Through an unusual set of circumstances, I recently found myself at a party for several small startup companies. I left that party with three conclusions, all universally communicated―no matter who I spoke with:
- Everyone is in the Cloud (Good News) – While these startups were all on the small side of a small- to medium-sized business (SMB), all were building their products and running their business in the cloud. This includes everything from their development and delivery platforms to their financial and human resources (HR) systems. Everything was in the cloud; there was absolutely no interest in on-premises systems.
- Integration is Ignored (Bad News) – Every firm I spoke with based their buying decision on a finite need. They acquired business applications from a myriad of smaller vendors, some of whom I had never heard of. Crucially, these cloud-based services did not work together unless one used the import and export functionality tied to spreadsheets. It sounded incredibly laborious, error-prone, and (well) slow.
- Big is Misunderstood (Sad News) – When the predictable “what do you do?” social question was asked, I was surprised at how many times I was told “you are too big for us” along with “what are you doing here?”. To counteract this misapprehension, I asked about mobile phone carriers; no one doubted the need for big (inter)national carriers to support business processes and commerce. But for some reason, large software firms―backed by billions of investment dollars and with thousands of employees―are not viewed the same way and don’t get asked to the table.
The Perils of Ignoring Integration
I am always puzzled at how integration is ignored. Maybe I have spent too much time focusing on how important it is for systems and data to work together. For me, saying that “applications work together” means to communicate seamlessly in real-time, not through conversions, translations and synchronization. Simply stated, the best data is always unquestionably traceable (in real-time) to the database of record.
Business moves too fast today to rely on data manipulation, whether through automation or manually through spreadsheets. Plus, every time data must be cleaned, normalized and moved, the chance of error or omission increase exponentially. Integrating solutions―even if they all reside in the cloud ―always generate a variety of issues:
- Bottlenecks – Just like moving cars on busy motorways and interstates, integration infrastructure creates traffic jams that slow down processes. Reports and data analysis arrives much later than expected (or needed). Moving a few data items occasionally is easy, but as your company grows, moving huge volumes of data is time consuming and increases system timing issues just like rush hour in major cities.
- Complexity – Integration is not a “one and done” exercise. It needs to be maintained. Like the previous highway analogy, integrations don’t live forever without costly rework and repairs. When software originates from different vendors, keeping releases and requirements synchronized across multiple systems is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.
- Integrity – Besides the previously noted issues with data errors during import, export, and translation activities, there will always be questions about the source of the data. Sometimes when systems are wired together, different sources of record for data in different databases with dissimilar schemas and dictionaries. Trust me, it is a mess.
When companies are small, it is relatively easy to work and rationalize data movement. But as startups grow into SMBs, the infrastructure they are built on can (at best) get creaky and slow, or (at worst) become overwhelmed and break.
No Such Thing as Too Big
But let’s get back to the thought that a software vendor can be “too big” for a “small” company. No one will argue that Oracle is a large company. Our size works in your favor because we deliver multiple cloud products that work together―from day 1―with a common schema and dictionary in one database, delivered through one global infrastructure, all driven by an unprecedented level of investment and innovation.
This means that an integrated suite of business applications that seamlessly and securely work together are available today for any SMB. With just a few mouse clicks, the company gets the same business and operations infrastructure their larger competitors are using. In one fell swoop, the playing field is leveled.