It’s been dead for a long time. In the age of integration, it’s never coming back.
One of the most cliché phrases, “you can’t be everything to everyone” is cliché for a reason – because it’s true. All too often companies try to convince customers they can do everything they need. It’s prevalent in almost every industry. In the lumber business, it was always manufacturers who thought the distributors made all the money so they’d try to get into distribution. Oddly enough, many loggers thought manufacturers made all the money so they built a sawmill. In software, it’s similar – sometimes sales companies think they can build marketing platforms, accounting companies think they can build sales software, I’m sure you can see the pattern.
The biggest reason this doesn’t work is really simple: the wider your focus becomes, the easier it is to lose it. When you lose your focus, your product suffers. Think about an NFL player. Obviously this person is a very gifted athlete, but they specialize in football. If they decided to try to play in the NBA, their football abilities would suffer. This is why specialization exists.
The real world examples of this in the software world are almost limitless. Household names like Apple, Google, Salesforce, and Zillow all know they can’t do it all. They’ve each spent hundreds of millions (billions, in some cases) acquiring companies who are the experts in their respective fields. So if a company like Apple doesn’t see the value in trying to build everything possible internally for their customers, why would anyone else? Salesforce, the leader is business to business CRM (as of the writing of this article, their market capitalization is $55 billion), spent $390 million in 2013 to acquire RelateIQ, a niche CRM company. Prior to that, it was $2 billion for ExactTarget, a marketing platform. Zillow – the household name in real estate – spent $110 million on dotloop, an online transaction platform (hat tip to everyone @ dotloop, another Cincinnati based company – very well done). Why wouldn’t Salesforce just build everything RelateIQ or ExactTarget does internally? Or Zillow do the same with dotloop? They’ve certainly got the money and the resources.
Because they’re smart enough to know they can’t be everything to everyone. They know that at best they’d have mediocre offerings across the board – and that’s just not fair to customers. Better to work with specialists.
The reason it’s not fair to customers is that by spending time on things outside their core competency, software companies dilute their product. That’s time and energy taken away from the things they already do very, very well. This is also why smart companies like Google, Salesforce and Apple know if they really need something, it’s cheaper to work with companies who are specialists in that field. Google integrates with hundreds of products, so long as they have a REST API available. FYI: if your software doesn’t have an API in 2016 or at the very least have integrations with other products, it’s chaining you and your data to it. On that same note, like cloud computing – this technology isn’t cutting edge at all – it’s been the standard for years. To say otherwise is like selling a car based on the claim it has seat belts.
Choosing the right software for your business is no different than making the decision to go to a dentist to have a cavity filled instead of going to a chiropractor. You need the right tool – when you need to hammer a nail into the wall you don’t break out the table saw. And while there’s serious value in picking a solution that’s specific to your industry, bear in mind just because a company says they can do it all, and they do some things well in your industry doesn’t mean they do it all well – in fact, they don’t do it all well. Unless they’re smarter than Google. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a mediocre toolkit to serve your customers and employees, and don’t you think they deserve better than that?