How open platforms benefit enterprise businesses and developers

The daily experience of work has changed substantially in the last decade, with more and more people around the world working from their mobile devices, remotely, or in a globally distributed team. As a result, their needs from enterprise technology have changed, and software vendors need to flex to meet these new demands.

The benefit of open platforms isn’t a new concept, and some of the most agile organisations like Grab and IBM rely on them to help build apps, bots and wider integrations to increase organisational agility and to tailor software to the needs of a broad customer base. But it’s not as simple as “if you build it, they will come”.

For developers to succeed in creating high-quality integrations and realise the business opportunities, platform providers play a big role in lending a hand. Help can be everything from high-quality tooling, documentation and education to robust community support, facilitated by the company. Often, it takes the form of official certifications or qualifications as a signal to the market that a given developer is equipped to meet their business needs and do it well.

Today, many of the most successful software vendors like Salesforce and Zendesk enable entire lines of business for third-party developers to tailor software to the needs of a broad customer base. As individual businesses, no one could realistically account for the diverse set of use cases customers bring to the table; enabling customisation through the platform helps improve the experience for end users and also creates new business opportunities for developers.

Atlassian’s marketplace alone generates hundreds of millions of dollars of business annually; companies building on Slack in the Slack Fund have raised over $600m in subsequent raises; and projections show that Salesforce is on track to create 4.2 million new jobs and $1.2 trillion in new business revenues worldwide in the next 5 years.

Providing an open platform gives developers the building blocks to better fit customers’ needs. Every customer is different, and they’re using different software suites based on their vertical, and location around the world. So it’s important that customers are given the opportunity to choose the software they want to use, and be able to make it all work seamlessly together.

Earlier this year, Slack introduced interoperability, which helps consolidate the myriad of everyday collaboration tools people use within an organisation, even when it is built and developed by different companies like Dropbox, Google or even Office 365. It’s that last piece — the connection with other software — that is transformative for people’s work experience, by creating that seamless flow between tasks throughout the day. This type of integration between tech tools helps raise the value of all software investment by making it easier to access and act upon within it.

However, it’s not enough to make it possible to create these integrations; companies and developers win when you invest in making your APIs delightful to use. We often think that our users are too sophisticated and don’t need ‘delighting’, but there are benefits for when you invest in going beyond the basics for your end-users. Delight should not be seen as a fluff metric, but as a metric of overall quality, as it impacts everything from market competitiveness and adoption interest to retention and Net Promoter Score (NPS).

To make these personal experiences even more accessible, it is helpful if a transparent platform roadmap is made readily available. This helps developers plan against updates and incremental improvements, and as a result, mutual customers get new features and capabilities faster. It also gives the developer community a signal about a platform’s priorities.

Some developers consider new UI features to be their top priority; for others, new APIs for admin control take precedence. The ability to be transparent about these plans will help build trust and ultimately deliver value faster for the developers to leverage. This circular exchange of value is the flywheel effect that fuels successful platforms.

At the end of the day, no one software vendor can make the best tools for every need. Instead, it’s important to respect their users’ choice about what works best for them, and to realise the substantial economic engine that open platforms can be. When we create open platforms and expend energy on enabling developer success, everyone wins.