Ecosystem Play – One Game at a Time

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It is not that uncommon that a software company creates new software based upon customer requirements. Actually, this is the way things should be done; not exclusively, but to quite an extent.

Now, there are few software vendors who are truly independent. Most vendors are, and need to be, part of one or more other vendor ecosystems. This is simply a matter of scale, as there are only a few vendors who have the size and market power that are necessary to surround themselves with a good number of customers, ISVs, system integrators and other partners. And the number of these ecosystems is rather shrinking than growing. 

What this means is not that these few companies can implement and deliver what they want, but that the other ones need to carefully check two things.

First, which ecosystem(s) to belong to, be it one or more than one. And as the CEO of 3CLogic, Denis Seynhaeve in a recent CRMKonvo said: It is important to choose wisely, which ecosystem to commit to.

One of the fundamental consequences of this decision is the degree of dependency on other vendors that the smaller vendor has. This degree naturally decreases with the number of ecosystems it participates in, although they can never be truly independent – which is also not wanted when playing the ecosystem game. Conversely, participating in more than one ecosystem increases options and the potential reach.

On the other hand, there are some other factors that come into play. The software architecture and the software itself will become more complicated when different vendors’ systems shall get augmented. Deep knowledge in different technologies is required, if deep integrations are necessary. As a consequence of all that, the implementation and maintenance become more expensive. This has an adverse impact on pricing.

Different vendors at the core of an ecosystem prioritize the functionalities they deliver differently. This means a vendor that engages into enhancing core solutions cannot necessarily guarantee an equivalence of functionality across platforms, unless extending it outside the platform and integrating via APIs. While this is a viable option, it increases the complexity of the system architecture at the customer.

This is precisely where the wise choice that Denis spoke of comes into picture.

The choice is about which ecosystem or ecosystems to join.

And there is definitely a value in focusing on one ecosystem. One of these values is time to value for customers.

Let me provide you with an example of a company I regularly interact with at this point. The company is called Fastcall and builds CTI solutions that extend Salesforce. Fastcall is a so-called ISV (independent software vendor) and has fully committed to the Salesforce stack. Being a Salesforce-only provider, the company is by definition dependent on Salesforce but tied its success to the success of the Salesforce platform. Its management pays particular attention to Salesforce’s new feature releases. Those that show promise to add value to their customers then may be adopted in their solution. This can be started as early as the new feature is in a Salesforce beta program.

For Fastcall, this has several advantages. These range from being able to work within the Salesforce stack to being able to quickly leverage new features that are offered by Salesforce and to turn them into more value for mutual customers. One of these features being the Einstein Conversation Insights, which got released at the end of March 2021.

Einstein Conversation Insights is a framework that can be used to analyze call recordings to find predefined keywords and to obtain some metrics. One of the important aspects of this framework is that it is agnostic to the source of the call recordings. This means that it can be easily used by partners like Fastcall by simply uploading a call recording and getting results in return.

Well, this somewhat simplifies things.

Still, looking at the example of Einstein Conversation Insights, Fastcall was able to build, QA and deliver an integration with this new Salesforce functionality in less than a month. Fastcall recordings are made available to Einstein Conversation Insights in real time, which in turn delivers useful insights into the recorded conversation.

The message here is that partners who focus on one particular ecosystem, in this example Salesforce, can react with tremendous speed to offer more value to their customers. Especially, if these partners are smaller, they can, and usually do, prioritize their developments closer to the needs of their customers, which are often smaller in nature, too.

Earlier, we spoke of wise choices. What could be wiser than aligning product development to the needs of one’s customers?

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