Salesforce, SAP, ServiceNow… These are the brands that spring to mind when you think of business software. They have become household names after being highly successful businesses year in, year out. Even people somewhat allergic to them end up using them at some point. What makes them so special? What is it that they have and others don't?
Before turning his company into one of the biggest brands, Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of Salesforce, was seeking the secret sauce for success. He visited Steve Jobs in 2003 as he struggled to gain traction at the head of Salesforce. Jobs had a simple recipe for Benioff:
"You've got to land a big customer like Avon. You've got to be ten times bigger in 24 months, or you're gone, and you've got to build an application economy."
Of all the advice Jobs gave, it was the "application economy" idea that proved to be the most transformative—a whole ecosystem of different software products capable of working together in harmony when needed. The revolutionary thing about what Benioff did afterward was his positioning of Salesforce as a development platform rather than an end product people would just pay for and use as it was.
Benioff envisioned Salesforce as an API-based development platform. He opened it up to its customers, just like Amazon, SAP, and ServiceNow did with theirs. By doing that, he let customers tinker with the platform until they came up with a configuration that would meet their needs. The result turned out to be a very flexible platform where everybody could find something for themselves.
The reason for creating an API-based ecosystem is to offer the customers the maximum amount of customization possible. The one-size-fits-all solutions no longer work in today's world. Data flows in via all sorts of different media and has to be transformed into different formats, stored, shared, or integrated with other systems. Every customer has a different set of needs. Things get even worse as these needs keep changing, creating a network of almost infinite possibilities. No stand-alone software product can keep up with this.
The best way to serve the diverse set of customer needs is to give the user a product with an extendable architecture and let him self-serve. Giving the user the tools he needs to devise solutions to his own problems takes the burden off the shoulders of developers and minimizes the risk of miscommunication.
SAP is one of those companies that appreciated the potential of an extendable architecture in enterprise software early on. It is primarily a record-keeping software with lots of database and data operations involved. What gave SAP its extendable character was ABAP, its domain-specific language. ABAP made SAP extremely customizable and allowed the addition of new features to the platform without much hassle, giving the platform a low-code character. This increased customizability turned SAP into a very flexible platform that can serve a diverse range of use cases by offering different solutions.
SAP not only offers its customers a business model today, but also empowers them to deliver the services they promised. The result of the ABAP-induced customizability for SAP has been an ever-expanding customer base and a growing, healthy ecosystem built around the product.
SAP has also taken notice of the growth of the mobile app market. It has realized that it has to be competitive in that segment and offer mobile users similar capabilities if it is to retain its dominant position in the market. Its recent acquisition of AppGyver was an effort to plug that well-defined gap in its portfolio.
The strategies employed by Salesforce and SAP might be potent, but they are also difficult to replicate, especially for smaller companies. Such companies need to follow a different strategy here. A company with a CRM tool has to offer a level of customization that could rival Salesforce, which is impossible due to a lack of resources. What it can do, however, is to find an underserved segment in the market and focus on the needs of that particular segment.
The shortest route to success in this scenario? Using APIs to open the platform to users and letting users leverage no-code tools to customize the CRM tool in question. No-code platforms will be offering ready-made templates to make it even easier for the users to customize the software for their particular use cases.
Every company in the software business today should have an extensions strategy. This is not a matter of preference but a necessity for a software company to get over the hump. Having in place a sound extensions strategy ensures the product is customizable, and thus fulfills a broader range of needs. Peaka takes care of the customization needs of its customers through APIs so that they can focus on their core line of work.
We believe that software companies should not have to diverge from their roadmaps and allocate scarce resources just to serve the specific needs of customers. Whether it is a customer portal, an internal tool, or a partner portal that your customers desire, Peaka makes sure that you deliver it to your customers with no added cost or effort.