All in One Rarely Results in One for All

Recently, we’ve all been witness to a global conversation about macroeconomics, as countries decide how to do business around the world while protecting interests at home. Between the elections here in the US, to those happening overseas in Europe and related to Brexit, it’s a fascinating time of change and reflection.

For those of us in the software space, there’s an interesting parallel to geopolitical economics and software design; openness encourages the exchange of broad benefits; enhances economic efficiency, and works to both identify and stimulate the best ideas.

With this context, it’s important to beware the appeal of “All-in-One” software design – the concept of building all of the requisite functionality that a market may require into a single software application.

All-in-one software design appeases those who fear competition from the outside.  The Company’s actions and policies restrict integration and drive new functions only through company resources and its application, restricting creativity and harboring all revenues only for the organization.  The concept imbues executives with a false sense of security and, in the end, gives the ultimate arbiter of value – the customer – short shrift.

The contrary view is more compelling.

Open strategies such an application platform, or open API approach better address the increasingly sophisticated and complex needs of users.  Application platforms provide an integrated set of programs that drive the business, where open APIs – publicly available application programming interfaces – provide developers with programmatic access to proprietary software applications.  Both allow disparate software applications to “talk” to the main application interface and exchange data, communications, and reporting.

In markets with a wide set of disparate business activities requiring broad surface area functionality, there are always silo, or niche, applications that represent best-of-breed functionality to certain classes of clients.  In such a market, a core application platform with open APIs enables a larger set of clients to use these siloed solutions, and provides the greatest extensibility and the highest quality outcomes over the broadest market area.

Intuit with its flagship product QuickBooks is an excellent example and publishes a developer page guiding companies through the process of integrating with its GL application through open APIs.  Salesforce does the same, providing programmatic access to an organization’s information using secure application programming interfaces for straightforward data exchange.  Both extend the reach of their respective accounting and sales force automation applications through an open approach to market instrumentation.   These open strategies have transformed both companies’ market reach and arguably lead to their market dominance.

At Building Engines, we too recognize the opportunities presented by an open platform strategy. Many of our property management clients leverage our ability to integrate into preferred business systems, and much more is coming in this area for our firm.

Today, organizations must follow a simple maxim – if you try to become everything to everybody, you may end up being nothing to no one.