Many of us will remember the sheer excitement of a Saturday afternoon when we scooped up our favourite sweets and let them drop in the bag before getting it weighed to see how much it cost. The great thing about the Pick n’ Mix concept meant we could customise our bag of treats the way we liked; getting straight to what it was we really wanted.

Back then shoppers were delighted with the selection available and the best part was it was completely their choice what they decided to pay for.

The software market today is much like the Pick n’ Mix stand, it offers businesses plenty of choice in terms of product, specific feature sets and the pricing model. There’s something for every business need. Whilst this gives organisations the luxury of choice, software providers are of course trying their best to encourage, or impose customer loyalty with the likes of packaged solutions and restrictions around interoperability.

Although packaged solutions may seem cost efficient at the time, businesses all too often only use a small portion of what they’ve bought and so risk losing money in the long run.

What businesses today need is an approach to ICT procurement that enables them to pick and choose the products and services that fit best with their individual business needs. It’s likely that the business will win out in the push for freedom of choice. In today’s increasingly mobile and social environment the ‘one size fits all’ approach no longer has a future. Software providers will need to bend to the will of their customer in order to succeed and as a result will need to crack the issue of interoperability.

A central part of the push for interoperability is the need to address data flow across the full software spectrum. There’s an increasing demand for a top down, data flow governance that is prepared for digital rights management, mobile device management and the handling of data from unknown destinations. Moreover, businesses need the kind of enhanced interoperability testing and associated assertions that provide a clear framework for their chosen software mix.

Trends such as big data, mobile applications, cloud computing, and social collaboration mean that there’s a growing need to focus attention for true flexibility, whilst managing the growing complexity of data flow – whatever application or system it has come from and is going to. How can organisations govern a flow of data across the Pick n’ Mix stand of software and secure its journey to endpoints that they don’t control?

To answer simply, businesses need to focus on protecting data as it flows through the business ecosystem. That means having the right monitoring infrastructure in place that also keeps data managers, both at the technical and business level, informed about the implementation progress as well as the metrics related to the production of the flow of data.

Of course, it is also essential that organisations are geared up and prepared to protect their data with the likes of enforced protocol-independent security policies at the enterprise boundary. In a journey that can seem like an assault course, whatever the mix of software being used, it is essential that businesses control, secure, optimise and extend the enterprise edge so that they can enjoy the benefits of sharing or consuming public or private cloud services, whilst enabling the power of BYOD in a secure and managed way

Just like the old fashioned Pick n’ Mix stand, the face of ICT procurement is changing and software providers need to go back to basics by adapting an approach that gives businesses the freedom to purchase tailored, customised solutions. At the same time, they need to ensure that they are helping businesses to manage the changes that this will bring for their data flow.

The corporate data journey is becoming more fluid than ever and software providers need to support businesses facing this challenge by offering truly flexible and manageable solutions that talk easily to others. The pressure is on the tech industry to play nice and work together to share success.