The nice platform fable

Customers love a platform. From the seamless setup of iOS to Microsoft Workplace 365, providers that “simply work” and make it straightforward for customers are wildly fashionable, and for good cause. Whether or not it’s a buyer attempting to purchase from an internet site or a buyer expertise supervisor attempting to work their CRM system, ease of use is king these days.

In regards to the writer

Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem, HubSpot.

Nevertheless, with hundreds of cloud-based apps available in the market and a frenzy of M&A exercise by deep-pocketed incumbents or personal fairness corporations, it is all too frequent to see an array of providers cobbled collectively via acquisitions, branded with a reputation, and marketed as a platform — no matter whether or not these providers really combine successfully and supply a constructive person expertise.

This strategy is prevalent within the advertising and marketing know-how house. However customers know the distinction.

In 2020, the variety of entrepreneurs in search of built-in options doubled in comparison with the earlier 12 months, little question partly because of the challenges the pandemic introduced. Consequently, legacy gamers recognized for his or her suites of acquired merchandise have more and more tried to place their choices as a ‘platform’ to cater to those market calls for. However buying merchandise constructed on completely totally different tech stacks, stitching them collectively in a gross sales presentation and calling it a platform — when all of the person actually has is a Frankenstein mishmash which may be highly effective, but additionally surprisingly unwieldy — shouldn’t be a platform. It’s a patchwork.

Advertising and marketing leaders shouldn’t settle for this. How can they hope to supply a seamless buyer expertise in the event that they’re having to speculate money and time simply to make their very own instruments work easily? Right here’s some recommendation on selecting an enterprise know-how platform, together with what to look out for in a supplier when evaluating an ‘built-in’ suite of merchandise.

Take a look at the constructing blocks

Firstly, it’s necessary to look underneath the duvet at how the platform is constructed. Ideally, it’s greatest to search for a local platform (one which’s been constructed from the ground-up to fulfil a selected objective) so with confidence that you just’re working with only one tech stack. Even when there’s a standard person interface throughout a collection of merchandise that make it appear to be a platform, quite a bit will be gleaned from the best way a set was assembled. With an ‘acqui-stack platform,’ you run the chance of getting to speculate money and time in course of overhead and customized fixes to compensate for the dearth of cohesion within the vendor’s suite of choices.

One space to take a look at to assist work out should you’re working off of 1 tech stack is to search out out what onboarding processes and permissions are concerned with a product. If it’s a fancy course of with customers requiring a number of permissions and logins throughout the totally different subsections of the platform, it could possibly be an indicator that the platform isn’t as built-in as you may assume.

Having a platform that works throughout a single know-how stack can also be necessary as a result of it makes it simpler to combine together with your current IT infrastructure, thereby saving further money and time and reducing the entire price of possession. Equally, a real platform must be modular, which means you don’t must arrange and configure components you don’t want for different components to work.

Observe the info

So that you’ve discovered the tech stack for the platform – now it’s necessary to take a look at the info inside your platform and the way it’s being processed.

‘Lifeblood’ is perhaps an overused phrase when speaking concerning the significance of knowledge to fashionable companies, nevertheless it’s true. To ship an excellent buyer expertise, all providers have to be singing from the identical hymn sheet, which implies having a transparent document of all the info that may be a single supply of fact. If this isn’t the case, then it’s not a platform; it’s a bunch of silos packaged collectively.

That is certainly not straightforward. Some choices could pour all that disparate information into an enormous information lake within the cloud, nevertheless it doesn’t make it easy to successfully use that information throughout totally different providers. If this information is distributed throughout a number of totally different information fashions — quite than being collated in a unified one from the beginning — making this information work seamlessly throughout totally different apps and providers turns into a nightmare.

Take a CRM system for instance. In attempting to deal with advertising and marketing, gross sales and customer support wants, an enormous array of knowledge is required to make sure all efforts are aligned. Not solely buyer information, however inside information too. Every operate is more likely to course of, use and tag this information in another way in response to their wants. With no instrument that unifies this information, preserving it clear and purposeful, it will possibly shortly develop into fragmented because it’s dealt with in another way by totally different enterprise items. Reconciling these discrepancies generally is a prolonged and expensive course of that no true platform ought to topic its customers to.

Take a look at the broader ecosystem

However maybe an important attribute of a real platform is that its internally cohesive basis is open, enabling different third-party apps — or your personal customized extensions — to gracefully plug into it. These integrations then work easily throughout all sides of the product. There’s not one API for advertising and marketing, a unique API for gross sales, and a very unrelated API for CMS internet experiences. A coherent platform permits a coherent ecosystem, delivering a greater expertise for you, your clients, and the third-party builders constructing apps and integrations on prime of it.

A large ecosystem of supporting instruments and providers generally is a nice indicator of how robust a platform is. Many organizations providing enterprise know-how merchandise have totally different associate agreements and cross-selling alternatives, however a real ecosystem empowers the end-user to search out and shortly combine new providers they want in an open market, quite than going via convoluted procurement processes with a restricted set of most popular companions.

A powerful associate ecosystem is usually an indication of a real platform. A thriving associate market not solely signifies that the platform itself runs easily and has little drawback with including in third-party providers on prime which may simply be arrange and managed on the end-user facet, however opens up a world of potentialities for delivering a really efficient buyer expertise.

By specializing in these three areas, enterprise leaders ought to be capable to separate true platforms from the pretenders and discover a really built-in suite of merchandise that works for his or her enterprise, quite than shopping for right into a monolithic and onerous to make use of product.