One of OfficeDrop’s growth engines is our integrations with other SaaS services, like 1) Google Apps or Evernote, 2) with more traditional software offerings like Intuit, etc or 3) that work on particular hardware -i.e. Apple’s iPad. These players are positioning themselves as “platforms.” With open APIs and dedicated means of pushing their existing customers to these integrated services via marketplaces they trying to increase the stickiness/usefulness of their own services while creating an ecosystem of developers who expand the power of their offerings.
In other words, companies like OfficeDrop create stuff that works with the platform’s service and the platform company helps OfficeDrop sell the integration.
Our platform growth strategy is working; on some days half of our traffic comes from the 3rd party platforms we work with. And this traffic converts!
Now that OfficeDrop has integrated with a number of platforms I think I’m starting to notice some patterns. Some of these integrations totally on fire, driving great traffic and conversions. Others are not really doing that much and were not worth the development effort that we put into them.
I have been writing and rewriting this particular blog post for over a month. It’s getting pretty long, and continues to evolve, so I am going to publish it as a series of posts. I was prompted to actually get this series started by the recent Facebook move to replace application boxes with tabs, which I will comment on below.
Here is my opinion on what makes a good platform from the view of a platformee. (I made that word up.)
What makes a good SaaS platform – a view from the bottom up
1) Developer support. Having a working API is table stakes… at this point if you want to get busy, smaller SaaS companies to devote valuable development resources to getting on your platform you need to make it easy to write to your service. Documentation, good forums, and if you really want to make it work you need a developer support team will answer questions. A great example of this was the Evernote team; they really helped us get our system working with theirs. Although OfficeDrop was one of the very first companies to integrate with API it worked from day one – mainly due to the high level of support and fast response times their API dev team gave us. This is our listing in Evernote’s trunk.
2) Consistent strategy. Facebook’s move made me think of this today (see the following write up on the box to tab change they are making.) When smaller players integrate with a larger company’s platform, they smaller company makes assumptions about how the platform will work going forward. The decision to spend valuable time integrating and then promoting an integration is based on these assumptions – and for a smaller company this is a very big deal. At OfficeDrop we have limited development and product dev resources; every hour is precious. When a platform makes any change it has an impact on the ecosystem. Technical changes, like Apple’s decision to no longer support flash, can make months of development effort worthless (thankfully this did not impact us – we were thinking of using flash to do drag and drop in our iPad app, but picked a different way.) From a marketing perspective, anything that makes it harder to install or find installable apps is a dangerous change to the ecosystem. I wonder if Facebook’s recent decision will make it harder for people visiting a friend’s page to discover new apps… if so, this is just as dangerous as a massive technological change.
I will post some other thoughts on what makes a good platform is subsequent pieces! Would love to hear thoughts. I’ve got five or six (depending on how I group it) other points I’ll share soon…