The enterprise software world is one where few, if any, companies can stand alone. Cloud computing has greatly increased the availability and usability of business applications. However, no vendor can claim to supply a complete homegrown solution. The SaaS world is one of partnerships. Partnerships are best when all the partners are trustworthy.
Business software customers still need to pick a brand and stick with it for a while. That brand—the platform—represents a serious investment of time and trust. Sure, you own your data, and changing platforms is supposed to be easy. But ask anybody who’s done it whether they would want to do so again next year.
Platform customers have to weigh more than just the price and features of each platform provider. They must also consider what the future holds for that platform and its partners. None of the big platforms are likely to disappear or merge anytime soon, but their fates and fortunes are not constant. They also have histories and reputations. Increasingly, they have prominent social and/or political stances as well. Those issues matter enough to some business owners and investors to affect their decisions. There are also simpler matters, like whether the customer likes the feel of the software environment, or has concerns about possible changes.
Can I Trust You?
In the end, these decisions boil down to variations on a single question: “Can I trust you with my business?” Contracts and commercial laws deal with businesses that act in bad faith; this is more about responsibility, reliability, and safety. Examples:
- Will you continue to support the applications I use?
- Is my data secure?
- Do you have good disaster plans in place?
- How will your price structure evolve?
- Will you expand your offerings?
- How does the app marketplace work for developer partners?
Platforms give their users clear answers to these questions. The provider creates the rules for the platform, and any partner or developer that wants to associate with it has to stick to those rules. Thus, a customer can trust any vendor on that platform to adhere to its standards, or face consequences. Broader kinds of partnerships provide some protections, but the customer is still essentially shopping at a bunch of different stores rather than the platform’s one superstore.
App vendors who rely on a platform for distribution are probably among the most trustworthy businesses in all of enterprise software. They answer to their customers, their platform, and their own standards of excellence, all at once.
One good example is Fastcall, a CTI app developer on the Salesforce AppExchange. “We serve Salesforce customers and only Salesforce customers, so everything we do is focused on earning and keeping their trust,” says Richard Rosen, co-founder of Fastcall. As a dedicated AppExchange developer, Fastcall can concentrate fully on adhering to Salesforce’s standards and practices regarding security, partner policy, and app compatibility. “There is no other market for us, the AppExchange is our home,” Rosen says. “It’s just good business to be as easy to work with as possible.”