Platform v. point solutions: Making sense of enterprise technology

Hasan ChoudharyMarketing Director
Platform v. point solutions: Making sense of enterprise technology
Platform v. point solutions: Making sense of enterprise technology

As enterprise software adoption continues to speed along, a clear distinction is developing between two strategies: the ‘point solution’ and the ‘platform’ approach. 

Both approaches have their merits, but it is nonetheless important to make sense of this distinction when procuring enterprise technology, getting buy-in internally, ensuring adoption, and ensuring return on investment.

 

 

What is a point solution?

A point solution is a targeted software tool which is designed to perform one primary function. These can also be referred to as ‘off-the-shelf’ technologies; that is to say, they are (or at least promise to be) ready to use, out of the box.

Typical examples of point solutions can be e-signature platforms, billing tools, or solutions automating specific agreements.

These tools have rigidity built in. They are designed around a particular challenge which they seek to help the user solve, but typically in the manner defined by those who built the solution. Even where they do have extendable functionality, the tool is only created for a specific purpose and cannot be reconfigured or redesigned for multiple business challenges. 

 

 

What is a platform solution?

Platform solutions, on the other hand, are designed with flexibility and scalability in mind. They can be used for a variety of use cases, processes, and tasks, and can go beyond a ‘basic’ process by connecting to external databases and other software tools.  

These solutions can require a bit more tinkering before you start fully utilizing them, however this initial time investment is typically rewarded with far more significant time savings and value once the solution is up and running.

Platform solutions can themselves come in broader or more restrictive forms. A contract automation platform may allow you to edit workflows, clause libraries, and connected databases, but not much more than that.

Alternatively, no-code / low-code automation platforms can allow you to tackle a much wider range of use cases and tasks, integrate with more external tools, and ultimately be used across your business rather than having just one department in mind.

 

 

 

 How can platform solutions be more valuable than point solutions?

I could go on about the value of platform solutions for quite some time here, but let me condense it into a few key takeaways (and help you make sense of some typical – sometimes vague – value propositions).

 

  1. Flexibility

Why does flexibility matter to you and your business?

Ultimately, a technology solution is trying to help you solve a problem or complete a task. A point solution generalizes a task which many organizations try to complete.

Let’s take contract automation as an example. In order for a software vendor to make a solution which ‘works’ for everyone, there is a necessary compromise in specificity, and the challenges faced by a smaller subset of those organizations can be ignored.

The flexibility at the heart of a platform solution is there to let you tell the software exactly how you want it to execute a task. Your specific needs, requirements, and processes.

Every business has its own complex and diverse needs. A technology solution which recognises this and is designed to fit around your exact problem is very likely to deliver much greater value than the semi-correct or semi-complete product of a point solution.

This also allows you to get away from a classic digital transformation pitfall of replacing old manual processes with new ones. Automation has to reach a certain threshold, by getting you as close to the complete product as possible, before it displays true value for you.

 

 

  1. Return on investment

Platform solutions allow you to tackle a number of problems and processes rather than just one. They are also far more conducive for use across departments and business areas. Rather than having several tech tools for your legal department, another set for procurement and finance, you can consolidate quite significantly with one platform – and one subscription cost.

We see many companies wanting to move from a long list of separate tools for different problems into one platform where they can manage and deal with everything. While it may sound trivial, having a one-stop-shop with one user-friendly UI can make dealing with your technology suite far less laborious.

 Another ROI benefit comes from the custom nature of the tools you end up using. While a point solution might get you 70% of the way there with completing a task, a platform solution could very well get you 100% of the way there, delivering a completed product into the relevant database in one seamless, integrated flow. A net gain of 30% of your time every time you face the task is no small feat.

 

  1. Broader functionality

 A wider range of tools and integrations at your disposal with platform solutions ties in closely with flexibility. Platform solutions allow you to build more targeted tools, and a wider range of tools thanks to much greater functionality compared to a point solution.

 

 

  1. Ease of use

Ease of use is a significant benefit of platform solutions. With all tools under one roof using the same UI and the ability to link these tools together, the end user can be much more familiar and comfortable with using these products.  

When it comes to putting together the solutions in the first place, there is still a spectrum of how easy the platforms are to use. At one end of the spectrum are ‘low-code’ platforms, which tend towards the more technical. On the other side are ‘citizen development’ or ‘no-code’ platforms, which place a much greater emphasis on ease of use and accessibility. Neota is a no-code platform, allowing for quick upskilling and use, while not compromising on the ability to add in greater complexity and integrations.

 

 

Why point solutions should still make up part of your tech stack

While the benefits of platform solutions are becoming clearer to a greater number of people, and adoption is rapidly increasing, there is still much value in point solutions forming part of your technology stack.

Some tasks are simply very specific, and are best executed by specialist software. E-signature platforms are a good example of this, as are natural language processing tools.

With a growing library of integrations available in platform solutions such as Neota, you can derive greater value from existing point solutions by plugging them into your Neota workflows and solutions to help create a seamless experience while still making use of targeted software solutions.

 

 

Summary 

It is no longer a secret that platform solutions are rapidly gaining traction in a wide range of industries and business areas. Gartner’s recent report on no-code / low-code development platforms forecasts that Citizen Automation and Development Platforms – like Neota – are to see even greater growth than in an original forecast in February 2021, now hitting 30.2% in 2023. The value that platform solutions deliver to businesses is being increasingly recognised, and it may very well be time that you start investigating what they could do for you.

 

 

 

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