which is which?

It’s a dream come true for every product manager to only invest in features that customers value and deprecate those features that aren’t used. To effectively manage the life-cycle of the feature (not the product), you need insight into how your features are being used. This insight could be as simple as determining how often a feature is used, or as detailed as providing comprehensive insight including patterns of software usage and the environment in which features are being utilized. There are two important pieces to solving this problem: first, get the data that will help you build the insight; and second, effectively use that insight.

How do you get this insight?

Traditionally, customer interviews and inputs from your own workforce have been the source of insight information. The intrinsic problem with this channel for feedback is that it is neither comprehensive nor completely accurate. Customers don’t bother to remember features that aren’t of any value to them. The best way to get this insight is to have this functionality inherently built into the product’s licensing solution.  It should be presented to you in the form of reports and data that is directly insightful and meaningful. In today’s age of hyper-connectivity, products can record and share the information about usage with a hosted system that can aggregate data and provide analytics.

How do you channel this insight into your investment?

What do you do when you know a feature is not being used? Do you deprecate it? This is sometimes not an easy decision because you first need to understand why the feature is not being used. Is it adding any value or it is too complicated to understand and use? You will need to use the insight gained from analytics in your licensing solution, and conclude whether to make the feature usable or deprecate it.  Decide whether it adds value to the product or if you should channel your investment into more usable features. Additionally, gaining knowledge about environment in which feature is being used can help you focus on specific platforms or devices where the feature is relevant, enabling you to make the highest ROI of your development efforts.

One solution in the market today that integrates usage tracking directly into your software licensing platform is Sentinel Cloud, which includes usage analytics, built-in reporting, and the capacity for flexible license models, enabling you make the best business decisions driven by your data.