We’ve been discussing a hybrid approach to B2B integration strategies here recently. The official definition of hybrid is a something containing mixed elements (or for the animal lovers amongst you, a “cross breed”). The reason for choosing a hybrid approach, in my mind, is to get the best of each of these mixed elements. If we consider the car example, if I buy a hybrid car should I get two power units, an electric and a petrol one? The quiet and smoothness of an electric motor combined with the flexibility offered by a traditional, but perhaps smaller, petrol engine seems to be the real benefit. Yet, the conclusion on the discussions here seems to agree that a hybrid approach always brings with it compromise, and often controversy. After all, back to the car example, the weight of the batteries reduces fuel consumption and hybrid cars are pretty expensive. So do you and the environment really benefit from driving a Prius? I think the answer is… it depends.
This got me thinking on B2B. Could a hybrid approach fuel not just our cars but also the world of B2B integration? Where is the value in a hybrid approach to B2B? Well, let’s look at it – if we think of a combination of “on-premise” (software) and “cloud” (service), that’s just the battery and petrol engine argument again. On-premise and cloud are merely the power units or delivery mechanisms. Where do we get the B2B equivalent of quiet, smooth and flexible?
At a generic level, I guess most people in B2B would want something like this. Speed, security, reliability, ease of implementation, resilience, robustness, accuracy, best of breed, industry proven and, cheap, now please! So, as you’re probably realising, finding the best hybrid B2B solution set (in the real world) is a little more complicated, with compromise and likely controversy along the way.
If a hybrid B2B strategy is your chosen path, via the different worlds of “on-premise” and “cloud or managed service”, what does this really mean? My initial thought was to list the B2B characteristics outlined above, such as speed and security and score each for “on premise” or “cloud”. But the more I discussed and debated this with colleagues, the harder it became. Can it really be faster to develop an on-premise solution versus Software as a Service? Is “on-premise” more resilient than “cloud”? And is “best of breed” better behind the firewall or outside it? What is for sure is everyone has an opinion – we all had examples of slow, insecure, and unreliable that we could quote, as well as fast and secure to suit our stance.
And then, it dawned on us. This wasn’t just about our attempts to rationalise the pros and cons of the different elements of a hybrid B2B strategy. The interesting thing was the fact that we were actually having the debate. And, what was becoming clear in our debate was that a hybrid B2B approach has great potential, offers choices and flexibility, and depending on your B2B integration needs it can be deployed in different ways. So, we managed to agree on something. A hybrid approach is a meaningful solution for B2B and should be considered.
Clearly, this isn’t enough of a conclusion for you, so in my next blog I will put some more fat on the bones of this debate. But, in the meantime, please chip in with your comments and experiences?