Flawed Analysis: On Clouds “Playing Nice”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ben Kepes

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The other day someone alerted me to a new report put out by IT news that lauds itself as a “technical study of the integration and extension options offered by the largest 20 software-as-a-service vendors serving the Australian enterprise.”

The report looks at a few different dimensions including;

  • Can I get my data in and out freely?
  • Does it integrate natively with other systems?
  • What third-party integrations are available?
  • Can I write code to integrate with it

While it’s awesome to see some empirical data wrapped around cloud applications for real world business, I was a little dismayed at the methodology of the report. Where to start?

  • The report has the somewhat bizarre requirement that to be included vendors need to have service and support from an office in Australia. That almost makes sense but then ITnews includes Google in the survey which, while having a presence in Australia, only has one for sales and marketing with support heading off to other locations
  • The first issue I have is that using “data in/data out” as a proxy for “playing nicely” is a little flawed. While a vendor may offer a CSV download of data, if that data is tied to business processes that are proprietary to their application, the data download is somewhat redundant. I see no mention in the report of escrow services both for data and for the application logic itself. If one really wants to push the “playing nicely” barrow, escrow is an important part of that discussion
  • The report gives a higher rating to applications that have native integration, and by doing so kind of discounts the awesome work that third party integrators are doing to tie together application as somehow inferior. But the report then goes on to give one example of a native integration, that between Xero and Salesforce which is in fact a third party integration created by my buddies at Trineo
  • ITnews has split applications across five categories – CRM, Office Comms, Collaboration and project management, Finance and HR. Unfortunately they’ve then lumped three bizarre bedfellows together in HR – Paycycle, SuccessFactors and Taleo. Paycycle is a local payroll provider that, while in no way competing with SuccessFactors or Taleo, does compete with a number of other payroll providers, including some that are natively integrated with other applications in this survey. Unfortunately ITnews chose to ignore these other vendors for reasons only known to them
  • Collaboration and project management are only represented by two Atlassian products, Jira and Confluence, and SharePoint Online – clearly there are a wealth of vendors in this space and the commonality between SharePoint and Jira/Confluence is hazy at best, unexistant more likely
  • In financial applications, ITnews ignores the integrations that LiveAccounts and Saasu have with their own payroll products and slams them for being lightweight applications when it comes to integrations. ITnews also completely ignores the wealth of integrations that Saasu showcases on its website

I congratulate ITnews on trying to put this report together, but I have to say I’m pretty disappointed in what they have created, it’s not a particularly helpful document and if anything just confuses the situation.

Cross-posted from Diversity

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