By Heather Clancy
October 14, 2015

Does your company need an application that no software company sells? That’s no longer an excuse for failing to innovate, and more big companies are taking matters into their own hands.

Consider the example of high-end grocery chain Whole Foods, which Wednesday disclosed a partnership with cloud business software company Infor to rewrite the systems that underlie its entire supply chain. “The word on the street is everyone is selling the same food. Well, they ain’t,” Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb told Fortune. “I know there’s a difference. I want to communicate the difference and sell the difference, and we’re partnering with technology to do it.”

The system that these two companies are co-developing will capture hundreds of data points about each item. That information will be crucial not just for inventory management but also for food source traceability, which is a big deal for Whole Foods customers. Infor, for its part, gets a real-world laboratory in which to test software that it may eventually be able to sell to other retailers.

This is just the latest illustration of the notion that every business is becoming a technology company. Some companies, like Walmart, have hired their own in-house software experts to create new systems. Another notable illustration is Starbucks, known for its mobile application expertise. Others, like Whole Foods, are working closely with outside experts to reduce their risk exposure while being able to pretty much write the requirements for the project. I fully expect to hear about similar arrangements in the future.

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