Ben Teplitzky, Product

Entering into a contract with a software vendor shouldn’t be a life sentence

Like people, companies grow and their needs evolve. Also like people, sometimes they just don’t “click” with a partner anymore and need a change. All the time I talk with customers who feel thoroughly constrained by what they can and cannot do with their existing systems and tools. In fact, managers are frequently navigating important strategic initiatives around suboptimal processes that they’ve come to perceive as permanent. While lifetime technology provider commitments may have been viewed as necessary under past conditions, today’s modern and flexible solutions make it so you have the option to break-up with a partner who’s not meeting your needs.

There’s a lot of talk about “open standards” and some confusion over what the phrase does and does not mean. Here’s a quick primer on some high frequency questions I get from across the ecosystem:

  1. What does “open standards” mean? Simply put, “open standards” implies platform interoperability with any component of the tech stack, systems, or data sources. 

  2. Why should “open standards” be important to my company? Given the rapidly changing media buying ecosystem and the scale of software investments, a business has to be able to easily get data in and out of any platform or component of the stack. Vendors can no longer lean on siloing as a strategy and companies should demand interoperability. So in effect, open standards serves as an insurance policy that your technology providers have to continually compete for your business or risk losing it to a competitor who offers better commercial terms, more flexibility, or expanded service and NOT by holding your data hostage.

  3. Does “open” mean free access to data and infrastructure?  No — and for good reason.  If you want your vendors to continue to innovate, iterate and maintain these integrations—which often require significant financial investment and risk—they have to have a way to be compensated in return.

So, if open standards seem like “table stakes” for today’s business landscape—why doesn’t everyone support them? The unfortunate truth is that even the companies with the best intentions of open standards can find it  inconvenient, expensive, or simply unattainable at scale if underlying architecture isn’t modular nor flexible. 

Thankfully, this is NOT the case at Hudson MX. Embracing open standards is so central to our mission and values that our AgencyCloud™ Open API Suite was conceived of and developed in lockstep with the BuyerAssist™ platform. Since our inception, we’ve envisioned a “healthy and fair ecosystem”. Idealism is a great and necessary start, but the vision can only be realized if the “pipes” and protocols are open to absolutely everyone who works with agencies. 

Our commitment to open standards was written into the Hudson MX DNA from the start. Co-founder and CEO JT Batson has been a big believer in the importance of open standards for his entire career. As an early employee of Mozilla he saw firsthand the role the W3C ( played in defining the standards that made the growth of Firefox—and ultimately the free and open internet—possible. Please don’t tell him I said this, but it’s pretty cool that he was a part of such a pioneering initiative of the open internet. 

Values are a great start for sure, but let’s be honest: talk is cheap. What does this look like in actuality? Well for one, we’re extremely involved with the TIP Initiative. The opportunity to work with the rest of the broadcast community to help establish a new set of shared standards is a real privilege. 

Additionally, on my team we have four rules to ensure that “open” is more than just a buzzword: 

  • If there are existing industry standards, all products we build work with them.

  • We actively engage with the standards bodies to improve existing standards to meet current and future business needs.

  • If there is no existing standard out there already, whatever format we use is made available to any relevant standards bodies. 

  • All components of the entire HMX platform itself must be built with the same APIs that we publish, to ensure that we're always aligned with our partners today and in the future. 

In the end, open standards and protocols are good for all local media ecosystem constituents: 

  • Buyers and agencies can make strategic decisions solely based on what is in the best interest of their clients, NOT what their current tech allows  

  • Sellers have the option of boosting profitability by establishing direct system to system communication with buyers as well as automation   

  • Data companies and technology vendors can compete on their merits and the value they bring agencies and brands 

The speed of technological innovation is knocking down antiquated walled gardens with wrecking balls of data. Companies win today by innovating quicker, thinking better, and competing in open forums. The openness of the modern business landscape appeals to my sense of fairness, efficiency, and inclusivity. On a daily basis, creating the AgencyCloud™ Open API Suite is a challenge I look forward to solving. It involves working closely with every corner of the ecosystem— from agencies to sellers to standards bodies, and others—and figuring out elegant and forward thinking solutions that will make sure that agencies have the freedom to choose partners that work for them and break up with ones that don’t. Just no ghosting...