Why the customer knows best

Jeremy Thompson – Hill from Orbis discusses stratgegy

A company that wishes to build a successful software business always tries to retain control of its software product – and to some extent the market within which it operates – by restricting its usage through careful licensing. Without controls over usage, how does a company continue to develop a product and ensure its ongoing viability in an ever-changing world?


Global software suppliers have always followed this golden rule. Apple tries to lock its operating system and iTunes downloads to its own hardware; Microsoft’s end-user license agreements contain numerous restrictions; Oracle’s license forbids the disclosure of benchmark results without permission. The list of license –related restrictions is endless.
      Orbis is a software supplier to some of the largest bookmakers in the world. It is challenging to continually find new ways of internally developing a product which gives each customer the edge it requires.
      We have successfully diversified our product from the an initial sportsbook offering to a portfolio which includes games, casino and marketing engines, but we still encounter difficulty when working with third parties. Customers benefit from the inclusion of good quality third-party products, but the software supplier continually risks reducing its own value and its ability to sell products in the future. A nightmare scenario for a software company is to spend large amounts developing a new product, only to find its customers have already filled the space with a third-party solution.
      Or is it?  At Orbis we decided to take the company into uncharted water, by creating a more open approach to third party products, even those with direct competitive functionality. This decision was not taken lightly. In order to maintain and grow revenues going forward, we realized it was time to empower the customer and give them the freedom to participate in the technical direction and development of the product which they use to run their business. In this way, customers benefit from the ability to select the best of breed in order to maintain a competitive edge.

      So why decide to invite customers to openly select third-party suppliers and reduce your own chances to sell?

“To maintain and grow revenues going forward
we realized it was time to empower the customer”

First, research and development. It is not easy to continually second-guess the industry’s next innovation and give the consumer what they want. Few predicted the success of  online poker for example. We have found it is the operator who has the best understanding of their customers and a lot can be learnt from allowing them to take control of your platform with few restrictions.
      Second, customer relationships are key to suppliers. We need to be close to their business and deliver solutions which meet their requirements as quickly as possible. By empowering the customer with control over the platform, much of the natural tension is removed and the relationship becomes more open. In addition, the customer gets the products they require, while the supplier can integrate it at low cost and pass it on to other customers.

Open for business

Finally, in this competitive market, there are many innovative companies. Embracing an open business model and partnering third parties provides further development possibilities, as well as potential revenue opportunities. More importantly, the operator can select the best product and supplier for their needs and tailor their service offering.

      Will the stratagie work?  For many industry suppliers without control at the front end, the back-end system can become unmanageable and key revenues may go elsewhere. However, for systems built with the express purpose of allowing third-party integration through carefully written APIs, the customer builds an individual and distinguishable offering for their consumers, while the supplier benefits from the best research and development unit in the business.
      This open approach has proved successful for Orbis, our customers and our partners and is one that we see the industry moving towards in the future