Don’t look now – but we are in the epicenter of the accelerated changing of an industry. Businesses are bracing for a quake of disruptors in Fintech, a mass exodus to the Cloud, The Internet of Things, Block-chain, alternative finance channels and entirely new asset classes, all in the face of increasing regulation. Weathering what lies ahead is a looming challenge.
Innovation is no longer optional but now required – not only in the products that you use, but in the methods you employ. Businesses need software that can help them stay ahead of the innovation curve, respond to new opportunities, and differentiate themselves from the competition. In this time of rapid transformation, the role of technology is shifting from being an enabler of marginal efficiency to a driver of change.
The Customer, the Catalyst
With the increased role technology plays in our everyday lives, customers also now expect, nay demand, to relate to technologies in the same adaptive way at work. We are moving very rapidly toward self-service and autonomy and are increasingly treating software as a commodity rather than as tangible property that is fixed and unwieldy.
Keeping equipment finance on the forefront of these changes requires unleashing our industry’s knowledge in scalable ways that can also be commoditized. Years of knowhow and the pockets of creativity that lay dormant in every leasing company need to be tapped and given form. Indeed, we need technology-led solutions to the technology-based disruptions we see all around us. This requires equipment finance companies and software developers to take a shared approach to development.
Technologies that help power businesses need to be adaptive, and perhaps just as important, they increasingly require putting more control in the hands of the user. Software R&D, an internal process to date, is now becoming an agile, collaborative process between vendor and clients. User input and participation in the development of any technology is critical to the long-term success of any platform. Leasing software technology is no exception to this, because user needs are always evolving in reaction to ever-changing markets, regulatory forces, and consumer behavior. And this is a paradigm shift in the role leasing software has traditionally played in our industry.
Leasing software – all modern software – needs to be extensible. At its most basic, “extensibility is the capacity to extend or stretch the functionality of the development environment — to add something to it that didn’t exist there before,” explains Microsoft. Take Visual Basic, for example. It is an early extensible framework. Using a platform like this, you can create tools that let you manipulate code easily and very quickly. We need to be able to apply this principle to leasing software, where features and functionality resident in the core can be readily and easily extended.
Extensible development frameworks can work very well for creating and modifying technologies. However, they tend to work best in specific situations and are more useful for scenarios that deal with sales and CRM than core equipment leasing. They simply lack the flexibility needed to adapt to each user’s individual needs. For example, force.com works well with Salesforce, but for leasing companies, users need a development framework that allows them to extend their use of a system through building additional modules and applications.
Configure, Extend, Build
To meet the challenges of an increasingly dynamic industry, users need to readily configure how their systems work. Whether this is changing processes to adapt to regulatory requirements or creating new go-to-market strategies, users need to be able to take charge of their systems and enact these changes themselves. Reliance on the software vendor to execute a change order, assemble a services team or add functionality to a product roadmap down the line is an increasingly untenable option. As a harbinger of disruption, it puts companies at a serious competitive disadvantage.
Leasing technology should allow leasing companies to build out new products, even if software isn’t their core-competency. The development paradigm of tomorrow will need to allow end users to transform knowledge into IP whose value can be enjoyed by entire user-communities. Imagine a marketplace for all things leasing where knowledge is available as IP that can be readily deployed and put to use and to add immediate business value. Imagine a world where our technology is as dynamic as the disrupting forces that face our industry. This is how we truly overcome the challenges ahead. This is how we transform disruption into opportunity.