Blog May 1, 2018

Proof, pudding and products in an open ecosystem

By Brian Zrimsek

The seventh point in our “Ten ways to tell if your enterprise software provider is open” series is on the topic of proof found in operations. If an enterprise software provider is truly open, you should find they have products that leverage partner solutions and a wealth of case studies. You should also find they have other marketing materials that discuss a suite of solutions, active engagement of partners at user events, and other key gatherings of clients and employees.

Finding the proof

The title of this post, Proof, Pudding and Products, follows the old saying that “the proof is in the pudding” or originally that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

The intended meaning of this idiom is that you must experience something to truly judge it, but in our case, we are looking for proof of being open and connected in the variety of products offered by enterprise software providers, and how that proof is reflected in a provider’s activities and events. Find the proof and then judge it.

In the first point in this series, we looked for evidence of openness in the digital presence of the enterprise software provider. Here we are looking in all the other places. To be fair, this process will require a bit more digging than a cursory review of the web site.

Products

The first place to look for proof is in what they have done with their products. You should be able to find evidence of integrations with partners in product documentation and case studies. Case studies may be about a tactical integration between products or about a client embracing the strategic nature of being open and connected as core to their own strategy. We will find our ecosystem sponsor as a key actor in each of these cases.

In more advanced cases, you should find products that have been built as part of a “powered by” relationship (discussed in our fourth piece about vocabulary). In this instance, enterprise software providers choose to leverage partners as part of their own solution in place of attempting to build their own version.

Both integrations and “powered by” products create tangible, albeit digital, assets that you should be able to track down and evaluate for completeness.

In addition to written form, pay attention to panel presentations and roundtable discussions at events where clients may be sharing specific experiences that have yet to be documented formally.

Events

The vast majority of enterprise software providers host an annual event where their clients gather to get an update on the state of the business, understand product roadmaps, gain education and insight on the use of the products, and to network with their peers.

When you attend one of these events, pay attention to the make-up of the event. Clearly, the main draws for this type of gathering are the enterprise software provider and their products. These, however, should not be the only draws. If the enterprise provider is sponsoring an ecosystem, then the players in the ecosystem should also have a place in the overall agenda of the event.

We are looking for more than event sponsorship. We are looking for more than the exchange of money for exposure. We are looking for software partner content in meeting tracks and in panel discussions.

We are looking for some form of partner exhibition where…

  • A more meaningful conversation can take place.
  • Product demonstrations are possible.
  • The overall event agenda is structured to ensure that the partners experience intentional traffic as opposed to haphazard traffic.

In short, we expect that if an enterprise software provider is sponsoring an open and connected ecosystem, then said ecosystem should be on full display when the community gathers. This type of event is the most ecosystem-friendly and should be exploited to the greatest degree possible.

We may see smaller versions of the above at regional events and other road shows where two or more software organizations, including the ecosystem sponsor, join together to educate the market on offerings and possibilities.

You may also find reciprocal participation at a product partner’s event by an ecosystem sponsor.

In addition to company specific events, keep your eyes out at industry events as well. In this case, we are looking for visible signs of the relationships. These signs may be literal signs in booths, cross company collateral, coordinated giveaways, trade show floor activities, or the joint hosting of a networking event.

Clearly, when everyone in the industry gathers, no one wants to overtly play favorites. They will, however, typically hang out with their friends. Keep an eye on who is working with whom.

As you attend events and evaluate products, keep an eye out for evidence of the ecosystem. Look for actions and not words. Look for the proverbial proof in the pudding.

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