How to apply "platform thinking" to your tech strategy for greater success
Instead of thinking about your IT strategy in terms of projects and systems, try to think of a platform.
We've all heard about the power of "platforms," and unfortunately, like many good ideas, the term has taken on many different meanings. In this case, I am referring to a group of technologies, processes and applications that allow multiple, and sometimes unconnected, products and services.
Uber is perhaps the most famous example of the last decade, which brought together technology, new business models and mobile applications to create a demand - free personal transport network that was initially unfunded. That basic transportation platform quickly laid the foundations of a package delivery service, followed by a food entertainment network.
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It's a shame to think that platforms that are limited to Silicon Valley startups are a relatively modern idea, however, the concept has been around for decades. Perhaps the first modern technology - driven platform is the SABER computerized flight guard system, which went online in the 1960s and was created by American Airlines and IBM. Exploiting the power of SABER, the system was rapidly extended to other travel agents and airlines, and eventually became an independent business launched by Travelocity, acquired by Expedia at eventually.
Reconnecting the clock even further, you might consider Eastman Kodak the platform company early last. Starting with George Eastman developing an early roll film, then the camera to use that film, and eventually an entire chemical company to support the platform, the company became a an empire that transcended hundreds of other products before it suffered a riot in digital form. photography. This highlights another important flavor of platform thinking, and one where looking back is an advantage. If Kodak believed that its platform was photography in general, rather than film and chemicals, it might have ridden the digital wave.
The platform, not the product
The power of a platform model should be relatively obvious: The same main set of assets generates multiple streams of value. In the case of Uber, there is revenue from car riders, packaging and food delivery. All three of these streams can use the platform without much modification but they also multiply enough to be unique, a fact that was confirmed at the time of COVID when car riders fell sharply while food delivery slowed. going to size.
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As an IT director, you may not be tasked with designing platforms to power businesses with $ 100B valuations, but by implementing behind-the-scenes platforms your company’s technology assets can be much more efficient. Before scoffing at the idea, imagine that AWS, now a $ 13B business in itself, started as an IT system within Amazon, and a healthy dose of back office platform thinking turned into a revenue stream. -in basic entry.
Whether intentional or as a result of occurrence, most platform businesses have some key assets that can be expanded. In the case of Uber, it was a modern business model and the very simple underlying technology that allowed the company to connect bikes and drivers without owning any vehicles. In terms of AWS, the company started with a set of simple services such as storage, which were modern in that they could access through a set of standard interfaces that worked without having to worry about the underlying servers, software or networks.
What platforms might you have?
We're used to talking about platforms in IT, but all too often, we only think of hardware and software platforms rather than the people, processes, and business models involved. support that supports them. You may have an excellent message and workflow that powers your tech support function, or a set of service centers around the world that provide staff after the sun. Even at small shops, you may have the tools for data validation and analysis and the right skill sets to use those tools effectively. All of these could be used as indoor platforms.
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What is generally lacking is some thought on how to access these capabilities and tell other parts of the company that they are available. A snazzy API to provide detailed information to users from different internal systems does little if it is not shared within IT walls. As people with a technical mind, we often focus on the hard work to set up and operate the systems efficiently, but under-invest in the extra and relatively little effort required to use the technology. turn it into a platform that the company can use to build new services.
For example, I was surprised to find a complete web application platform within my company. All unions were completed. There were staff to help us on board our developers. Perhaps most importantly for a highly regulated business, all external compliance and reviews have been completed and approved. This was all largely due to the hard work of a small team, which had suffered from the old adage "if you build it, they will come."
As you review and update your technology strategy, take the time to look for platforms that may be hidden in plain sight in your IT organization, and do not accept that modern technology is more important than easy access and useful capabilities. Focus some of your insider marketing efforts on these platforms. It may seem like a low - value activity when there are competing priorities, but it's a quick way to get more value out of the funds you already have, and allow the organization as a whole to build the capabilities it has. you extend it even further.