Good integration is the difference between tech and tech solutions

Success depends on the existing solution stack and the bigger picture.
5 November 2019

In complex organizations, good tech integration is everything. Source: Shutterstock

B2B vendors succeed by addressing pain points across the business landscape.

Sometimes, their technological products are extremely innovative and effective. But solving a business problem is only part of the overall problem that needs to be addressed.

Today, the operations of large enterprises are technologically complex. Any new tech needs to be well-integrated within a solution stack, a supply chain, a workflow, or even an organizational culture.

Otherwise, all that creative functionality can’t really be leveraged. And if marketing and sales teams fail to contextualize their solutions and articulate the practical ways that components fit together, then their prospects may not even take a look.

Engaging IT buyers

At her company’s IT conference, Elizabeth Ronco, Executive Director of Product Management for Spiceworks, told me that intent data can reduce the noise for both sides.

But salespeople must take that next step by nurturing their leads and helping them to understand both the product and the potential for integration.

She suggested that a prospect is always going to look for answers to two critical questions:

  1. Is this going to fit my needs?
  2. And, is it compatible with what I already have?

That second question, Ronco said, is often forgotten about by tech brands; “[…] they don’t think about how it costs money to go from on-prem to cloud servers and migrate. And I have to retrain my users, and there’s a lot of cost and investment that comes from the rotation side of it.”

It’s hard out there. If you’re an IT decision-maker in a highly competitive industry, affected by the rapid pace of change, you’re likely being asked to do more with less.

You don’t just need a solution; you need a solution stack. You don’t just need information; you need information that helps you to strategically act on new and endless streams of information.

And if you want to drive business growth, you may need to identify whitespace neglected by competitors or even your own product lines. And one way to do that is by studying intent data; in other words, by looking at interactions with existing information and extracting information from that.

A new tool is not enough. This wider context always matters.

And in some areas of business operations, the stakes are significantly higher. Consider, for example, cybersecurity.

Integrating cybersecurity products

Data scandals and breaches have led to a heightened interest in cybersecurity products.

Employees are regularly falling for phishing attacks, even at technologically sophisticated companies. Hackers are aggressively targeting POS systems in retail and, in some cases, they’re compromising them without detection.

Brick-and-mortar retailers may also have vulnerabilities through the controls they place on their cloud services.

Ironically, many of them previously used AWS, a product of their formidable e-commerce competitor, but they are now moving to hybrid and multicloud environments that include GCP and Azure.

There’s an economical and strategic advantage to this. There’s also a pervasive neglect of cyber hygiene. To defend their customer data, trade secrets, and dollars, businesses need an overarching security capability that considers all aspects of integration.

Through security information and event management (SIEM) products, they can identify, analyze, organize, track, prioritize, and counteract potential security threats and generate reports for compliance.

But organizations sometimes need to make an important choice. They can augment their existing platforms or replace them completely.

Nir Polak, Co-Founder and CEO of Exabeam, told TechHQ that when organizations approach that decision-making process, they often consider the time to value.

“If you’ve invested in something, you may have workflows in that system, you may have data in that system,” he explained. Ripping and replacing it outright can prove difficult.

Do pricing structures integrate?

Some companies have already committed themselves, both financially and organizationally, to archaic security management platforms that rely on static correlation rules.

Although this sometimes amounts to a sunk cost fallacy, they may nevertheless hope to turbocharge their existing operations. Exabeam has developed an advanced analytics platform that can align with “old school” connectors, even though things are mostly API-based today.

But in other instances, organizations are ready to move away from outdated technologies, largely due to pricing structures that work against their own cybersecurity interests.

In some of the previous systems, Polak explained, “You’re paying by the volume, you’re paying by the byte or by the event. The more you consume data, the more you’re going to be paying.

“And today, [these vendors are] kind of preventing their customers from doing the right thing. They need all that data. They’re generating much more with cloud, with mobile, with IoT. They’re generating a lot more data and the archaic vendors are forcing them to make a decision. Forcing them to lose visibility. And in that case, they’re looking for an all-you-can-eat data layer, and that’s when they come to us.”

Arguably, incompatible pricing structures represent yet another challenge of technological integration.

When it comes to cybersecurity, an unsuccessful integration will be felt not only by the company but by the customer base. Large-scale data breaches sometimes impact hundreds of millions of people.

“I think first and foremost, digital goods are the easiest to steal. Because they can leave your organization in a flash,” said Polak. He later added, “We’re very vulnerable. Our entire livelihood is in this digitized world.”

Organizational and industry changes

Across industries, incumbents tend to have greater influence. There’s a pre-existing order and structure to things. Current platforms have a gravity that pulls in other products as add-ons.

However, dramatic change and the unrooting of old systems is always a possibility. Sometimes, it’s necessitated by policymakers and external factors. Sometimes vendors try to change things, rightly or wrongly, through forceful thought leadership and self-fulfilling prophecies.

In a recent Forbes article, fintech expert Ron Shevlin pushed back against the idea that new partnerships will define the future of banking.

He opined, “Larger institutions may have the resources to identify, vet, and enter into partnerships, but their size and organizational complexity makes operationalizing and scaling partnerships difficult.”

Their corporate cultures might also be more oriented around control than collaboration and, here again, the challenge of integration rears up.

“Smaller institutions typically don’t have the resources or skills needed to identify, vet, and enter into any meaningful number of relationships,” Shevlin added. “Operationalizing partnerships often requires integration into core apps which can be a challenge for smaller institutions.”

Some decision-makers want things to be simpler. Even the act of collaboration can be unnecessarily complicated.

Overwhelmed by choice

A survey of IT buyers indicated recently that 25 percent of businesses actively use five or more workplace communication tools. 41 percent of businesses would prefer to use a single, all-encompassing suite that fulfills their communication needs.

With the multitude of technological solutions on the market, many decision-makers are overwhelmed by the selection process and workers don’t always know how to utilize or prioritize the tools that get chosen.

There’s a massive amount of work to be done. It’s ironic, considering that some politicians and media companies are constantly suggesting that professionals will be indiscriminately replaced by AI. It’s actually more complicated than that.

Ronco’s employer, Spiceworks, revolves around IT buying decisions, and she told me that IT buyers aren’t feeling threatened by automation technologies. To the contrary, they’re actively seeking them out because they see the potential for better workflows and integrations.

“You solve one problem, there’s a new, hopefully more fun, interesting problem you get to go do. And so, technology helps us progress through that,” she explained.

She said that technological components are proliferating, but at the same time, they’re integrating more and more. And some variables can’t be dictated without a human present.

Ronco added, “And I think that’s where a lot of their time constraint is coming from because it’s no longer a — ‘Okay, let me go set up this database.’ It’s, ‘Okay, let me set this up, and that then creates five other things I’ve got to think about.’”

IT vendors can benefit themselves, their clients, and the overall economy by thinking more consciously about the delicate nature of technological integration.

“That’s kind of why this orchestration, automation, and middleware market exists,” said Polak. “A vendor’s instinct is to think about the innovation in things they build, not how to integrate well with others. It’s just by nature.”