Winners have platforms

In SLINGR Blog by Grace Schroeder

Don’t buy backward. The days of “no one gets fired for choosing IBM” are gone. Frameworks like SugarCRM, Zoho, even Microsoft Dynamics may turn into boat anchors in a world where people are stitching together lightweight tools that let them pivot on a dime. When in doubt, choose the endpoints you need and use manual data-moving processes while you solidify your strategy.

In retrospect, it’s obvious who the early thinkers were. Looking back at the Jeff Bezos API (Application Programming Interface) Mandate in 2001 — whether you like him or not — you recognize that he is one of the best thinkers in the platform game. Next, we saw Benioff use his deft understanding of SaaS, which he invented, to incorporate third party developers with the App Exchange smoothly, and later Force.com.

The platform format includes both analog and digital forums for expression and interaction. As a foundation for success, it’s never been more important for businesses to take inventory of their assets within this context. From there, they can outline the future state that will sustain their competitive foundation in the face of technical unknowns and the accelerated pace of business. For many companies, shoring up a digital platforms requires careful attention to internal, external and partner APIs.

We need no further proof of the necessity of a cohesive API strategy than to witness the effect that Amazon has on industry competitors when it announces that it’s just thinking about becoming a new market entrant. With a comprehensive internal API since 2001, they can enter new markets by stitching together corporate assets with code. Amazon doesn’t need meetings; with data and developers, Amazon is steadily marching into food, office products, with pharmaceuticals on the near term horizon.

Similarly, Salesforce established new platforms that simultaneously stair-stepped them up the SaaS value chain in lockstep with a crazy dynamic SaaS market and heightened customer expectations. Beginning with out-of-the box sales automation, Salesforce added App-Exchange for third-party application integration, and a developer platform to address the inevitable long tail of customer desires alongside the exciting opportunities promised by newer technologies.

What does this mean for companies walking around in flats looking for platforms?

Change the way you choose software. When IT controlled vendor selection, they selected software using a feature matrix — getting more “modules” for the less money. Because technical advancements can be game changers, it’s smarter to choose the simplest tool for the job. Worry about the integration after you prove out the ROI.

Look beyond topical, one-way integrations. There are lots of tools that map simple data from system to system. Once you move beyond two, endpoints your data is tied up in knots. The innovative AI technologies that divine from your data where you should be investing resources will need two-way integrations and data from multiple solutions. Move toward an architecture with data at the core to quickly process events without ad-hoc integrations. Gartner calls this an event-driven architecture.

Imagine your future as a company. Will you be infusing AI technologies to help with decision making? Do you want Slack to talk to every system you have? At some point, will device-drive data from the Internet of Things play a role? Draw this blueprint in crayon if you have to — and use it to inform the incremental decisions that might help or hurt your progress

Be curious. If you hear a term that you do not understand, Google it. Spend some time every day learning more about your competition, and about the moving and shaking technology vendors. Subscribe to www.crunchbase.com to see who is getting funded, and for what. Following the money will help crystallize your forward looking plan.

Don’t buy backward. The days of “no one gets fired for choosing IBM” are gone. Frameworks like SugarCRM, Zoho, even Microsoft Dynamics may turn into boat anchors in a world where people are stitching together lightweight tools that let them pivot on a dime. When in doubt, choose the endpoints you need and use manual data-moving processes while you solidify your strategy.

The good news is that SaaS solutions are smaller and more engaging. It’s easy for users to find productivity gains within a few hours — and companies should encourage people to try new things. Now business process automation is flexible and changeable while minimizing the risks on the road to digital transformation.

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