It’s getting harder for businesses that are building technology tools to get attention, traction and ultimately widespread adoption. You can’t just launch an amazing new developer tool and hope developers will find you; providers need to zero in on a specific use case that empowers developers while also ensuring those developers will still have access to the broad ecosystem of other tools they need to do their jobs.
The more forward-thinking companies in enterprise SaaS, public cloud computing and artificial intelligence are increasingly partnering with companies they might once have considered competitors to elevate the presence of all their brands among end users. By meeting in the middle, and integrating with a common-ground platform, providers join their customers where they are, on the platform that makes the most sense for them.
Instead of forcing customers to choose, providers can take advantage of powerful network effects, where their tools become more valuable because they’re part of a network. It’s one of the oldest concepts in computing: Metcalfe’s Law states the value of a network is equal to the square of the number of users on that network.
But building that network yourself can be time-consuming and costly, as many of those who’ve done it alone have discovered. That construction project can easily distract providers from their own core competencies, forcing them to spend time and resources on essential but undifferentiated development work.
The mobile side of tech has been operating under these principles since the launch of distribution platforms such as the App Store and Google Play, which introduced mobile developers to millions of potential customers. Those customers want seamless connections between their favorite apps and services to streamline their digital lives. They don’t want every app developer to create their own marketplace with incompatible payment methods, unfamiliar interfaces or strange hoops to jump through.
The explosion of enterprise software vendors enabled by cloud computing and software-as-a-service models has created similar patterns. Cloud-native developers have embraced distribution channels such as the AWS Marketplace as the best way to find their customers, and enterprise companies such as Box and Dropbox are making integrations with rival products and office productivity tools (like G Suite or Office 365) an important part of their product strategies.
“What seemed unfathomable merely a decade ago is now becoming commonplace as Fortune 500 companies are mixing and matching best-in-class technologies—from upstarts to cloud mainstays like Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow—to power their business,” said Aaron Levie, Box CEO.
But the work required to enable those integrations is substantial.
Growing companies focused on building best-in-class tools for developers don’t always have the in-house expertise required to strike partnership deals with platforms and support customers with a world-class billing system. Likewise, end users often need to do their own due diligence when considering whether or not a promising new development tool will play nicely with their existing tech infrastructure.
Go to Market
Marketplaces are the best way to solve these problems. Service providers need distribution and integration with other development tools to reach end users, and end users want the peace of mind of knowing they’ll be able to properly evaluate a tool under consideration through a certified clearinghouse.
Companies can certainly build API-level integrations on their own for one-off partnerships or integrations where performance isn’t a major requirement. However, when performance is vital, such as with databases or infrastructure monitoring tools, a more deft touch is required.
These seamless, low-latency connections are only going to become more important in a multi-cloud world as companies use the power and scale of Kubernetes to build tech infrastructure that spans several different cloud providers and perhaps even their own on-premises servers. True service interoperability will require common frameworks to make sense of all those connections and allow developers to mix and match their favorite tools to create the technology stacks of the future.
Enterprise software silos are a thing of the past. The future of software development will rely on tools that blend the best available services—no matter where they were born—and link developers, service providers and platform companies in flexible and dependable ways.
The companies that figure out how to integrate best-of-breed software development tools with the leading platforms and services of our time will win. If you’re just starting out, let someone else handle the complexities of integration and distribution while you focus on creating the best developer tool you can.