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There are two principal ways for organisations to be competitive.

Either you differentiate via a unique and compelling market proposition, or you stay the same on the outside, focusing your effort on making every aspect of your internal business better (faster, more responsive, more accurate…) than your competitors.

Applied properly, software has the power to satisfy both approaches and – as the ‘brains’ behind all ICT – is the single greatest enabler of business competitiveness that you can shake a stick at.

“Always remember that you are completely unique. Just like everybody else…” This famous quote by American anthropologist Margaret Mead reflects the opportunity every organisation has to be different.

Software can accelerate this by:

  • Harnessing the Internet and customer-facing apps to enable far more efficient access to new geographic markets and industry sectors.
  • Digitising existing service offerings so that customers have more choice and flexibility in line with their specific preferences.
  • Boosting the customer experience to a more interactive and positive level, encouraging better engagement with customers through the communications platform of their choice.
  • Supporting customers to ‘self-serve’ via software, thereby dramatically reducing overall costs and time-to-revenue.
  • Surfacing actionable business intelligence from mountains of innocuous-looking data, enabling rapid decision making and risk management.
  • Providing the foundation for new business ideas to be explored, tested and brought to fruition. In other words, software can help you stand out and do things that other competitors can’t.

Software can help you innovate your way to market leadership.

Just because it’s unique doesn’t mean people will love it

If avant garde free-form jazz has taught us anything, it’s that being unique isn’t necessarily a recipe for popularity. When software is customer facing, you’ve really got to know your market if your secret brand of uniqueness is going to click. In the world of software development, this invariably means getting hold of living and breathing customers, and asking them a heck of a lot of the right questions to tease out their loves, likes and despairs.

This is a major part of the software development scoping process, and it always turns up unexpected results. It leads you to understand your customers’ pain, and work out how to cure it. (Note: the same process should happen for internally facing software, with extensive research into the specific user groups in each given case).

You can’t differentiate through software when it’s the same software as everyone else

So here’s the kicker; off-the-shelf software that’s ready made for your kind of business with your kind of challenges (perhaps even for your specific industry sector) is not going to deliver differentiation. Quite the contrary; it’s going to turn you beige. If meeting your unique requirement is important to you – if being different is important to you – then you will need to embark on a bespoke software development project.

Bespoke software projects obviously take longer than buying an off-the-shelf software license and installing it. But looks can be deceiving. Even big companies purchase ‘industry standard’ software systems to save time, but then end up spending months or years integrating them for their specific needs. Bespoke doesn’t have to mean more expensive than ‘off-the-shelf’ either, but – even when it does – the difference in cost is easily justified against the achievement of competitive advantage. There is plenty more competitive advantage in being better than everyone else at back-office processes

Using software to get ahead of your competition is about more than e-commerce go-to-market, new mobile apps, or taking your existing services into the digital age. Countless organisations stand as testament to the power of optimising bland business processes, using software to automate, streamline and accelerate beyond the capabilities of their competitors.

What would it do to your competitors if you could:

  • Pick, dispatch and deliver goods faster than anyone else in your sector?
  • Earn a reputation among customers, suppliers and partners for the most responsive and personally tailored order journey?
  • Gain powerful insights to guarantee the best strategic decision making, by converting all the data your organisation touches into market-leading business intelligence?
  • Make operational savings of 20-50% and use that money to invest in new skills, people, products and services to capture increased market share?

Remember that using software to get ahead of your competition can mean being different on the inside, not just the outside. And only software developed to meet your unique requirements can ultimately deliver the increased revenue potential and reduced operating cost to make you a market leader.