Platform mean different things to different people depending on who you ask. It is not just related to software or computer hardware industry but is also very relevant and prevalent in other industries also. It is an entity that bring things together, mask complexities, is a enabler to build/create on top of it, help foster innovation and is a ecosystem enabler. Over the period governments, companies and individuals have used it to energize economy, create a long term competitive advantage, growth opportunities, etc. In software context some relevant examples are operating systems, virtual machines, Apple iTune, App Stores, Google Apps, IBM Websphere, Programming Tools, Database platforms, Cloud Platforms (IAAS, PAAS) and so on. Many organizations have leveraged these technology platforms to created niche, domain and vertical market platforms for their market segments like ERP, CRM, Data Quality, Financial and others. Advent of new technology platforms bring opportunities to create platforms to solve current business problems in a new way and also solve new business as well as consumers problem.
Studies suggest accelerating change in the rate of technological progress throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future. If you as an entrepreneur is considering solving customer problem and is interested in taking a platform route, you must consider below mentioned aspects:
- It has to be sticky: Build a portfolio of product and solutions around your platform. Create connectors to complimentary and supplementary products, solutions and platforms to both competitors and partners. API and a framework approach is essential to be able to create communities which make your platform sticky with your customer/consumers. Why innovate alone?
- Long term (2 to 5 years) prospective: Platform approach is suited when you are sure of building a portfolio of product and solutions around the platform. Take a close look at your current target customer segment and also possible future customers. Also review technology trends, prediction and its adoption in your target market segments. Also, don’t build technology platform, instead choose technology that is right for you. Remember, you are solving customer’s problem.
- Agile and Lean approach: Now that you have a set of product and solutions defined around platform, should you build it end to end? Absolutely no. Prioritize the product/solution that you would like to build on the platform. Now define and build the minimum viable product (MVP) workflow that you would take to your customer for feedback. The platform is built in agile fashion as the portfolio of product and solutions are built. A solid platform architecture, design constructs definition, right technology selection, generic interfaces, etc. and a skilled team is of paramount importance for success.
- Built solution for market not for a customer: Deeply understand the target market and their needs. In the beginning you may be working with one customer, but don’t get carried away and implement customer specific features in the product/solution, instead focus on building a generic set of capabilities that can easily be consumed in customer environment. Remember, API and framework approach for stickiness with your product portfolio, with products found in customer environment and ability to extend base capabilities.
- UX based interaction design for consumer facing interfaces: People interacting with your system are important. Right. Your success depends on how people feel interacting with the system. Does it provide value? Is it easy to use? Is it pleasant to use? How do you draw users’ attention? How to communicate solution value to the users? How can I draw on users’ intuition to get them to the next step? and so on.