Digital platforms and ecosystems are the new battleground for business. They are re-defining how markets work and the state of competition. Your business needs to be a part of that future. Find out more here…

Most of us ‘get’ what a digital platform is. Anyone that uses Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon or Alibaba knows that a digital platform is much more than a website; it becomes ‘the place to go’ when you want something. It’s also very often the place you live out your life.

Digital platforms have become the every day workplace for recruiters, sales people and other entrepreneurs and marketers. LinkedIn is one of the best examples of a digital platform. Not only does it serve the needs of its members that want to share their social business contacts and avoid the hassle of maintaining their own rolodeck, LinkedIn is constantly growing the value-adding features of its paid memberships because they know recruiters and sales people in their community are prepared to pay money to get extra data capture and information management. LinkedIn has become a market-place and a workplace. It’s an always-on online digital platform that brings access to a global audience. 

According to its 76-page Digital/McKinsey Insights article titled ‘Winning in digital ecosystems’, McKinsey argues that staking out a position in ecosystems is important, because of the enormous market potential that may be up for grabs.”

What is a Digital Platform?

A digital platform is a cloud-based portal platform that services the information management and processing needs of your enterprise and its stakeholders. It is a digital orchestration of your business model. Our understanding of digital platforms. We know that websites used to be about an online business card. Designers built websites around a concept of exhibition halls, hoping that visitors would wander around and learn something along the way. But that’s now how people short on time and patience work. People ‘Want-What-They-Want-When-They-Want-It’ and want to be directed to the answers to their questions, solutions to their needs instantly. Then, they want information in concise bite-sized chunks.

Digital platforms blur the line between websites, front and back-office information systems. They create self-service ecosystems that embed data capture and processing into the customer experience and journeys. Take Amazon as a great example. Users of Amazon create their own account, register their payment method, control delivery addresses, manage their despatch choices and track progress. These are all characteristics of back-office ERP systems that used to require administrators to key this sort of data on behalf of their customers. Why do we do all of this work ourselves today on Amazon? Because it’s more convenient. Because we derive VALUE from buying from AMAZON. And we trust the company to get the products and services we’re buying to our door; and painlessly accept return if we don’t like what we get.

Digital Ecosystem

Reasons to Take Digital Platforms Seriously

Here are three good reasons why your enterprise needs to think about its digital platforms:

1. McKinsey suggest that by 2025, some $60 trillion in annual revenue could be redistributed across the economy—one third of that year’s total. You could be missing out on your slice of that cake!

2. Over a five year period, McKinsey suggests enterprises with the right digital platform may be able to achieve a 10% increase in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) – Source: McKinsey Quarterly, The right digital-platform strategy

3. Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, the authors of one of the most thoughtful marketing book of our generation, ‘The Discipline of Market Leaders’ suggest digital platforms connect firms with their business ecosystems, to becoming intelligent, distributed and autonomous.

Why every business needs one

Digital Platforms enable the three value disciplines[1] of customer intimacy, [2] product leadership and [3] operational excellence, and reduce operational trade-offs between them — meaning that it is now possible to excel in more than one of the three value disciplines simultaneously instead of leading in just one of them.

When digital platforms become an ‘ecosystem’, the scope of the digital platform grows to support a community or industry as exampled by LinkedIn and Facebook. An example of emerging civic digital ecosystems can be found in digital city IoT and blockchain platforms. These new platforms are equipping municipalities to create federated markets and telecommunications environments for their populations, removing barriers to accessibility and improving the standard of living of occupants and visitors.


Digital platforms are cloud-based and deliver browser-based experiences across all platforms and computing form factors including desktop PC, tablet, smartphone and digital TV

If you don’t have a digital platform and ecosystem strategy for your enterprise, well you need to start thinking about what it means to your enterprise. Many businesses have yet to make the paradigm shift from traditional Gen-1 enterprise computing platforms to Gen-2 digital platforms. It means they’re still keying in data into their CRM and ERP systems on behalf of customers, and they continue to underpin their business model using spreadsheets; unable to bring more value to customers through self-service, always-on platforms that increase the transparency of processes that support the delivery and support of their purchases..

What needs to happen next?

Should your management team be unaware of the opportunities/threats of not joining the digital platform future, then I recommend you start by revisiting your business model and considering a review. Your business model needs to be digitally-enabled yes but first you need to gain consensus with your colleagues on what your business model looks like today; i.e.  Who is your customer? How do you create customer value? How do you turn customer value into shareholder returns efficiently?

About the Author

Ian Tomlin is a management consultant and writer on the subject of enterprise computing and organizational design.  He serves on the USTECH GLOBAL European Management Team.  Ian has written several books on the subject of digital transformation, cloud computing, social operating systems, codeless applications development, business intelligence, data science, office security, customer data platforms, vendor management systems, Managed Service Provisioning (MSP), customer experience, and organizational design.  He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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