OEM – A Sound Software Strategy – 4 considerations

OEM – A Sound Software Strategy – 4 considerations

When building large-scale software solutions, you can’t rely only on your own developments. This applies whether you are a start-up and want to on-board as much as possible from existing software because of lack of funding or you are an established company that is pickier on the Build, Buy, or Partner question. You will face the question of third-party integration because there are always topics where your skills are not the required ones or the ROI analysis shows that developing is crazy and you should integrate.

This realisation is where the choice of the OEM partner starts. It’s an important choice to make because it’s like a “marriage” to the OEM software provider: you should start with the expectation it will last.

Consideration 1 – Branding and UX

So you found a great software solution that has all the functions and features needed for the job. It looks like the right solution. Really? Stand back and think about your end user—what does your end user need?

Before anything else, your end user needs to work with your solution, most probably every day and feel “at home” whatever he or she does with that solution. This is not as easy as it seems when looking at it from an OEM perspective. What does UX mean?

  • First, UX means visual consistency, so ask yourself, “Can I integrate the OEM component in such a way that my end user won’t SEE it’s not my software only but two products deployed in one?”.
  • Second, UX means maintaining the user flow throughout the user journey in your application, so ask, “Can I integrate the OEM component in such a way that my end user won’t FEEL it’s two software pieces?”.
  • Finally, UX means maintaining the consistency of your software philosophy throughout the solution, so ask, “Can I integrate the OEM component in such a way that my end user will be able to DO everything in a consistent way?”.

The answer to these questions is yes? Move on to the next considerations.

Consideration 2 – Security

You convinced yourself that the OEM partner can be integrated in such a way that UX will be good? Nice. First hurdle has been overcome and it’s the most important one from a Product perspective.

Now, diving into the details, are you sure you can maintain your application security philosophy consistent across your solution with your OEM partner? What I mean here is whether authentication and authorisation can be integrated, whether the flexibility and granularity of your authorisation model can be replicated also across the OEM component.

Again a yes? Great! Let’s move on to the last technical aspect, automation.

Consideration 3 – Automation

You convinced yourself that the OEM partner can be integrated in such a way the security model will remain uncompromised? Again, nice because that would be the second no-go. Automation is the last important topic to consider.

I mean automation from two angles: first, configuration and delivery automation, and second, live system automation. When reaching this consideration, you already validated that the third party covers your needs from an end-result perspective but there is a 100% chance that, from an integration perspective, you will need your configuration to drive the configuration of the third party. So the questions to ask yourself are:

  • “Does the third party have proper ways of consuming meta-data in an open way?” and
  • “Can I have proper ways of accessing the third-party’s meta-data in case my software needs it?”.

Another automation question is at runtime, and the questions coming are:

  • “Can I automate data transfer?”,
  • “Can I automate refresh?”,
  • “Can I automate deletion?”. 

Again all yeses? It starts looking good! Let’s move to the non-technical requirement that can make or break the success of the relationship.

Consideration 4 – Agility & Trust

You have your perfect technical OEM component? Good. How about the provider? The questions to validate are:

  • “Is it a company I trust to be able to support me when problems occur or when I have new needs?”,
  • “Was I able during the selection phase to discuss my needs with them and get an open ear and solutions to them?”,
  • “Will they still be there for me when I am live and struggle?”.

This last question is key because by OEM-ing, you just locked yourself in for a serious amount of time with someone and there is no easy or cheap way back. There is also a commercial dimension to consider at this Trust stage:

  • “Is the company I will lock myself in ready to adapt to my business need, I’m freemium maybe? Will they accept to get paid only when I get paid? I price per user, will they do the same? I’m not using the full potential of the third party; will they compromise for me not to pay the full price?”.

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