According to Marketing Technology Survey 2021″, the use of integrated platform solutions has doubled from 2020 to 2021. But the problem is that thousands of cloud-based business applications on the market call themselves platforms and promise a smooth customer experience. But where there is a platform on it, there is no one in it. Three tips on what companies should look out for when evaluating technology platforms.
Platform Or Patchwork?
And suddenly, everything is the platform. The term is used almost excessively by technology providers to meet market requirements. This makes the choice of provider much more opaque for companies. Therefore, it is essential to understand what distinguishes real platforms and how to differentiate them from other systems. Existing platforms are built on a unified technological foundation and designed from the ground up for a specific purpose.
This means that even if the platform offers different tools for different business tasks, such as customer relationship management, marketing, sales, commerce, or customer service, these building blocks are integrated and work smoothly. This is important, for example, for synchronized customer data or automated processes across departments. There are also technology providers whose business suites consist of purchased products and also call themselves platforms.
The advantage is that these are powerful precisely because the portfolio is so broad. A possible disadvantage: The application can be user-unfriendly since the individual tools acquired are based on different technologies, and the software building blocks may not be effectively integrated. It’s more of a patchwork than a platform. When choosing a technology platform, companies should focus on three things to better assess what they are buying.
A Look At The Building Blocks
First, it’s essential to look at how the platform is built. That’s not easy since a business suite always offers a familiar user interface for various products. Still, a lot can be gleaned from how a suite is put together. Why is platform building so crucial to selection? A comprehensive software solution should save companies time and money. The employees in marketing, sales, customer care, etc., should be relieved and be able to work well together to promote company growth.
If the company still has to devote a lot of resources to making the technology solution viable and adapting, this is not a worthwhile investment. The best way to find out if you are dealing with a real platform is to look at the onboarding processes and permissions associated with a product. Suppose it’s a complex process requiring users to have multiple permissions and logins for different subsections of the platform. In that case, it could indicate that the system isn’t as well integrated as it seems.
Decision-makers should check whether the platform is compatible and integrates with the company’s existing technological infrastructure. This saves time and money and lowers the total cost of ownership. In addition, a real platform consists of modules. That means users don’t have to set up and configure components they don’t need for other system parts to work.
A Look At The Data
The importance of data for modern companies cannot be overstated. Therefore, the second step should examine how a system processes information within the platform. To be able to offer an outstanding customer experience, all products that serve to communicate with customers must be based on a single database. If this “single source of truth” is not given, then it is not a question of a platform but of jumbled tools that create silos.
However, how systems process information is by no means easy to fathom. Some technology solutions pour all data into a massive pool in the cloud, making it not easy to use the information effectively across different software tools. This can be well explained using the example of a customer relationship management (CRM) system: To meet the requirements of marketing, sales, and customer service, companies need a large amount of data to ensure that all interactions with customers are linked.
This requires not only customer information but also internal data, for example, which service employee is responsible for the account. Each department will use, process, and label these insights differently based on their needs. Reconciling data discrepancies can be a lengthy and costly process that no real platform will put its users through. Companies should therefore ensure that the software standardizes the customer data and keeps them clean and functional.
A Look At The Ecosystem
An essential feature of a real platform is that it can easily integrate with other third-party applications or custom extensions. These integrations then work seamlessly across all facets of the product. That is, there is not one interface (API) for marketing, another API for sales, and a completely independent API for the content management system for the website. A cohesive platform enables a coherent ecosystem that delivers a better experience for the business, its customers, and third-party vendors building apps and integrations.
If the technology solution offers a broad ecosystem of supporting tools and services, this can be a good indicator of a robust platform. Many system providers have different partner agreements and cross-selling options. However, a true ecosystem allows users to find and quickly integrate new services they need in an open marketplace rather than going through cumbersome procurement processes with a limited number of partners. A robust partner ecosystem is often a sign of a real platform. A thriving partner marketplace suggests that the platform is running smoothly and has little trouble adding third-party services that users can easily set up and manage.
Executives evaluating comprehensive technology solutions for their business should take their time and thoroughly research different vendors. The three criteria – building blocks, data, and ecosystem – make it easier to evaluate platforms. In addition, use cases from your industry or disruptive companies are helpful.
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