A month or so ago I wrote a post critical of the integration one vendor had made with the Google apps marketplace. Yesterday I was perusing Twitter when I came across this tweet:

I’m actually a user of Xero for three of my businesses, so I was looking forward to seeing what their inclusion on the marketplace would actually for for me. Calendar integration maybe, or email, or at least single sign on.

I clicked the link and was taken to a Google Apps Marketplace page which was sadly devoid of any link that would actually provision the service – it seems the page is no more than a shop front listing with a link to Xero’s own page to purchase.

I have to say I was pretty disappointed and wrote as much to Xero CEO Rod Drury. His reply was short and sweet, he said that:

Step one. Its a pain to register. Not interested in SSO. Opens a security issue and we have a banking ecosystem to keep happy.

I quizzed Drury on what he actually meant by it being a pain to register – he was a little vague on this so I moved on. Interestingly enough though, I spoke to a couple of other vendors on the marketplace who told me that the registration is a form with nine or so fields on it, followed by another form with 15 or so fields to list an actual product. Not overly onerous.

Anyway, I was more interested in the alleged security issues that Drury feels single sign on create. I tried to get an indication from Drury as to what issues SSO would create (bearing in mind that SSO is used extensively in the largest of enterprises for both on-premise and cloud based applications). His response was that:

I don’t write code anymore. But obviously it opens another trust service. As we are connected to banks, we need to ensure xero is very secure.

Which speaks to some perceived, if not actual concerns. Something that I understand a vendor that deals with banks on one hand, and accountants on the other (not two of the most forward thinking classes of entity know to personkind) needs to think about.

More broadly though it isn’t fantastic for Google to have lots of vendors listing on the marketplace who aren’t actually integrated with them. It makes the place a little too busy, lessens the potential value to end users and, at some level, brings into question the marketplace model.

I put this to Scott McMullan, Enterprise lead at Google, who responded by saying that:

folks who integrate with us (at some level) are free to use the marketplace and we’re happy if they get some benefit deeper integration typically leads to more benefits but it’s their choice

Which is a nice on-brand reply, but I’d be surprised if McMullan isn’t as frustrated as I am at the hesitancy some vendors show to deeply integrate on the marketplace.

App stores have a due role – one is vendor-centric and that is enabling solutions to be found. The other is user-centric and that is giving customers the ability to drive benefits from integrations. Any marketplace that is weighted too heavily towards the vendor perspective runs the risk of missing its true potential.

 

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

7 Comments
  • Ben just wrote… Integration is Good… When You Actually Do It (Part Two) http://diversity.net.nz/integration-is-g

  • I agree with Rod on the SSO issue. Xero needs to make sure that their login process is 100% secure, and if they allowed Google Accounts to sign in to Xero automatically, they need to be sure that Google’s sign on process is as secure as Xero’s.

    For example, you can stay signed in to Google Apps for days as long as you don’t close your browser, whereas Xero will time out after a short period of time. That alone means that Xero will be decreasing their security by allowing SSO. And I’m sure there are other examples where Google’s sign on process is less secure than Xero.

  • Ben, that’s a pretty uninformed post. Xero has had deep Google integration from very early on. All our reports export seamlessly to docs. Of course Google market place is just a shop front right now. That’s how most are using it. Most integrations in there are trivial. We’re not seeing huge take up of Google apps – yet.

    SSO opens up a major new risk surface. Because we are connected to Banks, who audit us, we just don’t want to go there yet.

    What Google is doing is exciting but they have a long way to go. Our current level of involvement reflects the investment we want to make right now.

    Hope you enjoyed the Koolaid 🙂

    Rod

    • Rod – thanks for the reply. I know you have good integration with Google docs – I’ve used it extensively myself. My comment is more about the obvious benefits of a deep integration with email, contacts and calendar – areas that Xero could really synergise with Google apps.

      I disagree that most integrations are trivial – you should really take a look at what products like ManyMoon or billFLO are doing using Gmail contextual gadgets directly within Gmail – that really is the power of integration.

      Oh and re the Koolaid – yeah, it was great to spend time at IO last week – but I’m also an eternal realist..

  • I agree with you both.

    Ben, this surface “integration” – really just another shop front to show off your wares – is muddying in the whole marketplace.

    Rod, yup, those banks need to be kept on your side with the product you guys have.

    My question to Rod then is – WHY? Why did you think it would benefit Xero to put the product on the Google Apps marketplace?

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