For those who think they’re not in the software business, it’s time to think again…
Going through your daily routine at home and at work, if you stop and notice, you’ll find that software is playing an ever larger role in your everyday activities.
No longer is software confined to your computer. It is spreading to meet your needs wherever you are and whenever you need it. Software is on your phone, your car dashboard, your refrigerator door, your home security system, even your athletic shoes! It’s replacing the need for books, televisions, GPS’s, checkbooks, and other standalone items.
With the combination of mobile, smart products, social media, data visualization and analytics, software is starting to invade every aspect of our lives as businesses realize the incredible opportunity it offers to provide their products and services in a new way.
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With this pervasion of software in today’s world, even though your firm may not be in the tech business per se, you are starting to see that software is becoming a daily means by which your customers engage with your business. Regardless of what you make or do, innovative software that gives your customers new, easier, faster access to your products and services is becoming a major way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. That’s because, in today’s fast-paced, mobile world, no one has time to tolerate anything less than the convenience that good software brings.
For example, a bank that provides a mobile app with the ability to deposit checks while on-the-go or an auto insurer with an easy-to-use mobile app for capturing photos and facts at a collision scene will now drive new customers to their business based primarily on the ease and accessibility that their company’s software innovation provides. This is especially true with millennial generation consumers, who often will only interact with companies that let them conduct their entire relationship via mobile device. Therefore, software must now be considered an integral part of your company’s brand regardless of what your underlying product or service actually is.
In effect, because of this new reality, software is now what defines your brand. Forrester Research has used the phrase “software-is-the-brand” to describe non-tech companies who are finding that more and more of their business value is coming from software-based products and services:
“It is the software that operates at key mobile customer touchpoints, defines the interaction with the consumer, and, ultimately, acts as the main product differentiator.”
(Forrester Research, Inc., Non-Tech Companies Become
The New Market For Software Product Development Services, August 2013).
Forrester specifically names the following four industries as becoming “increasingly software-centric”:
- Information Services
- Retail and eCommerce
- Media and Entertainment
- Financial Services
For those in the financial services industry, there are several software endeavors that businesses are finding they must undertake in order to stay competitive in this modern age. Below is a highlight of Object Frontier’s software assessment for this industry:
Financial Services – Software That Defines Your Brand
Mobile Banking has become a critical avenue for financial services companies to engage customers today. Individuals can check their personal accounts, transfer money, make a deposit, and pay their bills whenever and wherever they want. This round-the-clock access ensures banks are meeting the needs of their modern, on-the-go customers.
Treasury Management Software that provides businesses with a mobile-friendly financial management dashboard, which sources data from multiple places, tracks real-time stock prices and news, sends alerts, and presents everything in one, easy-to-use dashboard, will help businesses quickly make informed strategic financial decisions, whether in the office or mobile.
Wealth Management Software optimized for mobile devices allows financial services firms to provide a simplified way for high net-worth clients’ personal wealth administration staff, advisors, tax preparers, and lawyers to access information securely and efficiently in order to obtain a real-time, complete view of their investment portfolio. Advisors can rebalance a client’s portfolio right in front of them with just the swipe of a finger to increase or decrease the customer’s percentage of equities, for example, and then generate a proposed list of rebalancing trades.
Mobile Insurance Apps let customers easily find an agent, pay a bill, update their policies, and make a claim at any time, with the ability to insert valuable details like photographs and maps of the incident area on-the-spot. All these features provide customers with hassle-free, streamlined access to the services of their insurance company at the times they need it most.
Gamified Personal Banking Software, currently being used by some of the largest financial institutions, applies principles of motivation and mastery, along with game mechanics like points, levels, awards, and competition, to customer-facing software to incent customers to actively shape their long-term financial future. Businesses can encourage users to determine their risk/reward profile, choose the right financial investments, plan for retirement, buy life insurance, and educate their children on financial principles in order to positively influence their real-life financial behavior.
All of these new uses for software in the financial services industry are becoming table stakes for businesses to compete in today’s digital age. Forward-thinking businesses are continually searching for original ways to use technology to enhance their offerings, making software now an essential part of their brand. Businesses are actually treating software like one of their products, as they are finding they must put the same innovation and design into it as they do their core products.
For financial institutions to fulfill their software aspirations, they will “need the discipline, agile processes, and technical know-how associated with PDS [Product Development Services] firms, which is separate from traditional IT services,” as Forrester emphasizes in the report mentioned above. The product mindset of a PDS firm is essential to developing branded software, as it allows you to:
- Create an innovative user experience (UX) that will engage your customers and redefine your brand.
- Adopt an agile methodology to produce early, measurable results for your stakeholders and to keep up with your competition in the software feature wars.
- Redesign and rebuild the backend technologies to transform the total UX and break down the silos of transactional processing systems.
- Release software in a disciplined manner to provide regular improvements that meet the changing needs of your customers.
- Adapt quickly to user feedback in order to please customers and avoid a social media nightmare that can instantly ruin your brand’s reputation.
These benefits of a product-focused approach are necessary components for creating software of real value to a business. Forrester explains in the same report that any “attempts to assign these activities to internal IT departments — which have traditionally focused on maintaining and developing slower-changing environments — have led to problems and, ultimately, the creation of a separate product development/software company” within the organization.
Product development companies specialize in building innovative, revenue-driving software, and they are increasingly being tapped by non-tech, “software-is-the-brand” companies to bring that same expertise to their software projects in order to engage customers and drive business. Those that choose to ignore this trend face the grim prospect of being left behind by their competition, as they move forward to redefine themselves and their industries through software.
Tori Coons is a marketing associate for Object Frontier Software. To view more of her work on the latest in the software and technology industry, check out the OFS company blog Our Focus on Software Trends.