Is Time Now Right For A Software Unification Surge?
Once upon a time, not so long ago, you made hard, often one-time decisions on a single software ‘direction’ for your business, and you stuck with it, through thick, thin, updates and versions, and you grew increasingly scared of changing, the longer your business depended on a particular software choice. Now though, in the re-invigorated post-pandemic era, software unification and third-party integration is letting businesses choose from a relatively open market, and achieve an all-round business solution that’s fitted more specially to their actual needs, rather than the limitations of any one particular software infrastructure.
But are unification and integration just fads, or can they add substantively to your business’ success?
First, let’s be clear. Unification doesn’t just mean you buy different software packages from various tech companies, and use them how you need them, swapping platforms as necessary. That would be a tediously basic way to go about things, and could well result not only in more expense, but also more technological breakdowns, more human error introduction when manually transferring from one platform to another, and an increase in the amount of time in any given workday devoted to navigating the transition from platform to platform.
The average rate for human error is 6.5%. That’s only ever likely to increase when you’re working on the same data several different times in several different platforms.
And yes, most, if not all, businesses are still working this way.
Benefits of Unification
Unification means something altogether smoother than that. It means working off a central platform, and being able to access any data in any of the programs you use from that central platform, without logging in to different sub-systems along the way. It means when you change a piece of data on the system in one place, it changes globally, not just for you. Users of things like Google’s Workspace will understand the fundamentals of the concept. Live, real-time editing of data for every permitted user, that changes the data globally because it’s held in a central repository, and multiple users simply access it from wherever they are. Real software unification will take that premise and apply it on a much bigger, broader, and more ambitious scale.
The benefits you get from that go far beyond a reduction in human error, though. Unification allows for significantly more timely and effective team collaboration – if everyone in a team gets the same update at the same moment, no-one lags behind in their situational awareness.
And not for nothing, given the MSI 2022 Report that highlights the difficulties of productivity-tracking with remote workers, unification also allows team leaders to see who’s jumping on tasks immediately, and who’s playing catch-up, delaying project progress and completion.
The Covid Factor
Software unification speeds up collaborative working, cuts down on human error, and takes some of the convolution out of using multiple programs to precisely fit your business’ needs, all while improving accountability and ensuring teams know the same information at every point, even in highly changeable project situations. So why isn’t it everywhere yet?
It might seem like a cop-out to say this, but there’s a degree to which the slowed-down take-up of software unification can be blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic.
There were developments in 2019 that looked like they might begin to change the speed with which software unification was brought to market and turned into a day-to-day business norm. Then the world got turned on its head by a virus that fundamentally changed the world of work and how it could still be conducted.
During the pandemic, new players and new sectors came to the fore – video conferencing through Zoom and other players became the most essential new element of the business armory, and new collaborative tools emerged to facilitate the idea of some businesses working on an entirely remote basis, and others following a hybrid model. And as the pandemic, the world of work, and the new collaborative players evolved, integration rather took the place that unification was intended for.
It’s important to recognise that getting different programs, often created in different languages, not only to talk to one another direct, but to work seamlessly together is the equivalent of a technological Tower of Babel. But many of the emergent players of the pandemic, both mainstream and third-party, have evolved to integrate with many of the other emergent players, creating a kind of safety net of collaboration. Zoom integrates with Teams, integrates with Google, integrates with GitLab, and so on. Lots of the most popular pandemic and post-pandemic programs became as popular as they are by virtue of their integrational flexibility.
Integration For The Win?
If that’s the case, and the market has evolved towards integrations, rather than unification, where’s the bad?
Nowhere, in as much as integrations deliver much more smoothness and connectivity than simply using separate, siloed programs. But firstly, integration is intended to be useful in knitting together everything you might choose to use, and it’s great at that, but unification would bring those benefits of universality, simplicity, accountability, and collaboration, all from a single, simple platform.
If software unification stumbled in 2019 and hasn’t yet become the Next Big Thing it was predicted to be, the time should feel altogether more propitious now. Whether unification can claim its place alongside or underneath the integration architecture that companies used to get them through the pandemic and out the other side though will depend on two things.
Firstly, whether the unique benefits of software unification, which are real and separate from those you get from integrations, can make a compelling enough case for the mass market. And second, what software unification companies are proposing to charge for their platforms. Getting the balance right between those two factors will be crucial if software unification is to take a strong role in the market.
That’s particularly important as the global economy deals with the economic aftermath of both Covid lockdowns and a spiralling cost of living (and doing business), especially manifesting itself in a fuel cost crisis.
The benefits of using big data in an intelligent way to simplify and improve a company’s systems seem obvious to most business managers and owners. But whether they’re obvious enough to make them a must-buy product in a global economy surging towards recession remains to be seen.
25 September 2023
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