When It Comes to Business Applications, You Don’t Have to Have It All
In a recent article (The Value of Focus in a Platform World, December 2020, CustomerThink), Thomas Wieberneit discussed the benefits of choosing smaller app marketplace vendors whose products only work on one of the several currently available cloud platforms. To sum it up, small single-platform vendors:
- can be subject matter experts;
- improve maintenance and upgrade cycles by not having to iterate on multiple code bases;
- can concentrate their development efforts on getting the most out of their chosen platform; and
- are highly invested in customer success because of their singular focus.
It’s a good piece that I recommend reading, and not only because it was part of a marketing effort for my company, Fastcall. However, I believe there’s another factor in favor of us smaller vendors that deserves being pointed out. Small vendors don’t sell a toaster-broiler-coffeepot-alarm clock hybrid, we just make really good coffee with the awesome coffee maker we built ourselves. You will almost never wind up paying for functionality you don’t need when you sign on with one of these developers, because the best ones understand the reality of the marketplace. An app that does one thing really well has the advantage over one that does five things poorly.
For example, let’s talk about Fastcall’s platform home, Salesforce. It has a lot of excellent tools built into it—it has to or it wouldn’t have made it to where it is today—but it can’t do everything, and not all of Salesforce’s in-house apps are created equal. An example of this is its collaboration tools. Fastcall and other companies like it exist because of gaps like this, and it’s why the AppExchange has been so successful all these years. When the platform’s own tools don’t suit the task, the marketplace is there.
It’s also part of the reason why Salesforce recently decided to acquire Slack. Salesforce’s closest analog, Chatter, never really caught on, and the added pressure of 2020’s extended health crisis left customers in need of better collaboration tools. Slack is becoming the new interface for Salesforce Customer 360, and that’s great. But would Slack have thrived—and in doing so been the most effective collaboration tool—without an alignment with Salesforce? Ultimately, platform alignment drives enterprise software.
When platforms absorb outside technologies into their core, customers benefit from the improved alignment or are able to gain access to more platform functionality. A customer that only uses Sales Cloud or Service Cloud now has more functionality aligned with the platform. It’s a strong upsell for Salesforce, and anybody reading this is used to upselling and cross-selling as a way of life. The result can be worthy. Customers will come to resent having to pay for an array of functions that are not aligned with their chosen platform.
No software suite can be all things to all people. One great benefit of platform-based cloud computing is that no software suite ever has to try to solve all business problems by itself. Small, specialist vendors like Fastcall produce point solutions to answer specific needs. We do it extremely well, because we have to rise significantly above the baseline to attract customers who have very specific and advanced needs not met by the platform. That isn’t meant to throw shade on the developers and engineers at Salesforce, or anybody else. The fact remains that a well-built tool designed to suit a specific platform will always outperform one that must serve many platforms, or that has to be modified to suit. APIs are awesome. But do we need software that integrates with 15 other CRMs? Or just the one CRM platform we use?
It’s natural to talk about the platform providers. They’re big, they’re impressive. They drive the industry and make the news. They created the app marketplaces that reduce the barrier to entry for point solution vendors. Just remember why the marketplace is there, and whether you want an okay toaster-oven-alarm clock or a really good cup of coffee.
Richard Rosen is the cofounder and CEO of Fastcall.