SECTIONS - Developers Corner
November 25, 2015

Feeling Alone in the Ecosystem

VC friends in the past always told me they never want to be pioneers, because pioneers get shot. But what happens when you are a pioneer and the colonists settle in around you?

The announcements by Salesforce and Amazon that they are expanding their offerings to support IoT have lead to some interesting problems for some companies within their ecosystems. What has happened is that the early adopters who have been on the bleeding edge now find themselves having a partner who has changed the game.

The temporary good news is that they have great marketing in commending their lead partner for recognizing what they knew already. The long-term bad news is several-fold, and is as follows.

Business Model Redesign
It may be that there are a few customers who are hands off, but if you have made a point of being part of an ecosystem, and the customer has valued the integration, then the customer is probably hands on and understands the additive value these companies brought.

Additionally, Salesforce and AWS are normally important to companies that are already integrating these systems. So the customer not only is aware of the announcements, but has direct contact with them.

The business plan they had, and what made them a valued part of the ecosystem, is probably uprooted. Regardless of whether the middleware they made to bridge the gap is now useless or not, the value proposition has been significantly altered and the costs to the customer have to be reevaluated.

Technical Development Redesign or Market Messaging Redesign
I am not sure which to put first, but let’s say it’s the egg and not the chicken. Looking at what they have built, that made them a valued partner, and where their partner has moved the chains, is sort of a reverse needs analysis. Once ecosystem partners access which part of their system is now useless and which part is probably safe comes the hard part. That involves assessing how much value they still represent.

That answer could lead to a major rethink and might lead to questions such as the following. Is it time to support IBM’s Blue Remix or Microsoft’s Azure capabilities since they are neutral alternatives? Do the chains being moved make for new services that go beyond the existing code base?

Regardless of the answers these ecosystem players also face a marketing problem. This is a New Coke story, because the team is going need at least six months of redesign for Company 2.0 Using the messaging “we were here first, or welcome aboard” to Salesforce and AWS is like BlackBerry rightfully claiming it invented the smartphone regardless of what Apple did. It may be accurate, but it does not change the fact the revolution has passed them by.

So the messaging has to be about integration and the gap analysis for the period before the next release. The pitch should go something like this: “Yes, they changed the game on us, but we have known how to work with their products forever, so we know where our stuff takes their stuff to a higher level. You should work with us, because we have even deeper awareness of your needs than Salesforce or AWS.”

That leads us to Company 2.0 messaging when the software is there. Now the pitch is about how the new code adds value because the features are rich and the functionality is more robust.

Interestingly enough, this leads me to the conversation I had with Philip DesAutels, executive director of the Allseen Alliance. Allseen is committed to open source for Alljoyn and other activities. The result is that if the chains are being moved, that should come as no surprise.

Now I would never suggest that open source is an alternative to the marketing clout of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Salesforce. And I can think of some great integration opportunities for companies to capitalize on with these announcements. But if you poured your development into something that has now been made obsolete or has lost value, it’s time to do the assessment.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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