...and it’s all about the platform (more later). If you’ve read my previous post and found the time to read my latest report Europe’s Digital Imperative, you will know just how much money digital means (in fact, one of the reasons for undertaking the research was to provide the net/net of digital transformation). However, as one of my previous mentors at Forrester would say, “Nice forecast. So what?”
Well, the report does show you the money (lots of it) and it does walk through the major pitfalls that could spoil the digital party. But the real “so what” is the guiding principles proffered for the work ahead in Europe. The report lights up the opportunities both for organizations and for our own careers. These principles start with the “platform” as a construct for digital innovation and how platforms are used to capture and organize the startling wave of innovation now washing across many industries today. So if I had to call the contexts for Europe’s digital success, it is this: Ideas and money flow around platforms. Winning digital business models pivot on them.
The problem is everyone talks up the platform but no-one really knows what it means (trust us, we’ve been asking). The platform is quite simply, layers of software that gather and connect multiple data sources together and synthesize them with meaning to improve a commercial outcome. The platform can take many forms, like a car, a home or a jet engine, a toothbrush or wrapped around a process and the platform prescribes a much more fluid approach to innovation. Platforms are the building blocks of digital success, linking digital assets, products, partners and customer demand together to make new services available and enable new markets (connected car).
LinkedIn, Google Play, Spotify or Uber are the easiest platforms to understand and the most visible because we see and use them every day. Spotify’s platform captures data (music tastes) and drives the “next best action” by using algorithms to mine the data for meaning (“based on your preferences, you should listen to this”). The good news is the world of platforms doesn’t just belong to a digitally native company like Spotify or Google with no real legacy stretching back decades.
Established companies are now working their big company advantages and starting to build and organize knowledge work around a platform and driving lots of value, money and innovation around them. To see a legacy company deploy a platform one of the best places to look is GE, a huge industrial economy pioneer. GE is radically reinventing itself to become a software powerhouse. The company is pivoting its research and development, production, marketing and sales around the data that its engines, turbines or smart assembly lines generate. It has built an instrumented platform around its engines, its turbines etc. to drive new levels of insight around its business. GE’s work in progress turning itself into a software powerhouse, means the company is re-tooling itself for the future. Is your company retooling itself for the future?
Closer to home, Spain’s digital banking supremo BBVA as another legacy company using the power of its platform to “co-create” with fresh, energetic, small start-ups in the thriving fin-tech scene to drive social media functionality into BBVAs retail banking experience. Both GE and BBVA use “open architectures” in their platforms, meaning that third parties are able to plug in simple lines of code to more complex apps via the magic of the APIs (interesting to see my alma mater Forrester catch on to the power of APIs). The continuous exchange of data and information to create value empowers both BBVA and its partners to iterate and experiment with product innovation or upgraded customer experience much quicker and more impactful than either would be able to do on their own. This is why the platform counts.
PS. Get the platform and you “get” digital. Lots of new tech is dumped into the digital bucket (what? You don’t use drones/VR/automation/artificial intelligence?) But at their root, all this new tech and new ways of working create data and it’s in the data flowing in and around a platform that provides the catalyst for innovation. Watch this space...