Sports are often used as a metaphor for life, so consider a metaphor of enterprise software, and track and field.
Enterprise software users and vendors continue to debate the value of integrated software solutions against best-of-breed alternatives. Should you use a single provider or many? Should you buy it or assemble it? Should you embrace open or proprietary architectures? This debate has been waged from the dawn of enterprise software. It’s time to shift the discussion.
Decathletes versus specialists
Ashton Eaton won gold in the men’s decathlon for team USA in the 2012 London Summer Games and he remains the reigning world record holder. Interestingly he won gold without being the best in the world at any one event.
When comparing his results with the individual events from the same games, Eaton would have finished 7th in the long jump, 20th in the 110m hurdles, 24th in pole vault, 37th in the 100m, and 39th in the 400m. He would not have qualified for the other events. In the decathlon itself, Eaton only won 3 of 10 events: the 100m, the 400m, and the long jump.
He trains diligently for all of the events, but he is only one man with 24 hours in a day and finite resources to distribute across 10 events. You win the decathlon by accumulating the most points, and you can win the gold without winning any events. You can have weaknesses, relative to the competition, and still win.
This is the integrated argument in enterprise software. You can buy it all in one place. The breadth of functions are covered, with some areas being more robust than others. Varying capabilities across an integrated suite can go unnoticed, or be deprioritized, during the evaluation and sales process. Conventional wisdom expects solutions from a single provider to be easier to manage, better integrated, and to be appropriate across the whole organization. Conventional wisdom calls for the enterprise software decathlete.
Unfortunately, like the decathlete, you get mixed performance across all disciplines with an integrated suite. While he is a decathlete, Ashton’s strengths are based on events that rely on speed over strength, otherwise he performs less effectively. He leverages his world class speed to win decathlon gold, yet he can’t keep up with Usain Bolt.
If you were only setting out to win a decathlon, pick Eaton. If you want to win the whole track meet, you want a team that performs better, in aggregate, than the decathlete. Focus brings proficiency, and a collection of experts is more capable than a generalist. Usain Bolt won gold in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m by focusing on speed. So why do we settle for less in technology for our enterprise?
The most common answer is that integrating the pieces is extremely complex, and an organization does not want that burden.
One-stop-shop leads one to assume deep integration, which is not always true. Sometimes it’s actual integration. Other times it’s just marketing.
Whether you own both sides of the integration or develop cooperatively with a partner, it all comes back to focus and execution.
It is time to think differently.
We at MRI Software, are executing a vision that takes the burden of integration off of the client. This delivers the best functionality without having to worry about integration. We have crafted a robust set of functionality for commercial real estate that is built on an open platform, and we have recruited over 50 partners who are willing to help us achieve our vision.
Unifying the experience
MRI is developing the best-for-me approach with a single experience vision. If you can experience MRI and our partners in a seamless manner, then you should want the best. Logic has it that you would choose experts over the decathlete.
We believe we’ve struck a balance between software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service. As a software provider, we will continue to develop and grow a robust set of features that stand on their own as delivered. We will leverage our strength and heritage in accounting, property and investment management and expand as appropriate. In some regard, we will be an enterprise software decathlete to many businesses because our product fits their needs.
However, our vision also includes specialists. We choose and in place of or: integrated and best-of-breed, creating “best-for-me.” We welcome third party products and shift responsibility for integrations away from property owners and operators.
It goes beyond publishing a few APIs. We take responsibility for building and supporting integrations between our products and our partners’ products. This is core to our go-forward strategy, and it is the first building block in providing a single experience.
Our vision at MRI Software is predicated on flexibility and choice. We have the tools, capability and strategies to empower choice. We have the products and the partners to provide robust functionality and choice. Collectively, we are creating a single experience. It’s a breakthrough concept, but one that directly meets the needs of the industry.
Author: Brian Zrimsek is the chief products officer at MRI Software LLC and an internationally-recognized thought leader on enterprise applications.