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The Demise of The Point Solution, Circa 2022

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There isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t hear companies talking about their implementation of “multiple point solutions” to meet their workplace technology requirements. It’s costly, it’s complex, and it’s ugly. The question is… why? And, is there a better way?

It seems that, traditionally, each department within an organization purchased a solution based on their own needs and requirements without visibility into other departments’ needs or the company’s requirements as a whole. Individual solutions were deployed for space management, work order management, lease administration, visitor management, energy and sustainability management, workplace mobile apps, and more – check the boxes. Silos within the organization caused silos in deployment of solutions. Or, multiple service providers brought different technology tools for fulfillment of their services for the client. As a result, companies are now left managing a mess of legacy point solutions (and sometimes even multiple solutions for the same functionality) that they are now forced to stitch together through APIs to mimic an integrated platform. And the problem becomes even more challenging when attempting to integrate more and more solutions over time, instead of starting with an integrated platform to begin with.

So, let’s take a look at both approaches and analyze the pros and cons of each. I understand the desire to have “best-in-class” solutions for each function. As a stand-alone solution, one product may meet or exceed the functional requirements and the user experience desired by the organization. The point solution approach also provides flexibility to upgrade or replace individual components over time without impacting other solutions (except for having to rebuild the integrations). It also prevents you from being locked into one vendor to fulfill your workplace technology requirements. Given the massive consolidation in the space with mergers and acquisitions, multiple solutions reduces the risk of being dependent on a single platform.

Now the downside is the challenge with multiple solutions comes in when you try to integrate them, then need to share data seamlessly with other solutions – or worse, when you have multiple applications collecting different sources of truth for the same data set (i.e. occupancy data) and you don’t know which one is really accurate. When you are mapping thousands of data points among dozens of platforms, the possibility of failure of the integration is high. If you change the name of a field in one platform, it breaks the integration to multiple other platforms… it’s a domino effect and it’s costly. Maintaining APIs and having technical personnel dedicated to monitoring and managing the integration layers is a labor-intensive effort.

Further, the functionality of a fully integrated solution cannot be matched by the point solution approach. Many companies have attempted to solve this problem by developing a horizontal integration using a central API integration platform. This works to a certain extent – but what this doesn’t provide, is the automation and “decision” layer that a vertically integrated solution provides. While the data may be mapped from one solution to another, there needs to be an action layer where automated processes can take place and data is normalized from one system to another. That’s where the value of an open IWMS clearly comes into play.

But today’s IWMS is not yesterday’s IWMS. The definition of “integrated” has changed. Integrated by design, yes – but now fully integrated into the building itself by leveraging existing systems such as the BMS, lighting, environmental, security, sensors, etc. There are few restrictions to what today’s IWMS can support. If different regions, individual sites, or silos of the business are using different tools, an IWMS can help to consolidate data for global reporting and data ownership. Open platform, integrate with anything, integrate with everything, core solution… that’s the new IWMS. The benefits of today’s IWMS inherent in a single solution can’t be replicated from one platform to another: data analytics, correlations among multiple data sets, sequences of operations, single pane of glass reporting, logic-based decision trees… the list goes on.

Most importantly, if you calculate the cost aspect of paying for multiple platforms, integration layers, building and maintaining APIs, ongoing management and maintenance, etc., compared to a single core platform – the numbers speak for themselves. Add up the individual annual license costs of each point solution, plus the API integration layer, the add-ons and the cost of personnel… versus the cost of a single solution with a few third-party integrations. From a pure business standpoint, there’s a strong argument for making the move.

Also, if you look at the consolidation movement in the industry, you have to recognize a pattern of amalgamation of point solutions into integrated solutions. Companies that used to just offer temperature control now offer energy management, room booking, wayfinding, and more. Visitor management platforms have been acquired by global real estate companies and combined with occupancy detection solutions. Companies that used to only do lighting controls have been bought by companies that offer more than just a single smart building solution. Smart building companies are investing in digital workplace solutions… and the list goes on. Are you seeing the pattern?

Anyone who can remember creating spreadsheets in Lotus 1-2-3 and documents in WordPerfect knows the value of having a fully integrated solution that can perform multiple functions in a single platform. When Microsoft launched the ‘Windows’ operating system in 1987, they released a brand-new concept of multiple solutions within one tool that are able to integrate and share features and functionality. Now we enjoy the ability to share data, features, and functionality among spreadsheets, documents, presentations, calendars, email, and more – all in a single integrated platform.

So why is it that we treat workplace software differently? If you had to start today from ground zero, would you (A) implement point solutions (and then attempt to integrate them), or (B) go with a fully integrated, open platform that can grow with you over time? Will 2022 mark the demise of the point solutions?

My vote is option B… would love to hear your feedback!

Darlene Pope, President, Planon
Darlene Pope is President of Planon, North America, overseeing all aspects of business operations for the world’s leader in integrated real estate management solutions. With more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, technology, and smart building consulting, she is a globally recognized subject matter expert and visionary in the smart building industry.

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Planon is the leading global provider of Real Estate and Facility Management software that enables building and service digitalization by integrating the diverse landscape of smart building technology, business solutions and data into one source of truth and turning that into value for building owners, building users, and service providers. www.planon.com