An abbreviated history of web software development: once upon a time in the 1990’s and early 2000’s most software was custom coded to meet a business need. Starting with a blank sheet of paper and unlimited time and money, anything was possible. This also resulted in high costs of scoping, deployment, quality control and upkeep. Software was only for those with deep pockets. Years would pass and eventually a recession or belt-tightening would claim those custom-coded wonders to the scrap heap of history. In its place came online platforms. This was possible because of norms established with respect to common use cases, user navigation, and software development practices. We then began to develop platforms and increasingly use open-source software to build on top of. This resulted in lower costs of deployment, quality control and upkeep…as it could be shared across multiple clients on the same system.
One size fits all? Really?
Alas this isn’t the end of our story, as clients that were once had custom-coded systems with total flexibility weren’t accustomed to making so many compromises to fit into a tight fitting software strait -jacket. My favorite was a true story told to me by a client. When the client asked a competitor if they could have their own logo in the corner of the screen, the response back was “that’s not possible…then we would have to change it to your logo on all our client systems!” Seriously, a few compromises were okay, but when told “no” too many times they began to look for a better, “hybrid” solution that would give them the best of both worlds.
Luckily we’re beyond that now. The platforms we employ for adbuilding, digital asset management, dealer websites and landing pages and eCommerce can be configured easily within days or weeks – not months of tedious custom programming. This is a game-changer for clients looking to quickly get a system up and running with a much lower investment versus just a decade ago. Think about the economics for a moment: if you’re configuring only 20% of a system that a decade ago would cost $175,000, you’re looking at $35,000. With the cost of hiring a full time designer easily at $50,000 a year to create and resize ads for channel partners, companies will be wise to invest a fraction of that to deploy an automated system that is available to multiple users 24 / 7 / 365, doesn’t take coffee breaks and need healthcare benefits. For more on this investment comparison, download the ebook here.
Platforms like this can be deployed easily “out of the box”, or used as a foundation for further custom development and deeper integration to client systems. In this scenario, a client often has legacy systems or a substantial investment in existing systems that can’t be changed easily. In these cases our technical team scopes the integration or new functionality and deploys that to the system.
Common examples of this are integrating with a client’s user authentication process, SSO (Single Sign On), a client’s co-op funding system, internal DAM (Digital Asset Management) system, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), or PIM (Product Information Management) system. In these cases, data may be extracted, encrypted and securely transmitted via SFTP on a scheduled basis, or transmitted real-time using web services. In any case, the goal is to simplify tasks for the users and/or administrators of the system.
Examples of tasks made easier for end users:
Applying co-op funds in a checkout process, automatically debiting the funds and creating a paperless claim process.
Seamlessly authenticating users into the system so they don’t have to remember usernames, passwords and login a second time.
Applying all purchases made to a monthly statement already used by the client company and its channel, simplifying the access to purchase history in one place
Ability to integrate with a client’s print, apparel or digital fulfillment partners in addition offering sourced options.
Examples of tasks made easier for system administrators:
- Bringing image assets from an internal DAM system to the adbuilder automatically (avoiding manual selection, upload and download time).
- Dynamically formatting image assets in the most common sizes used by channel partners automatically (saving time creating multiple formats)
- Bringing in a dealer data-file to manage account structure, permissions and promotional content visibility automatically (avoiding manual loading)
As you can see the ability to deploy custom solution flexibility and integration go hand-in-hand, as they are similar skill sets from a development perspective. The platforms we employ allow for a majority of the functionality to be the same while having the option for configuration and adding custom coded modules if desired. Not every company offers this flexibility, so it’s important to understand a vendor’s capabilities and willingness to integrate and deploy customized solutions. Since our history is in custom-coded software and integration we pride ourselves in the expertise of being able to integrate with any type of client system. For clients it truly is the “best of both worlds”.
Sources and References:
- Ten Key Decision Factors eBook: https://jgsullivan.wpengine.com/ebook-request-form