To Platform or not to Platform?
If you have not been asked that question in the last two years, then you can be sure that you will be in the next two.
So, what is a platform anyway? The easiest way to think of a platform is to think of meal kits. Wikipedia describes a meal kit as a subscription food service business model where a company sends its customers pre-portioned and sometimes even partially prepared food ingredients and recipes to prepare homecooked meals. That is exactly what a platform is! A platform at a minimum includes all the basic tooling and plumbing that is needed to rapidly build applications. Most platforms also include a lot more.
Common platforms in use today include pre-built capabilities for customer relationship management and/or enterprise resource planning. They have pre-built capabilities that can power an organization’s products and line-of-business applications. If a platform is beginning to sound like an answer to all problems, then know that it is not. Platforms do have their limitations. If you’re looking for a specific user experience and are not willing to settle with the out-of-the-box experience that the platform offers, then a platform is probably not for you. Or, if you have to store very large quantities of data, then you may find the cost of a platform prohibitive. However, in most situations, the pros greatly outweigh the cons.
The word platform is becoming ubiquitous as more and more organizations are shying away from spending upfront time and effort on building technology to power their digital enterprise. They are moving towards using platforms to build their business applications. This lets them do what they do best, which is focus on their business and growth, without getting lost in a quagmire of technologies.
While the primary users of government products and applications are customers, partners, employees, and citizens, platforms are used primarily by configurators and developers to build products and applications. Configurators are individuals who tweak (configure) the pre-built capabilities of a platform to adapt to needs of the users whereas developers extend the existing capabilities to provide new features. When an organization is delivering digital services, the configurators, developers, and the primary users all work together at the same time as unified teams under an integrated operating model. Working together at the same time is a key aspect of delivery using platforms as they are well-suited for developing rapidly. The users can see and experience early versions of the product and provide their feedback even as configurators and developers build the product. Contrast this with a traditional phased-development effort where the primary users take months to create requirements and then they hand off the requirements to the developers. The developers then take months to complete development. Once the development is over, the users come back and test the application and often realize that the requirements were misinterpreted. With a platform, the engagement of primary users occurs continuously throughout the development.
With that said, you can begin to see that a platform offers not only rapid delivery but a contemporaneous alignment of strengths of resources and ensures a continuous flow of what users value. After all, customer value drives business growth!
In future blogs, we will dig deeper into the specifics of platform value delivery. Till next time!