Vertically integrated technology companies like Apple and Oracle have established themselves in the center of the the consumer and enterprise ecosystems by building proprietary systems with just about every feature contributing to customer lock in. The strategy has clearly worked for them, so far. Getting new customers is going to get more and more difficult for them as the world moves away from lock in and the competition does something other than push customers away by throwing up ill conceived and poorly executed competing products or services.
In this context a diverse and horizontally oriented technology firm will have a once in a decade opportunity to establish itself in the center of the new world -- not unlike the way IBM did in the ‘90s. In fact, we can learn a lot from Lou Gerstner's playbook from nearly 20 years ago. Here are the three partner relationship management things a company could do to establish itself at the center of the technology world of the next decade:
The difference between open-ness and open source are more nuanced than can be described in this post. One similaritiy however serves our purposes. In an open system everyone is welcome. Everyone. Some companies can do this and others just cannot get their brains around it. Companies that are insecure about the value they deliver -- build walls and moats. Companies that are good at what they do are the ones that can let everyone in.
Love Engineering Great Products
A company with an engineering pedigree and that is full of talented people that love building great products has what it takes to be open. Such a product focus injects confidence into the decision making about being open.
Deliver Value Every Day
The irony of the lock-in strategy is that its is a cancer that eats the host from the inside out. IBM has shown us that the discipline of being open inspires everyone in the company to deliver value every day.
A company that works to immobilize its customers with contracts and proprietary and non transportable systems sends a message to customers -- but more damaging is the message it sends to the people inside the company. Soon the company is hiring more lawyers than engineers. And that cannot end well.