#28 Vendor-locks in data world

A vendor-lock, a piece of a puzzle that is moved from place to place when building an IT infrastructure or digitizing a business model. Now we go through a little bit of different ideas about the vendor-lock and how it should be approached. Considering vendor-locks in general in every digital-related decision or acquisition is vital to ensure the best ability to change. And since change is the only thing that is certain, you need to make sure that your ability to change and interchangeability is maintained.

Let's start with technology. When choosing each IoT sensor, it is clear that some choice of supplier and selected technologies must be made. However, if you think about it, how many replacement or better technologies or hardware have come to mobile phones or smartwatches in recent years, for example? This pace is accelerating all the time and since no one has a crystal ball, it is clear that the only thing that should be done is to choose a replaceable sensor, device or system. Interchangeability multiplies when a supplier uses common standards, neither their own and universal technologies nor their own customizers.

The same line of thinking applies to network technologies or data transfer. For example, have the restrictions imposed by different communication technologies “forced” you into certain hardware choices, or does it set boundaries (technical or cost-wise) for data collection? At the network level, there are several different choices, none of which will suit every case and need, so you too need to build an infrastructure where multiple network technologies fit into the same environment and you can seamlessly integrate newer technologies into the same entity. For example, 6G networks aren’t as far away as you might think.

Next, you should consider data models where data is used, transferred, modeled, and stored. If the information to be collected and produced cannot be easily (or even completely without manual work) linked to other data that your company uses and utilizes, this will lead to data silos and costly utilization. Therefore, it is worthwhile for system vendors to evaluate also the data models to be utilized and their standards.

You can probably already guess that cloud service providers, data-using applications, and expertise are also 100% things to consider through interchangeability and vendor lock. If the systems and know-how used are only tied to certain solutions or brands, it is easy to end up expanding these entities that increase the supplier lock, which is understandable if the experts prefer what they know best or what they like most. But is this often an advantage for the company?

All of these significantly affect your ability to enter the data economy while keeping up with technological progress.

Since decisions have to be made, it must then also be possible to have confidence that interchangeability and the ability to change remain. Technology and application development can always be purchased, but the actual cost should also include what the future purchase will cost when in a few years there is a better equivalent available or, for example, if the regulation changes, making replacement even mandatory. Not to mention the rapidly changing requirements of customers.