When a platform becomes an operating system

In the last post Paul wrote about Bosch, and its focus on the industrial internet of things (IIoT).  Bosch, GE and other industrial companies are attempting to create industry leading or at a minimum industry standard platforms to link industrial organizations and create standards, with the hope that new ecosystems and new solutions are built on top of those platforms.

Each of their goals is to capture, manage and exploit information generated from thousands of activities and sensors throughout the industrial platform.

Here we can the see opportunity and the challenges associated with an IIoT play:  building a platform and managing the data of an industrial giant means managing (and harvesting) a tremendous amount of data.

But it also means plugging into or interfacing with other systems and platforms, as none of these companies can create a holistic platform or replace all of the platforms and systems in a large company.  Bosch, GE and others can create really powerful and important platforms in sections or functions, but must integrate and share data with other platforms.  While they can create really powerful and compelling platforms, these platforms are by necessity limited to specific capabilities or functions.

Now for something completely different

Let’s examine then, the power and flexibility that an Amazon, for example has in its quest to build platforms through its AWS offerings.  First, it is focusing on business to consumer (b2c) or in many cases a category that Paul has coined:  consumer to consumer (c2c). Continue reading

Services, channels and experiences matter in old economy industries

old-economy-vs-new-economyIn my last post I spent some time examining the opportunities and challenges of innovating in an old economy industry – the railroad industry.

For some industries, especially those that are asset-light, innovation can seem so simple.  Creating another compelling feature, service or product on top of an already agile set of capabilities can be pretty straightforward.

For old economy companies with infrastructure, equipment and assets, trying to innovate can seem very difficult, because of the history you have to bring along, and because of the standards, platforms and ecosystems that define your value proposition.

So here’s where both asset light new economy companies (Uber, AirBnB, etc) and old economy, asset rich industries can find common innovation ground.  Continue reading

Old economy ecosystems signal innovation opportunities

rail-crossover-points-2Paul and I have been writing mostly about ecosystems and platforms in the abstract to date, not spending a lot of time talking about specific companies or industries.

We took this approach because we wanted to establish a firm foundation about ecosystems and platforms generally, that wasn’t subject to debate about their applicability to one industry or another.

In the next several posts we will be looking at two diametrically opposed industries and the importance of ecosystems and platforms to both of these industries. Fittingly, I’ll be looking at the importance of innovation in ecosystems and platforms for an “old economy” industry – the railroads, while Paul looks at the importance of platforms and ecosystems in a new economy company – Alibaba.

On the (rail)road again… Continue reading

Why experimenting with platform innovation is vital

innovation-experiementationWhy wait?

Paul Hobcraft and I have been writing extensively about the impact that emerging platforms and ecosystems are having, and will have, on innovation.

As I wrote previously, we are in the same position with platforms that we were with “dot coms” and ecommerce in 1999.  Then there were thousands of alternatives and experiments to try to figure out what would work.  Now, much the same thing is going to happen at the platform level.

There’s a reason Amazon, Facebook, Google, GE and others are trying to test out their platforms, and why other industries like financial services want so desperately for their own platforms to prevail.

Platforms are enticing because they lead to the concept of a required standard.  Anyone who controls a platform in an industry or market can dictate how the rest of the ecosystem adds value or in some cases connects to customers. Thus, we can expect to see a lot of companies claiming to have the definitive platform in this or that industry.  What’s more, some functions, like the ability to pay for goods and services within a platform, are already platforms in themselves, although they are narrow but important enablers to larger platforms.  Some companies and their platforms will thrive, some companies will build enabling technologies or the “APIs” that ensure tight integration for ecosystem players, but most will take a “wait and see” approach. Continue reading

Innovating like it’s 1999

1999-partyTo borrow a phrase from the musician formerly known as Prince, we are innovating, at least in regards to platforms and ecosystems, like it’s 1999.  This isn’t to suggest innovation is making beautiful music, but to take you back to a specific point in time and think about the conditions.

In the late, late 1990s and very early 2000s, many individuals and corporations were experimenting with ecommerce, learning what the “web” would do to and for commerce.

Thousands of startups obtained billions of dollars in venture capital money to exploit the new idea of e-commerce.  We were assured that this would be the end of brick and mortar stores.  Every industry would be disrupted by the web.  Pet owners would go to Pets.com, famous for its sock puppet mascots.  The CEO of Accenture would leave his post to become CEO of Webvan, which would revolutionize grocery shopping and delivery.  And so on.

Mostly what happened in that period was a vast blooming of a number of experiments on the web, which led to the “dot com” crash only a few years later and drove many of these startups and some larger, established companies out of business. Most of these crashes happened because no one had figured out how all of this new ecommerce stuff was supposed to work, or because of vague promises of the ability to monetize eyeballs.

New technologies or capabilities will always create a “land rush” of companies, new and established, who seek to stake their claims.  Continue reading

Understanding the Customer Journey is the key to innovating in an ecosystem

evolving-innovation-a-new-formPaul and I have been exploring the interrelationships between innovation, ecosystems and platforms for a few weeks now.

Hopefully we’ve made the point that innovators must expand their horizons, because increasingly customers don’t want or need stand alone, discrete products as much as they want integrated, seamless, holistic solutions.

In fact I think we can easily predict that moderately interesting new innovations that integrate with existing ecosystems and platforms dominate disruptive new products that ignore ecosystems and platforms.

Why?  Customers don’t want to give up all that they have invested in the totality of their use of a solution or the experience when using the solution.  Even if the disruptive product or service delivers outsized benefits, if it causes the rest of the customers’ experience to suffer or degrade, many will choose to remain on a more integrated solution.

There’s a lot here to unpack. Continue reading

Innovating with the ecosystem in mind

credit: dupress.deloitte.com

credit: dupress.deloitte.com

In our previous posts, we’ve asserted that the reason so many “innovative” new products and services fail is because the innovators fail to understand the circumstances, ecosystems and environments in which the new product must exist.  Even more important to consumers than new features is ease of use, ease of integration, ease of connection.  We call this a holistic, continuous seamless experience.

If seamless experience, as we’ve defined it in previous posts, is the emerging requirement for innovators, then what are the components that construct a seamless experience?  And further, if seamless experiences are so vital, what are the forces that converge to create so much interest in seamless experiences?

If we consider and answer these questions, innovators can see a growing confluence of ecosystems, platforms and patterns of disruption that are combining to create new opportunities.  We can also take a look back at past innovation efforts to see how little we’ve moved the needle in terms of customer engagement and the value that past innovations have created.

With so much in motion, it’s time for a careful consideration of what fuels innovation, what patterns exist and what factors – such as ecosystems and platforms – will combine to create what customers really want:  a continuous, holistic and complete experience. Continue reading