Blockchain and distributed ledgers as innovative platforms

It had to come to this eventually.  The emergence of Blockchain and distributed ledger systems illustrates how innovation is moving from focus on products and services, which are interesting but don’t provide a long-lasting competitive advantage, to a focus on platforms and ecosystems.

Over the last few weeks this need for a lasting competitive shift in focus was emphasized as Ford pushed out its CEO because he wasn’t changing the company fast enough. As discussed in this blog previously, the automotive sector must rethink its competitive position.  Increasingly, people want flexible transportation – from cabs, Uber, public transportation and/or their cars.

The automotive manufacturers (Ford, GM, Fiat, Mercedes, etc) must shift their focus from building physical cars to providing transportation – a shift in thinking and strategy.

In a very similar manner we can see that banking and financial services are moving from offering discrete services (mortgages, loans, checking/savings accounts, etc) and are considering how to either own or integrate with larger platforms and ecosystems, because the older conventions are less attractive to emerging customers and technology is advancing so quickly that soon many different companies and industries can offer banking-like services.

Distributed ledgers and Blockchain may point out a new competitive platform that some firm is going to capitalize on.  For example, we can imagine a time in the not too distant future where a large company that supports and relies on an extended supply chain – the automotive industry for example – could dictate that all of its supply chain participants must interact using Blockchain.  Then we’d have a company spanning, industry wide ERP like platform.  If this sounds crazy, don’t laugh.  The government of Dubai just announced that within five years every entity that interacts with the government must do so using Blockchain.

Continue reading

No walled gardens in B2B platforms

Walled Garden Illustration by David Simonds

Paul and I have noted throughout our writings on platforms and ecosystems the key differences between companies that interact primarily with consumers (B2C) and companies that interact primarily with other corporations (B2B).  This difference is especially important when we begin to think about platform dominance.

You see, Facebook interacts primarily, almost exclusively, with customers (B2C) as such it’s platform serves to provide almost the entire interaction between Facebook and its customers.  We could almost return to the days of old, when AOL was your conduit to the internet, when we talked about “walled gardens”, because that’s what many of the pure play B2C platforms are – walled gardens, meant to provide as much of the platform as possible.  Their goal is “stickiness”, attracting you and keeping you plugged into their platform, consuming their content.

On the other hand, industrial companies are definitely as engaged in platform development, but their solutions require more than one platform. Continue reading

Recapping our ecosystem and platform thoughts

For those of you following our posts about ecosystems and platforms and their importance to innovation, this is the 30th post. We thought it made sense to take a breather before pushing on to other ideas, to stop and recap what we’ve been writing about, and perhaps to place some of these ideas in context.

Paul Hobcraft and I first began talking about ecosystems and platforms several years ago, as it became more evident that innovation is often focused too narrowly, considering only a discrete product or service as its end result.

Increasingly, we believe, innovators must become first more aware of the platforms and ecosystems that exist in their markets or segments, and secondly must become more willing to innovate with regard to the platform or ecosystem, and eventually must innovate to change or disrupt the platforms and ecosystems.

Continue reading

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

Bosch Software Innovations will drive your connected device business

Bosch and its viewBosch takes connected devices, open platforms, and interoperability for IoT solutions to drive your business, built from their own deployed experiences. They are focusing on knowledgeable development & deployment to provide a single integrated set of ‘connecting’ solutions.

Bosch is highly focused on the design, development, and operating software and system solutions for the areas of mobility, city, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, health, home, and building, which is the core of their manufacturing offerings. They are consistently connecting all of their 270 manufacturing plants into this “connecting design” in a progressive fashion.

Bosch has a clear goal “to have each and every electronic component connectable to the internet“. To do this you have to think scale, offer platforms, clear application solutions based in the cloud and understand intimately the hardware and software within the solutions. Bosch is well positioned to deliver on this. Bosch has taken a highly unified view on their approach to this, actually, the more I dug into it the more I was impressed.

Continue reading

Bosch: A Leading Platform Exemplar of Digitally Connecting

bosch-software-innovation-office-plsHow are organizations dealing with digital transformation and especially IoT? The key has to be one where sustainable success is central.

One company that really has become fully engaged in their digital transformation is Bosch, it is well on its way to being a world-leading IoT solution company, offering its expertise, solutions, and knowledge back into its own products and through this expertise also connecting this out to others, to explore and exploit through Bosch’s platform and cloud solutions.

In focusing here specifically on Bosch, we can get a fairly detailed understanding of what challenges are being tackled to connect products, customers, manufacturers, software providers into a connected world where platforms and ecosystems come alive through technology and digital application.

It is a highly complex set of challenges to complete this digitally connected set of solutions but by studying Bosch in some detail and its approach into this, can give us a very detailed understanding as an exemplary example of what they are undertaking to take a leading position in the IIoT world, to make it fully interoperable and realizable.

This path is not for the majority as they are not as well positioned as Bosch but it does give a good understanding of the level of commitment one company has decided to take, to become a leading provider of platform services in manufacturing and smart solutions.

So why am I looking at Bosch relating to ecosystems and platforms?

Let me explain this, after a fair amount of research into them to provide a detailed (enough) understanding of why I think Bosch is a leading provider of platform digital solutions today I was impressed but will it have the ability to translate this over the long term?

Bosch is seemingly wanting to become the one-stop platform provider for manufacturing and connecting all the digital transformational needs and solutions. Can it? What does this mean, is it heading for a leading de-facto industrial platform? What will other organizations need to do in their digital transformation to sit on top of Bosch’s platform?

Bosch, are for me highly relevant in understanding all the complexity that goes into forming a platform, especially in the manufacturing world today and how they are setting about getting all the parties attracted, linking and setting the conditions for the growing participation in establishing of the ecosystem between parties that are wanted to connect.

Continue reading