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Breaking Bad Habits in IT: Avoid the Suite Trap

It’s time to break some bad habits. Fifteen years ago, CIOs bought into expensive technology suites that offered a “one stop shop” for every digital project on their agenda. These suites consolidated a range of applications into one package, offered by a large vendor like Oracle, SAP or IBM. But these “one stop shops” proved to be a bad investment. Individual applications rolled into suites became old news, and CIOs found themselves locked into their investments while companies like Salesforce.com and Workday took a majority of the market share away from applications in suites.

And now history is repeating itself …

CIO budgets are shifting toward the CMO, encouraging large marketing technology providers to recreate the types of suites big tech companies introduced years ago, targeted specifically to CMOs. These large packages pieced together from individual applications that guide every process of planning, creating and implementing marketing campaigns do not offer the dynamic solution marketers need in today’s digital age.

I’d like to provide some practical reasons why this new generation of CMOs should avoid the vendor suite trap, and thus avoid the same mistakes CIOs long before them made.

Suites Force You to Sacrifice Innovation

The best technology is all about innovation. But big companies that create suites are laser-focused on consolidation, not innovation. The fundamental driver behind creating a suite is to maintain share of the market. While these big companies shift their focus from product innovation to business growth, startups create the next big thing right under their noses.

Disruptive best-of-breed technology companies — like Box, Kissmetrics, Evergage and Optimize.ly — surpassed and displaced outdated applications that rolled into a suite. Unlike the products within a vendor suite that become stale and outdated, these startups have the flexibility to be agile and create new products that leverage cutting-edge technology.

Application Overkill

Suites offer individual applications for every step in the marketing process. Every. Single. Step. But the reality is, marketers don’t need every single application available within the suite. Big vendors lock you into an all-or-nothing contract, ultimately wasting your money and leaving you with a dusty shelf of unused marketing applications. And you can never predict what exactly you’ll need in the future.

Locking into one suite doesn't provide you with a flexible, future-proof investment in digital marketing; what you need right now may not be the same application you need next year, or even next quarter. What marketers really need are options — a la carte applications that are agile, modular and based on the newest leading technology.

The Truth about Integration

So why do marketers insist on buying suites if they stifle innovation and offer too many unnecessary products? Quite simply, they’re looking for a fast path to integrated solutions. Many believe that integration between products within a suite is simple and seamless, easier than mixing and matching individual products from a variety of companies and developers. False. Most times, the integration between products within a suite is actually lower than we think.

At its core, suites are created from one big company acquiring many different, smaller vendors. By the time the big company integrates these different individual products together, the market has already moved on to something else.

This brings me to the best “something else” that’s happened to technology in the last 15 years: open application program interface (API) and the cloud. APIs are programming tools that fundamentally changed how applications are built, making the integration between products easier than ever before. Today, in any category of technology, all the best products are in the cloud and built API-first, enabling them to completely integrate with other top-notch products.

So there you have it, the truth about integration.

There are plenty of reasons suites made sense for CIOs 15 years ago. But today, those who make the marketing suite mistake will watch with empty wallets as the continued evolution of new best-of-breed cloud and API-based technologies take the industry by storm. So marketers, forget the “one-stop-shop” and focus instead on finding agile, resilient and integrated products to guide your digital decisions and future-proof your digital investment.

Editor's Note: Read more from Tom in Think Customers, Not Channels

About the Author

Tom Wentworth is the chief marketing officer at Acquia, responsible for global marketing strategy and execution. He has spent most of his 18 year career in the web content management, most recently at Ektron where he served as chief marketing officer. Follow him on Twitter and read his Acquia blog on content management and digital marketing.

 
 
 
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