What Enterprise Application vendors can learn from SME: 'dev ecosystems'
Alternative title: We are going on a bear hunt with Kafka.
When I was younger and a bit brasher, I was supporting a sales cycle in a large multi-national. The prospect asked me aggressively, "I hear your implementation times are slow. How long does it take to implement your product?" I responded, "Just a little bit longer than it takes you to decide to buy it." This heuristic has held true pretty much for every software project I've seen, but it did not make me friends with the account manager on that day.
In setting up Otter Advisory, we have learnt quite a lot about Hubspot. This post is written on their product, it integrates well and simply into my outlook, docusign, and we track deals and keep proposals in the tool. We are gradually spending a lot more money with hubspot than I originally intended to, and I think I get good value. I now follow Dharmesh Shah, the CTO Co-founder on twitter. You should too.
HubSpot's diabolically simple plan for expanding our dev ecosystem:— dharmesh (@dharmesh) May 6, 2021
1) Make a platform that is a joy to build on.
2) Be a company that is a joy to work with.
On HRTECH product ecosystems
I've attended many vendor briefings from the major HRTECH vendors of late. All of them talk building an ecosystem around their core product, some have been doing this longer than others. This is wise. There is a point of diminishing return in adding yet another feature, so encouraging others to build and integrate makes lots of sense. Time scheduling for oil rig staff, programmatic advertising in recruitment, multi-country long tail payroll, well being apps, and so on. At the same time, the enterprise vendor has capabilities that the niche vendor should leverage like identity, security, integration etc. In theory a win-win for the tech marketplace.
As my kids have grown up and are heading out into the world, I find myself reflecting on the many children's books we read years ago. One of my favourites is We are Going on Bear Hunt. More importantly, it was a kids favourite too. Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, thank you. You are brilliant.
For most start-ups and niche vendors, trying to partner with enterprise vendors is
We are not scared.
Oh look! A deep, dark cave.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go through it,
Got to go in it.
Enterprise software vendors have made the process of software partnering so complex and Byzantine. They have more tiers than a frequent flier programme, conflicting advice at corporate and subsidiary level, and often no decent technical and GTM support model for the partners once they actually get the right status. Mainly looks like they have applied the model for SI partner management (which itself is flawed) to software partnering. While at an executive level the talk is all about building an ecosystem, two sided marketplaces and so on, the execution still fails woefully, with petty bureaucracy and often exploitative, opaque monetisation.
For many start ups and scale ups I work with, they find partnering with enterprise vendors more stressful and time consuming than winning deals, customer go-lives, raising money or juggling roadmap.
My advice to leaders at large enterprise application vendors
If you are really serious about building a product ecosystem or platform around your product, go on a bear hunt yourself. Sign on to the partner portal, read the T&Cs. Try and find API documentation that is up to date and top quality. Analyse the time in your partner database from inquiry to partnership to deal. Look at partner support tickets. talk to startups. And then, have a read or watch of Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffle. It is magic too. If you want to have a platform you need to get a whole lot better at getting folks on your broom. Be like hubspot.
I'm a venture capitalist at Acadian Ventures, investing in the future of work.