Start-ups are supposed to move quickly. But sometimes they can’t get out the blocks. One big obstacle they face is deploying the right software, particularly, when they are trying to be a disruptor.
For a new player with a new proposition, it might take 30 days to draft a business case and three months to hire 1,00 people, but it could take 18 months to get all the necessary IT systems up and running effectively. In our fast-moving business world, that is far too slow and could mean the start-up misses its window of opportunity.
How can our industry lower that timeframe down to 18 days, in line with the target set by the TM Forum in its recent white paper on a future vision for the software market?
First of all, software companies need to start selling solutions that are ready to be deployed, rather than frameworks that require a lengthy adaptation and implementation process. Software vendors should offer a broad selection of robust solutions that can be deployed quickly. Ideally, a new company would be able to choose from 1,000 ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, 1,500 payment vendors and workforce management systems that suit their specific needs.
The idea would be to allow a start-up to simply click to procure an ERP system, a workforce management system and a bunch of integration adapters and deploy everything to the cloud with security compliance and features. There should be a solution set for how to do this, which can then easily be configured to suit the disruptive business practices of the start-up. Software companies need to remove the risk from the buying process, they need to anticipate the needs of a new business and avoid reinventing the wheel.
Vendors need to revamp their strategies
Although a start-up would have to pay a premium for the convenience of being able to buy a solution capability, as opposed to a framework capability, very few ISVs (independent software vendors) are actually aligned to this strategy. Indeed, most don’t yet build their software to standards that would allow for this kind of rapid integration.
The challenge is not: is it possible? But is it conducive to vendor strategy? Rather than specialise and focus on delivering read-to-deploy solutions, everyone is trying to be everything to everybody, meaning there isn’t yet an ecosystem that can support a shift from 18-month deployments to 18-day deployments.
But software companies can get there, if they leverage enterprise standards and embrace ecosystems, rather than shying away from them. This shift has already occurred in the consumer market: Consumers can now buy exactly the right smartphone app to meet their needs, thanks to ecosystems that use application programming interfaces (APIs) to share data between different apps. For example, an API on a mobile device enables different wellness apps to track the user’s steps and their location.
Embracing ecosystems Although entrepreneurs worry about the major Internet platforms copying their ideas and eating their lunch, Amazon and Google both run open ecosystems in which small software vendors can prosper. Unlike some other major technology companies that keep their clouds and intellectual property private in the vain hope of preserving a fountain of youth, Amazon and Google have figured out that an open ecosystem will remain vibrant and relevant. They have realised that if you just stay on an island and expect everyone to come and visit, you're only going to see a handful of the population.
Such islands are becoming increasingly isolated. In the database market, for example, businesses used to pay millions of dollars for relational databases built using proprietary technologies. But now they can employ open source solutions or “data-as-a-service” propositions, such as Cassandra, MySql, MongoDB, CouchDB and CockroachDB, for a fraction of the cost. And these services are built-to-last. CockroachDB is so-called because it is designed to be as resilient as the eponymous insect.
To conclude: the software industry is changing for the better, but some segments are changing faster than others. We need to take what is working in the consumer smartphone app space and apply it in the small and medium enterprise market. Moving forward, robust and interoperable should be watchwords for every software vendor.