Monday, October 23, 2017

Instant Society – Instant Business. How plug and play is on the rise for start-ups in the fast lane

by Sean Harrison Smith, Managing Director, Ceterna

The consumer world has been seduced by the promise of almost instant gratification.  So far most retailers make us wait until the next day for delivery. But, Twitter gives us stories as they break and before they are filtered by the news channels, Spotify plays us any song we like without us having to wait to hear it on the radio and Netflix and other services keep us entertained on demand, enabling us to binge watch if that’s what we want.

Yet, despite the fact that business is now moving at a vastly accelerated pace than before – services still aren’t delivered on a similar timescale.  To an old-school IT director it would be quite acceptable for an integration project to drag on for over a year or more. But as another generation moves towards retirement and is replaced by its younger counterparts, changes must be made.

Understandably, the Netflix generation is not as good at waiting and is nowhere near as tolerant of delays. Besides with competitors at their heels, they often don’t have a choice but to attempt to speed up their operations.

Of course, the cloud has helped this situation in many respects, enabling businesses to download applications whenever and wherever they want on a subscription basis rather than having to make a large capital outlay on software.

The open movement has also been responsible for progress, together with the forward-looking attitude of some software vendors such as Salesforce who have opened up their APIs to encourage the development of third party plug-ins to complement their product.

We work with many start-ups looking for plug-in options, open APIs and simple plug and play solutions. They want – and need – the capability immediately. Without the burden of legacy systems representing heavy investments in the past which still need to show some return, they are better placed than many to take advantage of running a low-overhead operation.

Indeed, it’s never been easier to open up a business anywhere in the world with nothing more than a laptop and a phone.

Yet, businesses grow and what worked for a maverick start-up may not apply to a mainstream enterprise. For example, one of our clients – a technology provider – started out with just two people and within a year had turned over several million and was working towards an IPO. It started with one Saleforce module and kept adding them throughout that year.

So what would be our recommendations on making plug and play work for your business?

  • Remember that simple solutions are usually the most powerful. Why did the iPhone win out? Because of its streamlined design. Twitter? Because it restricted our word count. When it comes to software, look at the accountancy tool Xero, one of the fastest growing in the world but its completely open system means the plug and play options are exceptional.
  • Make sure anything you choose is true plug and play and can be easily swapped. Technology advances so quickly and you must make sure you are prepared for the future, that your chosen solution will scale up – and your IT architecture too.
  • Is there a minimum length of subscription or can you just turn it off after three months if you want to scale up? How easy is this to do? It may have looked good on paper, but you don’t want to be lumbered with expensive get-out costs.
  • Decide whether your business is in the middle or fast lane for growth. Both have their advantages, but, these days, fast lane growth could depend on plug and play.

Plug and play solutions are ideal for small businesses planning on growth because of their modularity and flexibility. Yet, the agility they provide will mean larger companies will be looking over their shoulder too – and may find that they work for them too.