For those who have been in the enterprise technology world for a while, being caught up in the perennial battle of “point solutions” versus “platforms” is commonplace.
The tension is real.
When a specific problem begets a specific solution- and when that solution is indeed powerful—votaries suggest that these “point solutions” are the only ones that can be really effective. They ask – sensibly – how any software that isn’t built specifically to solve a particular problem can possibly compete with one built with focus in mind. These folks are members of the “best of breed” school.
In diametric opposition is the “platform” school. Members of this school of thought suggest that no workload or problem is isolated and that interoperability, data sharing, and scenario mixing is inevitable. They argue that point solutions are far too narrow and don’t anticipate real-world use-cases or the breadth of possibilities; given these, they argue that customers need a platform to build on, add to, and extend into new workloads.
Both perspectives have merit. And it is up to entrepreneurs and engineers which route to go. Both have rewards and pitfalls and both routes will have fans and detractors.
Given this known schism, enterprise software watchers often see companies of both types. Though no company openly advertises itself as a “point solution,” the code language for this perspective is discernible in phrases like “best of breed.”
Gartner and other analyst firms sanctify these with their analyses (Magic Quadrants for instance) and ratings – often in narrow categories. For C-level executives looking at very specific problems and thus very specific solutions, these analyses are very useful.
For C-level executives who have a series of interrelated problems to solve-and who want to plan for new scenarios and scale, “platform” companies tend to be better bets. Platforms are by definition augmentable by third-party solutions and even home-grown development.
For companies who style themselves “different,” platform purchases make sense – they tend to deploy a unique tech-stack to solve complex problems specific to them.
B2B fintech is an area where this tension is playing itself out. Fintech is a massive growth area as evidenced by the avalanche of funding, extensive media coverage, and the unicorn stories that abound. Sub-areas of fintech- like PaymentTech- appear to have gone the route of “best of breed.” So my question is: Where are the B2B fintech platform stories?
I’d love to open a dialogue with readers of FinLedger on this matter. Which companies in fintech and its various tributaries are true platform plays?
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of FinLedger’s editorial department and its owners.
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