Let us assume, for the sake of this article, that you have decided you want to incorporate technology into your workplace to help make it a safer and all-around better experience for your employees and visitors. Now comes the hard part: finding what you need. There seems to be a glut of information, resources, and solutions, making the experience seem especially daunting. Not only do you need to find the solution, but you need to do so without having buyer’s remorse later. It’s incredibly aggravating to spend time and money selecting a system, and a few weeks after it’s purchased, you find out that it doesn’t support X features that you just found out about or asked to support. I recently heard of this during a Parks Associates webinar described as “buying with worry.”So instead, let’s focus on “buying without worry” and discuss the reasons why investing in a platform rather than a point solution is beneficial.Let us start with some basic questions: What is a platform and what is a point solution? What are the key differences? How can you tell when you have one versus the other? I am defining a platform as a combination of internally developed software and an ecosystem of resources and partners that not only satisfies the needs of today but makes it possible to scale to the needs of the future. A platform exponentially returns on the investment by delivering on the system’s core value propositions, but also through the extension of partnerships that are easy to connect and use. Platforms have integration capabilities to expand beyond its core - and (ones built properly) they do so effortlessly. They are enablers for your organization - these are robust and multifaceted systems that are the sum of all their parts: internal and external.A point solution will have no or limited expandability beyond its core offering. You get what you buy and you or held to the companies future software release schedule (and what is in it). This is mainly because integrations are difficult for a business - they are resource-intensive and it takes a while before the company realizes the return on investment. Often, if there needs to be a decision about prioritizing time, money, and resources on integrating with others or developing their own solution, some choose the latter. That burden, though, should not be visible to their customer base. Platforms make this stress transparent and, in turn, see this as a welcomed opportunity. They have an exponential growth mindset, so they are able to respond to the need.It’s easy to think of platforms with an analogy. Let us take Mrs. Potato Head as a platform and point solutions as Barbie as the example. Mrs. Potato Head use case of expandability is at the core. It was built for every “customer” to create the solution that best suits their “business” needs. Do you want the slim nose, googly eyes, and mustache? No problem, find the appropriate place for those items to connect, insert, and wham, you got your slim nosed, googly-eyed, mustached Mrs. Potato Head. Now try that with Barbie. Barbie is a single point solution. Sure, you can add some accessories or change her clothes, but good luck changing her nose, eyes, and adding a mustache. You may be able to (permanent market mustaches are mustaches too, right?), but it will never be as elegant as the Mrs. Potato Head because Mrs. Potato Head’s purpose is to support your “business” needs. Barbie is also typically not going to last or be able to change with your ever-changing business.Keep in mind that some point solutions start to build out their offerings and become what the technology industry likes to call a vertical solution. A vertical solution is one focused on a specific problem or a use case.. Sure, one unified software offering from a single vendor that includes everything you need sounds lovely, and in most cases, it is about 80% of what you need, but what about that last 20%? That lack of delivery on a 100% solution again is why you should look for platforms. For instance, let’s use Envoy as an example. You are looking for services to help with a healthy return to the office, visitor management, delivery services, and room booking. Let us call that the 80% of what you want. You also want access control, parking management, and to manage communication and notifications seamlessly. That is what we call the last 20%. To you, this is the 100% solution you are looking for. Envoy, being a platform, has worked with some of the best in class partners to be in the position to deliver 100%. They have access control providers such as Brivo, Openpath, Kisi, Avigilon, C-Cure, S2, and Swiftlane, parking management from AVPMi Parking, and notification services like Ring Central, Salesforce Chatter, and Slack. If Envoy was a single point solution, you would only get 80% of what you want and either wait for the remaining 20% or decide you are ok without it. Selecting a platform provides you the 100% of what you want. The summary of benefits for a platform are:
- Flexibility: The flexibility of a platform can be felt in growing with your business. Examples of flexibility are seen in the expansion capabilities and pricing.
- Totality: A platform offers you the ability to shift as the market and solution offerings change. That last 20% as we discussed prior, can be the difference between having everything you need versus having some of what you need and left wishing for the rest.
- Exceptionalism: Most companies that try to do it all 100% end up being average at best. They stretch their resources too thin and have a hard time being exceptional at anything.
- Choice: You can plug and play solutions and move from one service to another easily, giving you the freedom of choice and avoiding lock-in.
Here are tips to think about when selecting a platform:
- Write down what your core and secondary needs are. Then compare that with what the company and their partners offer to see if you will be satisfied.
- Ask the company you are looking at if they have a robust partner ecosystem. Ask for the partner list, see if it is growing, and see how engaged they are.
- Ask the company how healthy the roadmap is. Ask them to walk you through it or send it to you.
- Ask if their APIs are open if you can view the documentation, and how easy they are to work with.
Selecting a technology partner can be hard, and you never want to invest in something that you instantly are worried about from the beginning. Give yourself the best opportunity to be satisfied not only today but in the future. Do yourself a favor, pick a platform.Lee Odess is one of the most accomplished and knowledgeable Building Access experts in the world. He is the Founder of E+L+C, and former executive of Allegion, a billion-dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry. He also served as an Executive of Unikey, a start-up that pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry and began his career as an Executive with the first cloud-based physical access control manufacturer, Brivo.Currently, Lee is the founder of www.InsideAccessControl.com and www.InsideVisitorManagement.com, a media and blogging platform focused on the physical access control and visitor management industry, and Group337, a Growth Studio focused on business creation in the commercial real estate, proptech, and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control, and IoT industry.