The promise of one technology system that will solve all problems has been bought and sold by tech vendors and procurers alike. But the future is more likely one of interoperability.
The search for a complete tech platform that will solve every problem a business faces (at least in one domain) has been undertaken by many businesses over the years. Pursued through either procuring big shiny tech platforms from third parties or building a bespoke systems from the ground up, it’s a dream that has been kept alive and still enchants those who want one, single answer.
Except the future is more likely one where system interoperability reigns supreme.
Interoperability refers to the basic ability of computers and systems to connect with each other and easily share data and information, regardless of whether they’ve been developed by different organisations or even operate in different industries. They just talk to each other. They just work. Together, they can become enablers (not costly hurdles) on the way to achieving a vision.
Businesses will need the power of interoperability on their side in future. That is, if they want to be able to navigate the unpredictable ups and downs of their industry while forging a path that meets the needs of their business and customers. With technologies in sectors like EdTech expanding in number and function at a very fast rate, organisations need to be embrace being evermore agile.
All for one, not one for all
The one platform or system dream – while still alluring and even desirable to a certain extent from a few different angles – still fails to measure up with the demands of the present and a future. With the heat of change being lit under organisations and the pressure for technology to deliver, putting all your eggs in one basket will become more risky and less effective as technology evolves.
Here’s a few reasons why interoperability will help businesses meet the challenges of tomorrow.
1. The world is changing
Markets like education are evolving and being disrupted at a pace that can be disquieting for many. With new competitors, business models and modes of operating emerging out of both crisis and new opportunity, businesses right across the market are having to adapt at a faster rate to change, and need genuine partners able to help them evolve through great advice, support and technology.
A single tech provider or platform is unlikely to be able to keep pace with this change at a level of quality high enough to meet all requirements on a constantly evolving basis. Though they can attempt to front-run trends with their roadmap, build new solutions into their platform , or hoover up new tech through acquisition, a closed off approach will end up limiting capacity for change.
2. The need for innovation
The education technology marketplace is exploding at 16% year-on-year and is expected to increase to a $404 billion global market by 2025. With more money flowing, more creativity and more opportunity, there is now an extended universe of technologies right along the end-to-end student journey, that is difficult for even those in the industry to fully comprehend or capitalise on.
The benefits flowing from this kaleidoscope of technologies is difficult for any single provider to compete with. Instead, an interoperability vision encourages tech companies to work together. By partnering and working with the best and most innovative technologies across the market, including in the start-up space, it becomes a mutually beneficial ecosystem rather than a walled garden.
3. Each industry is different
Large, catch-all technology systems exist that attempt to provide a solution for multiple industries in one particular business function. Designed for a broad business market and solving problems that are common across these markets, they can often emerge as leaders in that area, and can indeed be valuable allies to businesses who have generic problems that can be solved simply and easily.
But with these systems comes an inevitable compromise. Because every industry has important differences (from their business needs and opportunities right through to how they interact with regulators and their end customers), one system will never be able to provide a solution that is tailored enough for any one particular industry to support an industry holistically as it evolves.
4. Each business is different
One-size-fits-all thinking may suit the technology vendor, but it won’t necessarily fit the buyer or user. Single platform solutions claim to meet all client needs only because they treat all clients the same. The reality is each education provider is different, with their own needs, ways of working, customers and culture, and not being able to influence a big tech vendor can be frustrating.
A technology partner sees things differently. They know they probably aren’t going to be able to service the full spectrum of needs of all of their customers, but are willing to do the work of bringing in technologies that will support these customers with their needs, so they can then plug and play them along the student journey in ways that suits their own business needs and trajectory.
5. The future is about students (not us)
The future education technology ecosystem should be defined by how it services its shared customers (students) and achieves its shared outcomes (results, completions, employment). Rather than tech companies being defined by capturing and holding on to clients, they should ideally be offering the best tech to educators to support them in achieving the results we all want to see.
Interoperability makes that possible. With the ability of applications and systems to integrate and talk to each other with more and more fluency over time, more innovative technologies can come together in the hands of an education provider to be deployed throughout the student journey. While it may not be the power of one, it will be a way that is better than the sum of its parts.