Custom software offers a way to create a competitive edge while allowing organizations to differentiate how they serve their stakeholders. Top examples of tailor made software includes big and little known companies like McDonalds, Google, and Apple to create industry leadership. Learn why organization should consider adopting leading practices in conjunction with tailor made software to create a lasting competitive advantage helping them to : lead the market, be more efficient, and create a more innovative culture.
Whats is Custom Software, Bespoke Software, and Tailor Made Software?
Custom, bespoke, and tailor made software are all equivalent to one another, the terms refer to software that is made from scratch, with the purposes of helping teams do better work. It allows an organization to define its’ own functionality and end-user experience rather than complying to conventions or simply best practices which is adhered to by a set of industry players.
Despite the subtle misnomer custom software is often times not completely custom as the leading software organization often use as a foundation or code a software development kit or a code base to start from. For example if someone was building a house it would be a waste of time to create a custom tile for each square inch of flooring, rather tiles are created from moulds and used throughout the house for consistency and cost savings.
Custom software can also be incorporated into packaged software as customizations, which would need to be maintained as part of future upgrades. Where as a pure custom or bespoke software offers greater flexibility and control providing the application was well written.
Degrees of Tailored Software
1- Fully custom (legacy): this type of software is completely made from scratch, and is typically used to describe legacy software systems before the use of code libraries and APIs were available
2- Modern Internal Applications: refers to pre-developed software libraries like an SDK or development framework, being utilized to reduce repeat code and focusing on instead developing code that serves unique business requirements. This type of custom software is what most modern organizations use.
3- Systems of Custom Software: organization may often use external custom software developed by other organization to aid in its own processing capabilities. This is called systems of custom software where large programming libraries are being use to create an application.
Examples of Tailor Made Software
1 – McDonalds uses custom software to lead their industry
McDonalds remains a leader in their market by creating a simple and intuitive system, allowing employees with minimal training to quickly learn and become effective team members. By having choosing to invest in custom technology, they doubled down on POS technology by being the first fast food chain in Canada to offer self serve kiosks nationally (source).
The self-serve kiosk is just one way McDonalds is moving towards being more customer centric, a buzz word often touted. But behind this term requires significant investment and discipline.
During a press event in New York McDonalds’ CEO Easterbrook said
“for the best part of our 60 years we’ve asked customers to fit around our business model.” Now the company is adapting its “business to fit around customers.” (source)
Custom software allows an organization’s service model to fit around the people it serves rather than the other way around. For organizations who are intent on being customer-centric or agile, this is where the talk meets walk.
2 – How Amazon uses its Web Technology to Surpass the Retail Industry
Amazon has long had its’ website which once was solely dedicated to books, then slowly branching out to all products from food to apparel. Amazon leads by understanding what customers want and as well as pairing it with stellar customer service and delivery turn around times. It uses its. technology to collect data on product preferences of consumers, while also creating a hassle and risk free online buying experience. Returns can be automatically processed with limited hassle and no customer support line calls necessary.
After Amazon became a leading eCommerce retailer, Amazon started its own business line selling its technology expertise in storage, data process, and eCommerce to other businesses. Now after establishing itself in eCommerce it now has its own lines of products as well as owning physical stores from Whole Foods.
3 – UBER Disrupts the Ride Hailing Industry with its Software Engineering
UBER has been relentless in its’ campaigns for every major metropolitan city, creating a tailored made application to provide a seamless experience for driver and rider in their ecosystem, all orchestrated by an intelligent dispatching system. What once was the job of a human at the centre of connecting a customer who needed a ride, was taken over by an intelligent system that matched available drivers to ride hailers. This resulted in UBER having 76% of marketshare in the US (source).
Key technology features:
- Navigation and guidance systems for drivers
- Ability to find a ride immediately or schedule for convenience
- Automated pricing for competitive ride fares
4 – Netflix Becomes the Defacto Standard in Paid Video Streaming
It’s hard to imagine that Netflix was once woo’ing buyers for its struggling business which included suitors like BlockBuster (source). Netflix as a result of major self-produced hits like House of Cards, Stranger Things, and Jessica Jones continues to innovate with custom software and technology innovations. Some of the major strides Netflix has made is the delivery of box office and cult hits nearly world wide at prices that are less than a single movie ticket. Some of its technological strides include:
- Content art customization to increase viewership
- Content suggestion based on what’s already been watched
- Japanese subtitle generation
- Back end technology to make the viewing experience seamless across devices
But ultimately Netflix is great because its custom video platform allows it to collect reams of data to understand viewing preferences, to yet again, help it to better serve its customers than anyone else. Netflix even publishes its technology innovations and data findings on a medium blog which has 50 articles an counting.
5 – How Google is Still Using Custom Software to still lead the Search Game
There are names that have faded into search engine history like: Meta Crawler, Ask Jeeves, and AltaVista for those who were around for the early days of high speed internet. Now Google is the defacto standard in search boasting around 60% market share (source). Initially Google was able to build trust of users to provide them with content they were looking for by using their feedback and responses to the displayed results. Depending on whether the result Google would consider relevant to a user’s search answered their question or not, Google’s search application would be more likely to show the result to another person who would later search . Over time this helped Google create a robust and vast search result listing, that far exceeded the other search engines at the time which relied more on text based search rather than customer’s intrinsic feedback.
6 – How EA Uses Custom Code to Produce Games and Empower Acquired Studios to Work TogetherEA developed a proprietary gaming engine called Frostbite which was comprised of custom code to drive its next generation of flagship titles as well as be the platform for acquired EA gaming studies to harmonize innovation across its portfolio. To date EA has used the incarnations of the Frostbite platform to ship 30 games and counting across multiple gaming platforms. Given EA’s acquisition growth strategy the Frostbite engine is helping the game studio differentiate by creating a common language for newly inducted organizations to leverage and collaborate on projects (source).
7 – Telus Uses Custom High Performance Workforce Solution
Telus created a workforce management platform that included total learning, performance management, and succession planning to name a few. The system at Telus was recognized as an award winning solution (source) and subsequently was made an industry leading solution adopted by many other corporations. The talent edge that Telus had ingrained into its systems and structure, helped birth new business lines like Telus Health Solutions, and Telus Business Services; while allowing the telecom to remain in top spot for fastest mobile network (source)
8 – How BlackBerry Used Custom Software to Release Proprietary Software
BlackBerry during its’ days as the leader in commercial smart phone maker utilized a a custom web-based application to garner approval and sign-off of smartphone software and operating systems. This was a tool that was used across functions from software, testers, and executives to determine ship readiness of software. The application allowed the organization to quickly gather key deliverables to determine whether software should be shipped. This allowed BlackBerry to continuously ship incremental released of their mobile phone products while working to meet the needs of careers across the globe.
9 – Crown Corporation Used World Leading Methods and Technology to Manage All Components of a Provincial Electricity Distribution Network
A provincial Crown Corporation’s mandate was to manage a multi-billion dollar portfolio of electrical distribution network. The agency created an application to predict and forecast when components in the grid would need to be replaced or repaired. It utilized globally recognized engineering practices, along with probability models to forecast scenarios using a variety of load settings on the grid. The Crown Corporation was recognized by other jurisdictions both locally and internationally for utilizing industry leading practices around the world. Part of which was its ability to bring cutting edge technology to enable leading industry practices. In this case, their custom software allowed the Crown Corporation to effectively request for funding to maintain the province’s grid while demonstrating data-driven and analytical rigour. Effectively enabling the crown corporation to regularly receive funding in the billions of dollar to sustain the crucial electric system.
10 – BlackBerry Tracks Beta Device Input Using Custom Issue Tracking Application
One of the advantages BlackBerry had in serving the professional sector is its readily accessible pool of professional resources. BlackBerry utilized a custom application suite to collect defects and malfunctioning beta devices that were being tested internally by staff. This allowed for a complete view of the number of defects being generated for devices that were getting close to launch. It also allowed quality professionals to manage select beta programs within the team while helping to isolate and flush out salient bugs on a segmented basis. This allowed BlackBerry to maintain its quality both in software and hardware despite releasing multiple smartphones annually across the globe.
11 – Professional Services Manages Global Resource Utilizing with Custom Software
A global consulting agency one application that spans the entire network of firms allows the management of all professional services resources. It utilized a single system for a manager to determine engagement assignments and to facilitate time tracking and project financials and spend. This level of integration allowed the firm to manage project risk better by understanding where resources would be billing their time, while helped maintain service for clients in recognizing any risks to project resources being assigned. One of the added advantages was that it allowed staffing requests to appear in Outlook and operated via this common interface that all of the consultants used.
12 – Crown Agency Provides Seamless Tolling with Tailor Made Software
A Crown Agency lead the tolling industry in creating a seamless platform to connect 3 tolling highways that reduced traffic congestions through automated tolling, reduced emissions by decreasing number of stops, while also enabling automated billing and payment for vehicles on toll highways. Through custom software and industry leading practices the tolling agency became a profitable and efficient operations, two of the most pressing issues in the tolling industry were seamless addressed through the use of innovative technology.
13 – Global Resource Trading Company Manages Transactions and Delivery with Custom Technology
A global resource streaming company developed a custom trade tracking application to bolster consistently, transparency, and efficiency across its global operations. This allowed the organization to increase quality of operations by ensuring consistency of how deals were made and delivered on. Due to the challenges and variance in timing of moving commodities the application allowed the trading company to become an industry leader, possessing competitive technology that set it apart with other industry players.
14 – How YouTube Remains on Top for Free Streaming Video Content
YouTube ability to suggest highly relevant and timely content has created a feedback loop that has kept viewers engaged for hours and sometimes over night. Its’ custom software allows it to recognize patterns in viewing, preferences for content content, and then offers a stream of recommended videos for continuous viewing. The platform also allows users to contribute to subtitle submission and improvements, further enabling vitality of videos to be shared not only through social networks but through cultures and languages. YouTube also features on-demand subtitling which uses software to translate video audio in different languages as the video plays.
15 – Leading the On-Demand Rental Economy with AirBnB Custom Platform
AirBnB is now a house hold name, with its proprietary platform that allows property owners to rent directly to visitors or travellers. The platform allows for remote authentication of property owners or renters without them having to visit an office or meet one another prior to the exchange. The platform provides also much needed transparency by allowing renters and property owners to rate one another. The platform also serves to seamless move money from renter to owner allowing for adding convenience of managing a personal rental portfolio. AirBnB is the defacto standard and the first company to make on-demand economy sustainable for personal properties. AirBnB is synonymous with its custom software and mobile application without it, it would not have business model.
16 – Medical Association Uses Custom CRM to Remain Connected to their Support Base
A medical association for professional doctors utilizes a home grown CRM system to contact and facilitate the collection of government mandated dues. The system provides features to manage communication channels for a unique and varied number of practice disciplines, while allowing for flexibility in automated contact methods and channels. In it also contained custom roles for determining when each type of physician should be contacted and its cadence that aligned closely with government regulations. Despite the many CRM packaged solutions available this custom CRM helped drive membership dues collection and maintained the province’s most up to date directory and contact for medical professionals.
17 – Systemizing Innovation at Department for Work at Pensions
Idea Street was that name of a custom platform utilized by an UK government agency to support its innovation agenda. The agency wanted to be a truly innovative organization by creating a Wall Street like stock index for emerging ideas. The platform allowed any contributor to submit an idea with employees being able to review and generate buzz for high potential opportunities. This increased the “stock value” of the idea allowing the best ones to be crowd curated, with ideas that cross a buzz threshold to receive executive coaching and support to move into prototyping and execution. Without a custom platform that utilized game mechanics the organization would not have had the level of employee engagement and innovation impact it has seen to date.
18 – Apple iOS uses Custom Software to Differentiate its Phone Offering
The majority share holders in the smart phone operating system market is now between Android and the iOS, with both companies opting to create and maintain their own custom software for devices. Gone are companies like Motorolla and Nokia who once had their own custom mobile OS. Yet this case points to the fact that despite having custom software without an equally compelling business model, technology is no guarantee for future viability. Despite that Apple continues to develop custom software for its famed iPhone while marketing its features like facial recognition unlock, to woo high end or handheld gadget connoisseurs. Apples journey to having the first commercially viable touch screen phone is detailed further (source), but their system remains one of the main reasons why they are able to charge significant higher prices for their devices despite a seemingly similar set of functionality.
19 – Air Canada Ticketing and Financial System Leading to Revenue Growth and EfficienciesAir Canada has its own in house ticket pricing and financial application suite based on a legacy technologies. The airline created its own custom application to manage ticket pricing across its sales agency networks, yet further integrating in to its’ back office operations. This allowed the carrier flexibility in managing revenues with pricing and also operational efficiencies with financial reporting. The application further helped the airline manage agency commissions which was a big part of its revenue strategy, providing coordination across a large network of sales agency while also providing Air Canada with control in managing its own profitability.
20 – Custom Legacy Banking Applications Still Reliable After Decades of Operation
Most of the Canadian Banks have custom application for its core banking transactions, particularly those that are relating to commercial or branch operations. During the period that these applications were developed custom applications were the only option at the time, at which time were leading edge solutions to a mostly manual and routine business process to deliver banking transactions. Despite that these core systems provide banks with a reliable system for clients to manage their resources and to serve corporate clients. Without custom applications banks would not be able to provide ATM or over the counter transaction to customers meaning their core business would not be functional.
Importance of Tailor Made Software
Custom software isn’t a silver bullet to creating a more innovative team or competitive organization. The process of developing custom software allows organizations to reflect on what important to their stakeholders, work backwards into figuring out what it needs to do to deliver that value, systemize their process, and finally automate/scale the process to maximize its effectiveness.
Tailor made software is important to differentiating and finding a competitive edge against the competition. Often times this is achieved by bringing together people with different expertise, with which one of them is technology and automation. Further not having custom software creates a reliance on best practices delivered through packaged software, meaning the continued cycle of feeling strapped for resources, time, or talent.
Tailor Made Software Enabling Leading Business Practices
Over 20 organizations from start ups to established global corporations have used custom software to drive its business forward to better serve customers or reach new heights in operational efficiency. In the previous examples we’ve covered clear evidence that leading practices along with custom technology can help organizations be at the fore front of their industry. Innovation is not only vital for competitiveness but further is a strategy to retain great people who are motivated by projects that make a difference for the organization and customers. Executive leaders should consider which operational assets should be in the cloud and other which should be used as differentiators in their industry.
Mindfield Consulting has been delivering mission critical software for over two decades and helps organizations meet their most pressing challenges and opportunities with the right people and technology. The difference Mindfield offers is the ability to business case, delivery, and operationalize a strategic vision enabled by technology.
Rocky image courtesy of Chris Yazab with rights reserved.