With the massive adoption of smartphones and tablets over the past decade, not to mention the spread of remote tools during the pandemic, businesses and consumers are more tech-savvy and dependent than ever. This poses both an opportunity and a challenge for corporate leaders and CIOs.
In this new hyper-digital reality, every company—no matter the industry—needs to deliver exceptional technical experiences through online and mobile platforms. If CIOs don’t have a digital strategy that prioritizes developing customized software the right way, their business will lose customers and fall behind.
Off-the-shelf software simply isn’t the answer and is unable to meet this demand, as it offers the same solutions to all customers in a world where every company has a tech-savvy consumer base that expects unique experiences. Major software vendors that churn out products at a massive scale cannot offer products and services that allow for that level of customization—it’s not profitable or feasible for them to do so.
Off-the-Shelf Software Fallacy
Unfortunately, the pressure to launch new digital apps quickly leads many businesses to buy layer upon layer of off-the-shelf SaaS products that are designed for a mass audience—not designed specifically for them or their customers. This all prevents businesses from optimizing for and adapting to changing customer needs and new business opportunities while creating a host of new problems:
- Adopting the same off-the-shelf solutions as every other company limits customization and leads to lost competitive advantage. Your competitors are buying the same solutions, remember.
- Deploying multiple off-the-shelf solutions from different vendors is a complexity nightmare, with entangled architectures, code and processes that increase maintenance and management time, and crush productivity. The more time spent maintaining your architecture means less time developing outstanding customer and employee experiences.
- Integrating disjointed systems takes unique time and talent all on its own, which is costly, hard to find and not a scalable resources model.
- Vendor end-of-life solutions put the burden on the customer who has to rethink their IT strategy down the line and often undergo complex and expensive migration projects.
All of these problems will worsen as time goes by and undermine innovation by consuming scarce resources and leading to burnout in IT departments.
These vulnerabilities won’t go away on their own; in fact, they will continue to rise to the surface at a time when speed and differentiation are critical to survival. By contrast, when businesses build custom software the right way and for the long term, their IT teams can continuously make changes based on evolving customer needs and market opportunities.
Building it Right: Galp and Humana
This offers a massive competitive advantage. For example, Portuguese energy company Galp Energia created an app in the first year of the pandemic that allowed its customers to switch energy providers at gas station kiosks in under three minutes. With a small team of developers, they harnessed the power of optical character recognition, machine learning, Adobe Sign digital signature, OneTrust to record customer consents, Galp’s custom CRM platform and Azure Active Directory B2C for digital identity authentication and integrated them into an intuitive application that minimizes data entry and removes most of the friction in their customer onboarding process.
Now, Galp customers can sign up for green electricity and gas services 90% faster by scanning an old utility bill. Galp will continue to collect user analytics and customer feedback to continuously iterate on the app and improve conversions on its one-of-a-kind service that none of its competitors offer.
In the case of Humana, the insurance giant built COVID-19 test finders in a fraction of the time expected using in-house resources and a modern application platform. It replaced a cumbersome spreadsheet with a web application that allowed customer service reps to pull up test location information and rolled out a public app that helps people locate testing sites on Google Maps-like maps. Both services, developed in a month, proved incredibly valuable to employees and customers alike during a difficult time.
By ditching solutions that limit differentiation, Galp and Humana kicked off a new approach to build for the future they want, not a future imposed on them. Many business leaders incorrectly think it’s too expensive or too complicated to do something similar; they overlook the power of modern approaches to application development.
Only businesses that take ownership of their software innovation will survive and thrive in this quickly evolving world.