What do we mean with “building a platform”?
It is not always easy to find your way around the world of platforms: Is a platform an application? Is it a marketplace? What is the difference between a platform and an ecosystem?
We approach platforms as a new business model that orchestrates value flows, that connects supply and demand within an ecosystem.
Technology is a facilitator, a tool that makes these connections possible.
Therefore, we believe that building a platform = building a new type of business, with very specific differences from the traditional (linear) models we know. So it will need technology, but not only : your platform will also need its own strategy, governance, legal and financial issues, go-to-market, trust framework, network effects, checkpoints, ecosystem,… etc.
This is why we have developed a methodology and tools adapted to these new models”.
Common misconceptions about digital plaforms
Platforms are digital only.
A digital platform is orchestrating a user’s journey, which can cover both digital and physical elements. example: grocery delivery platforms which rely not only on the the app, but more importantly on the physical logistics.
Digital platforms are a prerogative of digital companies.
In fact it’s the opposite : incumbents have assets, services or products, a customer base, or equipment that they can leverage to accelerate the platform adoption and it’s network effects; example : General Electrics built Predix, a data platform leveraging all the equipment sold to their customers, IOT devices and data intelligence.
I need to be legitimate on the market I'm targeting.
Airbnb did not come from the hosting market , nor did Uber from the transport market. However, it’s true that having already some knowledge, a brand, funds, assets or customer base in the target ecosystem, will help accelerate the go-to market, and will also increase the defensibility of your platform.
I need to launch my application as fast as possible, and iterate ; the business model will come later.
Of course, you’ll have to pivot, iterate and reconsider ; however, only in rare cases (like YouTube) does the business model come later; instead, in order to reduce the risk of failure, as well as the financial risk, there are quite a few steps to be taken before coding an app (for instance : validate the problem & the solution with potential customers, design the governance & trust model, define the business potential & monetisation strategy, etc.); and anyway, your business model will evolve in time for sure.
The more complete my solution is, the more attractive it will be for customers.
Platforms are not like a product or a service, they need a very focused & narrow entry point so that they can kick in the network effects ; then, and only then, you will add more features or services; examples : doctolib : finding a doctor’s appointment ; airbnb : finding an original & cheap place to stay. uber : going from a to b safely & cheaply. Vinted : selling second-hand personal clothing.
A platform is a marketplace.
YES and NO !
A platform can be a marketplace, but there are several other types of platforms like data platforms, platforms transforming a supply chain, etc.
Is a SaaS solution a platform ?
Yes and No !
It depends… It can be if it’s orchestrating connections between offer and demand in a “many-to-many” model; but it’s not a platform in a “one-to-many” set-up. A “one-to-many” set-up can however be a powerful 1st step towards a platform model.