Brian Zrimsek is Industry Principal for MRI Software.
Five years ago, cloud was clearly the future of enterprise IT; but most technology vendors had yet to develop or incorporate cloud into their products. To solve this problem, many vendors turned to “cloudwashing,” where the company markets its solutions with buzzwords that make it seem as if they provide cloud functionality. Cloud technologies have matured a lot over the past five years, so cloudwashing rarely happens today. But the methodology lives on, and, right now, touting an open approach to integration with other vendors’ software is the new cloudwashing.
Openness has become increasingly important to CIOs because, as they lead their organizations’ digital transformation efforts, they are looking for IT solutions that meet their unique needs. A single vendor cannot possibly provide exactly what each organization requires. CIOs need to be able to choose the best solutions to meet their individual challenges, and they all need to work together with a free flow of data and insight across systems.
Vendors have taken note of the value CIOs are placing on openness. For example, in March, Salesforce announced that it would acquire MuleSoft, a leading integration platform, signaling that the leader in software-as-a-service (SaaS) just made interoperability and integration a huge strategic priority. A quick look at the websites for SAP, Oracle, Workday, ADP, Adobe, and Microsoft Dynamics show they all prominently tout their partner integrations.
I’m not accusing the above companies of “openwashing.” But there are nevertheless plenty of vendors now claiming to be open when, in reality, they’re nothing of the sort. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to differentiate between those vendors that have a truly open platform and those making empty claims. Here are some tips on how to determine whether a provider is truly committed to openness.
They Make it Visible – When you go to a software provider’s website, openness is a clear part of their messaging, and product partners are prominently featured on their website. Service partners that help implement software are important, but it’s the product partners that are critical to a truly open ecosystem.
They Make it Easy – The fuel of an open ecosystem is the ease of data movement between solutions. Sponsors of an open ecosystem work with their partners to build, test and maintain APIs for a variety of use cases.
They Foster a Partner Community – In addition to providing the architectural and technical underpinnings that enable an open architecture, they actively engage third-party software providers in strategic conversations at all levels of the organization to collaborate on integration and to jointly go to market to solve client needs.
They Use the Right Vocabulary – While subtle, the words used when describing one’s approach to openness matter.
a. Good: “Interfaces.” It’s a start, but this is the bare minimum.
b. Better: “Integration to enable a solution across products.” Closer, but it lacks the key element of a product partner community.
c. Best: “Powered by” relationships with many vendors. This demonstrates they are embracing openness and connectivity at a very intimate level with their partners, striving for seamless user experiences across products.
They Are Not Selfish – If a provider is really going to embrace an open architecture and an ecosystem of solutions, they must be a proponent of providing choices to clients, even when some choices are competitive to their own products.
No Finger Pointing – Integrations are built and supported by the sponsor of the ecosystem, in collaboration with their partners, so clients don’t have to worry about connectivity between solutions. The number you call for application support is the same number for integration support.
Proof, Pudding and Products – When you look at their product offerings, user conferences and marketing materials, openness is a thread that runs through everything they do. You should find products that leverage partner solutions, case studies that discuss a suite of solutions that include products outside of the core provider’s offerings, and partners that actively engage at user events and other key gatherings of clients and employees.
Others Vouch for Their Openness – It is wise to ask an interested third party for objective intelligence. If you ask a member of the ecosystem about their experiences in integrating with your provider, especially if you are not in an active sales cycle, you will be able to tell just how open your provider really is.
Openness is Integral to Their Corporate Vision – When you ask them to articulate their outlook for an open and connected ecosystem, they have a clear statement of direction, can articulate a future state, and have a product roadmap to achieve the vision.
Their Clients Have Control Over Building a Solution That Works Best for Them – Truly open vendors recognize that every client’s business is unique and that go-to-market strategies and areas of competitive differentiation drive a specific set of needs that will require a suite of solutions beyond their own borders. As such, they provide customers the freedom to take their business where they want it to go.
Choosing an open and connected platform provides enterprise IT with the freedom and flexibility to build a solution that meets its own unique needs. So, when choosing a vendor, make sure to ask the hard questions and do the research to make sure they’re selling more than an empty marketing message.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.
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