I got a call from a sales guy yesterday evening, he was representing a company who have set up a new Software as a Service (SaaS) business and were trying to drum up some new clients. A nice bloke but very much a graduate from the old school of sales – he just went into freeflow for about 10 minutes and I could imagine what it felt like answering your door to a double glazing salesman in the eighties or a timeshare salesman in the nineties.
My big problem with it was that as far as he was concerned this application could do anything. Anything at all. Any e-commerce system, any requirements from clients, it would replace any of their existing business software (not just the web stuff, I mean the accountancy packages, desktop applications, the lot). And not only would this magic system accomplish this with the flick of a few API switches, the user manual for the whole thing was only five pages long! Truly incredible, where can I sign up?
That was sarcasm, of course. My own view of things couldn’t be more of a polar opposite to this, and I told him that I’d actually written a blog post earlier that day talking about how there was no such thing as a ‘standard’ e-commerce installation, because every client wants or needs something a little bit different. It’s not some ‘One Size Fits Nobody’ solution where everyone has to make compromises and adapt their business to the IT platform they’ve chosen, it’s about having the breadth of knowledge and the skills to adapt a multitude of disparate IT systems so that they work together to serve the business. And as the business changes, the system can change with it.
To illustrate the point about e-commerce systems, take a look at Magento. A default installation of Magento contains a vast arsenal of e-commerce tools and configuration options that you might think would be able to handle virtually any client requirement. But then look at Magneto Connect, the marketplace for those who have created modules to extend the core system. At the time of writing there are 4194 modules available there. For me, that is enough proof that it’s not possible to build a system that will cater for all e-commerce requirements – these modules have been created by demand, someone has required an already massive and complicated system to be further modifed to suit their own needs.
So when someone claims that their platform can handle any e-commerce system out of the box, they are talking out of a hole in their head. And to try and configure that system using API calls…..shiver. Thanks, but no thanks – I’ll stick to the open source options if it’s all the same.