The good platform delusion

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 widespread, and for good motive. Whether or not it’s a buyer attempting to purchase from a web 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.

Nonetheless, with 1000’s of cloud-based apps available in the market and a frenzy of M&A exercise by deep-pocketed incumbents or non-public fairness corporations, it is all too widespread to see an array of providers cobbled collectively by 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 method 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. In consequence, legacy gamers identified 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 solely 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 in addition surprisingly unwieldy — will not be a platform. It’s a patchwork.

Advertising leaders shouldn’t settle for this. How can they hope to supply a seamless buyer expertise in the event that they’re having to take a position 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.

Have a look at the constructing blocks

Firstly, it’s vital to look beneath the duvet at how the platform is constructed. Ideally, it’s finest to search for a local platform (one which’s been constructed from the ground-up to fulfil a particular goal) so you understand with confidence that you just’re working with only one tech stack. Even when there’s a typical person interface throughout a sequence of merchandise that make it appear to be a platform, so much could be gleaned from the way in which a collection was assembled. With an ‘acqui-stack platform,’ you run the danger of getting to take a position 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 have a look at to assist work out when 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 might be an indicator that the platform isn’t as built-in as you would possibly suppose.

Having a platform that works throughout a single know-how stack can also be vital 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 full value of possession. Equally, a real platform ought to be modular, which means you don’t have to arrange and configure components you don’t want for different components to work.

Comply with the info

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

‘Lifeblood’ is perhaps an overused phrase when speaking in regards to the significance of information to trendy 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 knowledge into an enormous knowledge lake within the cloud, nevertheless it doesn’t make it simple to successfully use that knowledge throughout totally different providers. If this knowledge is distributed throughout a number of totally different knowledge fashions — somewhat than being collated in a unified one from the beginning — making this knowledge work seamlessly throughout totally different apps and providers turns into a nightmare.

Take a CRM system for instance. In attempting to handle advertising and marketing, gross sales and customer support wants, an unlimited array of information is required to make sure all efforts are aligned. Not solely buyer knowledge, however inside knowledge too. Every perform is prone to course of, use and tag this knowledge otherwise in accordance with their wants. With no device that unifies this knowledge, retaining it clear and purposeful, it will possibly shortly turn out to be fragmented because it’s dealt with otherwise by totally different enterprise models. Reconciling these discrepancies could be a prolonged and expensive course of that no true platform ought to topic its customers to.

Have a look at the broader ecosystem

However maybe crucial attribute of a real platform is that its internally cohesive basis is open, enabling different third-party apps — or your individual 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 distinct API for gross sales, and a very unrelated API for CMS internet experiences. A coherent platform allows 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 could be a nice indicator of how robust a platform is. Many organizations providing enterprise know-how merchandise have totally different companion 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, somewhat than going by convoluted procurement processes with a restricted set of most popular companions.

A powerful companion ecosystem is commonly an indication of a real platform. A thriving companion 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 aspect, however opens up a world of prospects 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 actually built-in suite of merchandise that works for his or her enterprise, somewhat than shopping for right into a monolithic and onerous to make use of product.