The Business Advantage of Custom Platform Engineering

By Scott Harper

When Samer, our VP of Engineering, and Russell, our Head of Technology Strategy, discussed the differences between platforms and microservices and their data models, they gave you a lot to think about.

But if it wasn’t tough enough to just find a middle ground between platforms and microservices, you also have to decide whether you can get by with a COTS solution or if you need custom developed technology.

Finding the right areas to invest in custom development doesn’t have to be so difficult. Here are a few things you need to know to make the right choice.


You can carve businesses into two main buckets. First, there are the core business systems that are common to any company. Whether you’re Walmart, Amazon, or a smaller-scale enterprise, you need things like HR technology, CRM, ERP systems, and payroll.

There might be some industries where you can differentiate through a CRM system, but for the most part you can rely on third-party tools for these core functions.

However, the second bucket is where you get to decide what’s unique about your business. When you look at what’s unique about your business processes, you can start to recognize opportunities to differentiate through custom technology. For many businesses, this differentiation occurs close to the edge in customer interaction.

Differentiation can come in many different forms, but it’s easiest to think of it under three business leaders:

  • CIOs typically look for inefficiencies in internal applications
  • CTOs focus on product-related differentiation
  • Emerging Chief Digital Officers handle websites and mobile. However, these are more marketing/customer experience functions as opposed to custom development cases.

While your product might be the first thing you think about for business differentiation, internal applications and daily operational efficiencies are often the most unique part of your company.


One reason why custom development is so important for unique internal processes is that CIOs face adoptability issues when deploying new off the shelf applications.

People don’t like change in their work routines. When you introduce COTS software for a unique business process, you start making minor modifications to workflow to meet the tech specifications. But if the process is truly unique, you’ll face employee resistance as you modify your business to adopt new software.

The question you have to ask yourself is: “Do we want to modify the way we work to meet the needs of new technology? Or do we want to bend technology to meet our unique business needs?”

Think about the systems you have in place today. Are you struggling to get employees to buy into third-party applications? Are users actually engaged with the technology? Or are you just sinking money into software that isn’t impacting the business?

Rather than struggling to redefine workflows, custom development lets you adapt technology to meet the needs of your unique business processes. And when you have technology that is custom-fit for your workflows, you can start differentiating in a way that drives business results.

Resisting the need for custom development in some areas of your business would be like how the taxi industry resisted Uber. They already had the value creation done because they worked out the logistics, distribution, recognition, and everything else you need for a differentiated business. But when taxi companies failed to meet customer demands by developing new technology, they opened the door for Uber to eat their lunch.

If you’re constantly compromising what makes you unique, you might survive for a while — but eventually you’ll fall victim to growing digital transformation demands. This is the attitude we had when we built Engage, our own custom dashboard software that boosts workplace efficiency.


When we thought about what makes Dialexa unique, one thing that kept coming up was our ability to manage many different client projects without sacrificing quality or attention to detail. Information accessibility is critical to maintaining these differentiators.

We could go into Jira and access all of the data we needed for various projects, but there was so much friction for us because it didn’t perfectly fit our workflow. It would take me 15 minutes just to log in, go through our different projects, and make notes for the day.

When we built our in-house Engage dashboard, we thought about what was most important for us to recognize at a glance. Being able to see whether we were behind schedule, on time, or ahead of schedule was most important, so we moved forward with a color-coded system on the dashboard. Now, I can quickly glance at Engage and understand the current project statuses just by seeing which are red, yellow, and green.

Quickly recognizing where the bottlenecks are means streamlining operations so we can continue to differentiate our client-facing services. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference you’ll notice when you adapt technology to your needs (not the other way around).


The reason we compromise on our unique workflows and adopt COTS software is that custom development seems daunting. But as digital transformation accelerates business change, we can’t afford to sacrifice what makes us most unique.

Despite what you might think, custom development doesn’t have to be such a difficult task. If you want to learn how you can start highlighting what makes your company truly unique, download our free End-to-End Product Development Guide and see how you can adapt technology to your business.

Originally published at

At Dialexa we start by asking “Do you know what your business will look like tomorrow?” Whether you have a plan, a problem or no idea, connect with us to explore the right answers for you.
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