When AccMan was alive as in regularly being updated, I had a thing for the smaller vendors and especially those making a difference albeit in a specific niche area: the wonderful and sometimes arcane area of professional accounting services.
In conversation with a a colleague this morning, he made the astute observation that while we may devote a lot of time to the large enterprise vendors, they too will, at some stage, need to take notice of the smaller players. As the ecosystem of business partners expands over time and across multiple industries, it is unrealistic to assume that the larger brands and supply chain masters can continue to impose expensive integrations when we see the smaller vendors already partnering left and right for a smorgasbord of services that complement their core offerings.
At one time I felt that the aggregated cost of using all these services would blow up many vendors’ growth aspirations. I was wrong in many instances. While it is true that functionality today might well be subsumed into larger offerings, (my oh my, see how Salesforce.com has expanded its portfolio over time,) I see a surprisingly large number of small businesses more than happy to use a collection of applications rather than pining for the one stop shop.
While it would be wonderful to see those same small vendors acting as platform providers in the manner of Force.com, the infrastructure costs alone would quickly bury them. Instead, I sense that we will see more innovation, more providers, more cool stuff that makes life easier, and, ultimately more profitable for everyone.
Recommendations for buyers
- Don’t be afraid of the aggregated cost. You buy into services as the functionality makes sense and adds value.
- The right integrations can make a big difference to your business. Getting sales information and debtor data on a single screen on your mobile device for instance allows you to improve collections.
- Look for integrations that reduce the amount of screen switching. Especially important in mobile applications.
- Look for vendors that offer a broad array of partner solutions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a vendor if they have firm plans to offer an integration to your favourite service. The golden rule applies: no ask, no get but if enough buyers ask then vendors will provide the integrations you need.
- Consider whether a service like Zapier might help where there isn’t a native integration. I’ve used it and while OK, you do need to understand something about what you can – and crucially cannot – do.