Last week I posted news of Intacct’s new SRP offering that ties together Clarizen, Salesforce and Intacct’s own system. It was timely given that only the week before I moderated a panel at CloudBeat that brought together a bunch of folks who think deeply about the application integration space – those who have a suite perspective (NetSuite and Intuit) and those who prefer a best of breed approach (Podio and Google Apps). I wouldn’t say that we came to any resolutions at the panel – but we sure had some interesting discussion.
After my post about Intacct’s offering, I was approached by Tom Brennan from FinancialForce to point out some aspects of the integrations versus single suite debate that he felt were relevant to the announcement. Brennan concurs with Intacct’s perspective that there is a real need for a SRP offering, but is dismissive of their multi-vendor approach. Brennan says that;
A 3-cloud approach like this cannot deliver the seamless customer experience that cloud users expect. Especially those using Salesforce CRM that are used to the seamless connectivity that exists between the array of applications on Force.com. Intacct doesn’t sound sure when they say “…the integration between each application is quite deep…” Deep is a matter of perspective I suppose
Standing aside from the obvious competitive issues here, and the marketing puffery that goes with that, there is an important point in all of this. The question remains as to how much of an impediment it is to ask workers to face the jarring experience of trying to interact with multiple different applications and UIs. Undoubtedly data integration helps with the information exchange, but if inconsistent UIs are a barrier to adoption… then perhaps we have a problem.
This reminds me of the attitude that Jim McGeever, COO of NetSuite espoused during our panel. When asked how to define a “suite” in this modern age, his attitude was that Netsuite considers a suite as being something that;
..owns an entire business process from start to finish
And presumably does so with a consistent user experience and interface. As Brennan pointed out in his email to me;
the key to achieving SRP [and by extension other functional needs] is the integration that goes beyond a superficial level. Only by using apps that are developed specifically to work together without redundant data and complicated update routines can this truly be a reality
Customers want results – and there’s a valid opinion that says that three separate databases, UI’s, logins, reporting tools and workflow engines are an impediment to that aim. Of course some functional areas are so niche that it is unrealistic to expect a fully integrated solution will be available, but for a commonly needed offering such as SRP, I wonder how much of a barrier to customer acquisition a disparate UI and workflow approach will be.
(Cross-posted @ The Diversity Blog - SaaS, Cloud & Business Strategy)