Planned Isolation: Why Walled Gardens Don't Work in 2020

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Avoiding social situations.


Inability to meet work obligations.


Since the term was coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, burnout has reached epidemic proportions.

As of 2019, 50% of people reported having experienced burnout.

Burnout doesn’t just happen from being at work—it also has to do with how we work.

You might not realize it, but the majority of people reading this actually spend a whole hour every single day navigating between different applications just to get their jobs done.

We can’t get any deep work done, we’re distracted by notifications, and we’re frustrated by the information we can’t find.

Graph showing that 73% of companies spend more than 1 hour a day navigating between workplace applications

All that software that’s been built to make our lives better?

It’s doing just the opposite.

A lack of integration—or “walled gardens”—among the tools we use every day is hurting our efficiency, our effectiveness, and even our sanity.

So, let’s take a deeper look at walled gardens, why it’s time for them to crumble in 2020, and why ecosystems are taking their place to empower companies to work in a way that’s smarter and better for employee health.

What “Walled Gardens” Are and How They Stunt Business Success

In the technology world, a “walled garden” is a software suite that limits what information can be shared outside its “walls” and which tools can be integrated into it. While the hope is that this practice encourages continuity, efficiency, and security; it’s hard to see it as much more than a software company’s play to keep their clients’ loyalty—and money.

It’s especially inefficient in today’s world, where businesses use all kinds of technology to get different tasks done.

In fact, just between 2016 and 2018, businesses in industries ranging from healthcare to retail, manufacturing, media, entertainment, and beyond grew the number of apps they use at work by 24%.


Because specialized tools are often the best tools for the job. But, they come at a cost—damaged productivity, difficulty tracking business-wide metrics, and the inability to control your own data.

Drain Productivity

In the typical enterprise, employees use as many as 60 different applications.

Seven out of every ten workers toggle back and forth between apps as often as 10 times every single hour—which adds up to about an hour of wasted time each day.

Given that fact that productivity drops each time they have to switch tasks, the need to switch tools causes a majority of workers to avoid doing a task altogether, and over 30% of workers say app switching causes them to lose their train of thought—it’s easy to see that the endless toggling created by walled gardens is a major detriment to productivity.

Make it Impossible to Accurately Track Metrics and ROI

We can’t help but agree with Maggie Clapperton’s assessment that “... the number of platforms you are expected to master is bordering on ridiculous …”

And that doesn’t just go for the marketers she’s referencing; it goes for pretty much anyone who needs to track and collate metrics across various platforms.

Walled software keeps important campaign information siloed, so it’s nearly impossible to make informed, business-wide ROI assessments and investment decisions.

Hold Your Data Hostage

One of the sneakiest tricks that walled software pulls is holding your data hostage.

While you’re welcome to “take advantage” of their sophisticated programs to build and improve consumer or market data, you’re not so welcome to control or extract any of it.

Of course not, as that would allow you the freedom to replicate your success outside of their expensive, tightly-controlled silos!

But enough about the downsides of walled gardens—let’s get to knocking ‘em down.

The Benefits of Knocking Down Walled Gardens and Integrating with the Business Ecosystem

In a report aptly titled “Ecosystems: The cornerstone of future growth,” Accenture Strategy found that executives in all kinds of industries are already considering ecosystem-based business models.

In fact, nearly half are actively seeking ecosystem integration while another 24% are at least “interested” in the concept.

But what is this “ecosystem” exactly?

A business ecosystem is basically a network of integrated partners—suppliers, vendors, distributors, manufacturers, etc.—and the tools each uses to get their jobs done. Just like in nature, each member of a business ecosystem plays its part to achieve a larger goal from which everyone benefits.

Business ecosystems are a relatively new arrangement that has sprung from the ever-increasing need for differentiation.

Truthfully, businesses have always pieced together tools, people, and processes to make their own businesses successful. But, today, it’s almost impossible to create these systems independently and provide the unique experiences partners and customers demand. So they integrate into an ecosystem of partners and tools that help cut customer churn, boost revenue, and maybe even dip into a new business model or two.

Illustration showing how executives feel about ecosystem partners

To participate in a business ecosystem, an organization must be able to connect with and exchange data through lots of different platforms. With walled gardens, this simply can not work.

But, without walls between their systems, businesses can experience the many benefits of participating within an ecosystem—a few of which we’ll explore right now.

Innovation Through Expansion Into New Business Models

Ecosystems encourage organizations to become disruptors by innovating on their business models.

Accenture found that a whopping 40% of businesses are already engaged in building ecosystems outside of their industries to pursue fresh markets and consumers.

And since all the systems for integration are already in place, onboarding new business partners, adopting new software, participating in new business models, and getting to revenue can be achieved faster than ever before.

More Competitive, Relevant Business Posture

We mentioned it earlier, but differentiation is necessary to remain competitive and relevant in the modern business environment—especially considering that one of the biggest threats businesses fear is new competition from outside their industry.

To preempt that threat, businesses have to be prepared to participate in ecosystems to maintain relevance and competitiveness.

Better Real-Time Data Visibility

Making business decisions based on outdated data can, at best, cause rework and, at worst, have terrible consequences.

Remember how walled gardens lock data into siloes that make it impossible to control or gain the most value from?

Well, ecosystems do the opposite of that.

Integrated platforms mean data from sales, finance, and other departments is always timely and accurate. This consistent connectivity ensures employees are well-informed and empowered to make decisions based on accurate data—data that they don’t have to waste an hour switching between apps to access!

Increased Efficiency Across Systems

Ecosystem-friendly software is modern software, and modern software is (very often) automated software. And what does automated software mean? Increased efficiency across systems.

Integrating with business ecosystem software empowers your team to automate all kinds of repetitive, manual tasks. This allows workers to concentrate on deep work instead of logging into 6 systems to get one thing done—ultimately boosting efficiency and productivity.

See It In Action: Ecosystem-Driven Software Encourages Firms to Build Their Best Workflow

Animated graphic showing Dropbox and their various ecosystem partners

We get that it can be difficult to understand an abstract concept like “ecosystem software” without an example, so let’s look to Dropbox for one.

Dropbox bills itself as a “smart workspace” that unites all business content on one platform while enabling organizations to use the tools they want to use. It’s a great example of un-walled software that empowers businesses to integrate different technologies to build their ideal workflows—even when some of those technologies are competitors.

With ecosystem-first software like Dropbox, it’s not about what’s best for the provider—it’s about what’s best for the consumer, the business user, and its partners.

“We’re expanding our partner ecosystem with best-in-class workflow integrations to address the gaps between apps. By connecting Dropbox to leading workflow tools including Zapier, Nintex, Workato,, K2, and Cloudpipes, individuals and teams alike can keep their work flowing.” Dropbox blog

What Will You Do to Topple Walled Software Today?

Procrastination, distraction, frustration, lost productivity, inefficiency, and burnout. 

These weren’t the goal when business software burst onto the scene—but unfortunately they’ve become the new norm as employees are forced to switch between each “walled garden” to get their jobs done.

Sidestep burnout and other issues by toppling walled software with the adoption of ecosystem-friendly tools that enable innovation through expansion, grow your competitive positioning, provide real-time data visibility, and increase efficiency across your business.

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