Platforms – Cigref publishes the English version of is report « New platform strategies – strategy, design and deployment », resulting from the reflections of its eponymous working group, led by Stéphane Deux and Jean-Christophe Lalanne. French version here.
Platforms: an answer to many business challenges
Major French corporations and public administrations are changing, becoming more agile and innovative to meet their customers’ new expectations and upcoming market challenges. Digital technology gives them the opportunity to reshape their relationships with end consumers. However, corporations do not want merely to improve their knowledge of their users. They also want to increase their interactions with them, and shift from a « product » culture that too often stops at the point of sale, to a « services » culture that engages corporations over the long run and focuses them on customer uses. Business platforms meet these requirements. That is why major corporations are preparing to allow one or more strands of their business to develop via one or more platforms.
What perimeter and what value?
Firstly, corporations are conducting a strategic review to determine the scope concerned and the value that a business platform might add: does it enrich the current service offering and/or does it complement their conventional business? Shaping the business platform strategy also comes down to asking what more corporations aim/want/need to offer their customers by harnessing the capabilities of their ecosystems (suppliers, customers, vendors, partners, etc.). A single firm can implement several different platform strategies at the same time and blend them as necessary. However, not all business activities lend themselves to platformisation.
According to Francis Nappez, CTO and co-founder of Blablacar, « technology is the business ». It is true that technology plays a decisive role in business platforms. That is why it is crucial to reach out to the IT Department (ITD) from the strategic review stage onwards in order to enrich the discussion and establish the guidelines for technological decision-making.
Technology is the businessFrancis Nappez, CTO and co-founder of Blablacar
If we were to identify three key takeaways about the design and deployment of a business platform, they might be the following. First of all, providing a platform-type technology infrastructure, or at least offering a technological enabler in the form of open data, APIs and open-source software, now seems essential. This allows the IT legacy and the business platform’s new IT to exist side-by-side. In order to interface rapidly with an existing business platform or contribute to the development of a new one, the ITD will need to upgrade its architecture to make it modular and flexible, while also ensuring that it is secure. It must be possible to deploy any type of technology on the IT platform. The architecture must also implement « industrialised » data and operations management so that it can scale up quickly.
A data driven platform
Secondly, a platform has to be data driven, and to have access to comprehensive, coherent, relevant data on customers or users and on transactions, compiled in real time. The platform’s ecosystem must have the data it needs to organise fast feedback cycles, test growth drivers or produce new and disruptive business models. The platform itself must offer an impeccable level of service quality which is constantly improved, while also being a trusted data operator. The simplicity of the user interface is key: all the complexity must be managed by the platform.
Always the talent!
Lastly, for companies, getting the most out of a business platform requires having talented people in-house to implement it with ecosystem partners, in a smart, sustainable and effective way. This means instilling the right culture in team members. Given the importance of data in business models, all team members must adopt a « technology and data » culture to understand data and organise it in such a way that it can be exploited. All corporate entities must be responsible for producing and adding value to data. The corporate culture must also promote openness vis à vis other teams.