TechnoVision 2016 – Platform No. 3

Design for Digital #6 – Platform No 3
Platforms are ‘eating the world’: wherever supply and demand meet in seamless and engaging digital ways, new value and new business models are created. High time for the IT department to unleash platform power as well. A compelling digital platform features APIs, open datasets, service catalogs, integration, frameworks, solutions guidance, tools and collaboration support. It enables business units and partners the like to quickly create their own market-focused solutions, while leveraging enterprise grade information and services. It provides the best of both worlds, being at different speeds, ‘letting it be’ for the best digital results. 

Here are some whispered words of wisdom for IT departments that find themselves in times of trouble: there may be an answer. It’s in letting things be.

You see, interesting enough the business side tends to be more enthusiastic about technology than in a long, long time. The cloud, Big Data, social media, smart ‘things’ and mobile devices – all part of the emerging 3rd platform – have brought tremendous new opportunities for true, digital transformation. No need for the evangelization of IT merits anymore and actually, the IT department finds itself now all too often in the position of blocking innovation – rather than driving it – consumed as it is by keeping the lights on in the existing application landscape.
The key to dealing with this is not in desperately trying to stay in central control. It’s most certainly also not in stopping de-central initiatives by business units that aim to create their own solutions in the nearest proximity of the market.
Instead, CIOs should embrace the reality of multi-speed IT, gradually but decisively shifting the center of gravity from their enterprise systems to a digital platform as the pièce de résistance of the IT department. This platform – the ‘station’ between the ‘trains’ and the ‘scooters’ bridges the stable and predictable world of enterprise systems with the agile, opportunistic world of digital transformation. It lets business units, partners and even consumers quickly create the next-gen solutions they envision while preserving crucial enterprise-grade qualities.
What then does a digital platform look like? Standards like the ones within The Open Group’s Platform 3.0 are still evolving, as enterprises start building their first instantiations.
Actually, many pointers can be found within TechnoVision (notably the ‘fourth’ trend block of every cluster). For example in our vision on infrastructure, in which we describe an orchestration and integration platform – front-ended by a self-service portal that simply provides business workloads – as the ultimate cloud instantiation.
It’s also in our plea to consider the API as the application, opening up core enterprise applications through a catalog of service interfaces – or even rebuilding it as a set of loosely coupled micro services.
Certainly it also surfaces in our description of the new data landscape, leveraging open data, master data management and business data lake technologies to provide any perspective on data – if necessary in real-time – without imposing restrictions on storage, structure or access.

Often underestimated – but extremely powerful – is the use of Business Process Management solutions to bust the silos of existing core processes, giving the business the opportunity to augment, improve and even create brand new processes without having to touch a single line of code.
Finally, the best producers of mobile apps might be end producers – wherever they are – as long as they are provided with the right power tools, frameworks and APIs to create compelling, yet enterprise-grade solutions themselves.
As with any platform play – even when it’s eating the world – the success of a digital platform is determined by how attractive it is to both the supply and the demand sides.
In order to be the keystone species of the enterprise ecosystem, the IT department needs to be in a continuous, hothouse dialog with its business stakeholders, co-creating parts of the digital platform on the go. Opportunistic decisions are good; an agile approach, based on a bold architectural vision of change is better. In any case, showcase projects that deliver early business benefits on the first components of the new platform are extremely valuable; they provide the healthy balance between the digital impatience of the business and the monumental task of modernizing the IT landscape.
Burning platforms need digital platforms; so that digital transformation can be.

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2016 update series. See the overview here.

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