The world of Information Technology is changing and changing very fast. In last few years, a new phenomenon called a “Platform” has emerged rapidly as more and more companies recognize they can leverage the applications they have developed as strategic assets. Simply, a platform is anything a company can use to differentiate itself from its competitors and distinguish itself in the marketplace. One of the best and recent examples of a Strategic Platform is the Salesforce’s Customer Experience Platform. CIOs and their teams can now easily create and brand Customer Experience Platform for most of their client facing and internal applications set in their portfolio. Coca-Cola differentiates itself from its competitors as their Sales and Distribution platform, built through Salesforce technologies, allows them running their operation smoothly and creates a different customer experience.
Another way of looking at a platform is to “productize” a component of an enterprise’s information structure. Marketing people have been “productizing” things for years. It is how they brand their enterprises. For example, when a consulting company introduces a CRM implementation services targeting a specific group of companies, they brand it and call it a “CRM Practice”. They develop a whole business strategy around the “CRM Practice”. They appoint a Director of CRM Practice, develop teams and levels of expertise specifically designed to work with companies in that industry. They understand how by branding their collective expertise, they can truly drive change into their chosen markets. CIOs can do the same. They can brand their expertise and drive change into the markets they serve.
CIOs would do well to pattern themselves after this concept of a “Practice” and develop “Platform” out of the expertise they have developed within their companies. When they have invested hundreds of thousand or even millions of dollars into a component of the business, they should certainly take the extra step and brand their platform. These platforms can take many forms; it could be component of their infrastructure that is well suited to handling a specific type of transaction like insurance payments, or trade order processing. It could be even a set of applications that all work together seamlessly to perform a function called the “360 Degree View of Client” in financial service enterprise. When a CIO shifts their thinking from simply providing service to adding strategic value, the opportunities to distinguish themselves, their departments and their enterprises are everywhere.
So, CIOs take a lesson from marketing and brand their expertise. Become “Strategic Platform Managers.” Look around your departments for opportunities to “Mobilize and Productize.” Think about how your applications, infrastructure and expertise give your enterprise a strategic competitive advantage and mobilize and brand them. Call it a platform and productize it with marketing materials, a clear definition of how it works and what sets it apart in the marketplace. CXOs and business investors look for what they call “strategic assets” and “disruptive innovation.” More and more of them are realizing that the platforms created by IT departments can become true strategic differentiators and will invest more in it if such platforms can be recognized as strategic assets. They clearly are looking for companies and CIOs who recognize how important their creations, applications, infrastructure innovations and service offerings are so much more than simply a collection of tools, software and services. CIOs need to do the same – recognize Strategic Platforms for what they are and you and your teams have likely created many of them during the time you have been with your enterprise.
Most important, recognize the contributions of your department have real value and treat the Platforms you create as Valuable Business Assets because that is what they are – Business Assets with lasting corporate value. You gave birth to them. You created them, nurtured them, lived and died with the revisions and upgrades. It’s high time you and your fellow IT professionals are recognized in the marketplace as having created Platforms with durable and lasting value.