Who needs a platform?

On any given day, you can probably find an announcement about a strategic alliance, an open architecture, or a commercial API that promises to integrate all your tools, seamlessly move your data among applications, and simplify your programming life.

Down in the trenches, you're trying to apply enough import/export duct tape to let marketing say "suite" with a straight face.

Where is all this integration pressure coming from? Why is everyone trying to integrate their products into suites or build platforms to support open integration? Who needs these platforms?

End users

Let's face it. End users do not call the support line to say, "What I really need is an open tools platform."

But they do ask why your product doesn't integrate with their other tools. They ask for features outside of the scope of your application because they can't get their data to a tool that would do the job better. They run into problems importing and exporting between different programs. They wonder why their programs have completely different user interfaces for doing similar tasks. Doesn't it seem obvious that their web site design tool should be integrated with their scripting program?

Your users want the freedom to pick the best tool for the task. They don't want to be constrained because your software only integrates with a few other programs. They have a job to do, and it's not managing the flow of files and data between their tools. They're busy solving their own problems. It's your job to make the tools work, and even better if you can make them work together.

Software developers

Meanwhile, you are slaving on your tool implementing the next round of critical features, fixing bugs, and shipping releases. The last thing you need is another emergency import feature added to your list.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could just publish enough hooks to make integrating with your tool everyone else's problem? Unfortunately, unless you work for one of the giants, you just don't have enough clout to get away with that.