If someone asks what business your company is in, you might say transportation, or networks, or retail, or a hundred other possibilities. But what you should be saying is that you are also in the software business.
At its core, your company is a software company. Or it should be.
Why? Because your competitors are growing in numbers, emerging from nowhere and aggressively using digital strategies to succeed over you.
To be successful, you must continually innovate and differentiate your company, no matter what your industry. You must do things better, faster, and cheaper. And you must engage your customers and your partners in new and meaningful ways. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a bank, a pharmaceutical company, or a logistics provider. Think like a startup and use software to stay one step ahead.
This connection can be easy if your business is already using software to provide differentiating product features or services. If you sell goods online, or you deliver content, or you offer software as a service, you know you’re in the software business. You probably focus on being more responsive and being agile, that is delivering new features faster than ever before and using data to gain business insights and to optimize the user experience.
For those companies who don’t initially think of themselves as software companies, it’s a little more interesting. In time, they will realize that software is what is differentiating them.
For example, Redline Communications thinks of itself as a wireless infrastructure company that delivers wireless networks in remote locations. In actuality, it uses software to add new features to its network components. It also uses software to expand a network’s capacity on demand, and to troubleshoot problems. Redline might manufacture hardware but it is solidly in the software business.
Pythian is often described as an IT services company, but it is undoubtedly a software company. Nobody at Pythian touches a customer’s critical production system or data without going through a software portal called Adminiscope that secures access and records all activity. Pythian doesn’t sell software, but it is absolutely in the software business.
Then there are the companies that would not traditionally be classified as technology businesses at all, but have clearly made the connection. And that doesn’t mean just having an online presence. Take retailer Neiman Marcus, a company that has consciously entered the software space with the development of apps like “Snap. Find. Shop.” a tool that lets users take photos of a product they want and helps them track it down. They know they need to engage customers more personally, and the way to do that is through software that enables them to interact with customers, to understand and respond to buying behaviors and preferences.
KAR Auction Services, who you might know as a car auction company, has stated publicly that that they no longer want to be a car auction company that uses technology but “a technology company that sells cars”. They know that software will drive the future of their business.
It is increasing difficult to sell, deliver or support any product or service without using software. It is increasingly difficult to truly understand your business without being data driven, the byproduct of software. It is increasingly difficult to recruit employees without using software. Your customers and your employees expect you to be agile and responsive, and software helps you meet those expectations, and then measures, monitors, analyzes, and integrates data to keep you ahead of the game.
In today’s hyper-competitive world, your company must use software and technology to become agile in order to respond to ever-changing customer needs. Then you must remain as aggressive by measuring, monitoring, evaluating, and responding to data about your products and services as well as their impact on your customers and their environment. Whether it’s customer feedback about product features, or changing market trends, you need to be ready to react and iterate your products and processes at lightning speed. Software is the one thing that’s going to enable that.
So what does it mean to use software to be competitive? It means departing from tradition. It means empowering IT to go beyond cutting costs to transform the business. It means empowering everyone in the company to innovate around software. It means encouraging radical disruptive ideas on how to change the business. And it means putting a digital strategy at the heart of your planning. And this is certainly what your competition is doing.