The fifth point in our “Ten ways to tell if your enterprise software provider is open” series is on the topic of not being selfish. If a provider is really going to embrace an open architecture and an ecosystem of solutions, they must be a proponent of providing choices to clients, even (or perhaps, especially) when some choices are competitive to their own products.
Unselfish providers don’t box out competition; they welcome it, and they strive to make their own products better.
Let’s dig in a bit more. Selfish is a strong word. When you put its definition in the context of the supplier/customer relationship and being open, I think you will agree that it is a good baseline for evaluating behavior.
Going back to Merriam-Webster for the definition:
Selfish (adj): concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
How can an enterprise software provider be selfish?
Before answering that question, I need to point out that software providers are in business, like most everyone else, to make money. The capitalistic nature of business often creates the propensity to be selfish. That said, there are different approaches to the market.
Being selfish as an enterprise software provider shows up in the form of dictating strategy to a client, in essence saying, “since you like some of my stuff, you will like all of my stuff, and I’m not going to let you decide otherwise.” That kind of selfishness can manifest in several different ways.
o Keeping clients captive and making it hard to utilize third party offerings.
o Only having a product-centric perspective and not considering the client perspective.
o Taking the freedom to choose away from clients.
In the end, this all-or-nothing approach may actually work to the detriment of the enterprise software provider. If the client grows frustrated by a lack of choice, then they may choose the “nothing” option, opting for flexibility and freedom of choice with others.
Putting the client first through selflessness
Most software companies would say that they are in business to help their clients run a better business. Actual behavior, however, may show other motives that are more focused on the provider’s business than the client’s business.
A true focus on the client looks a lot more like selflessness. Look for enterprise software providers that are actively enabling competitive solutions to work with their products, or where the enterprise software provider has included product partners with competitive capabilities in their ecosystem.
Read that again. Enabling competitive solutions. Sure, it may sound counterintuitive from a pure business perspective (self-view) but it aligns perfectly with a strategy of being open and connected and providing clients with choice (client-view). When a provider takes this more provocative position, they are strongly advocating that their clients know what is best for their own business.
Who is your enterprise software provider putting first?