Many call it the “Platform Economy:” rather than making and selling products and services and sending them over the wall to customers in serial fashion, customers become an intimate part of the entire process from inception to maintenance, wired in digitally.
Of course, it takes a platform to make this happen. Accenture’s recent Tech Vision 2016 report makes it a point that a platform doesn’t just support the business, the platform is the business. The report quotes Marshall Van Alstyne of the MIT Initiative of the Digital Economy, who stated: “Products have features. Platforms have communities.”
So what proof do the Accenture reports authors offer to reinforce this bold claim? They cite estimates from IDC, which predicts that within the next two years, a majority of large enterprises will create or partner with industry platforms. IDC also predicts that the number of industry clouds will reach 500 or more by 2018, up from today’s 100-plus.
What’s really exciting is that these digital industry platforms aren’t just limited to tech vendors. Forward-looking companies from non-tech sectors are now also building platforms — either through partnerships or through their own digital infrastructures. Witness GE’s evolution from mainline manufacturer to digitally engaged platform — GE Predix — supporting the world’s largest Industrial Internet of Things. Along with GE, GM with its Connected Car Platform and Disney with its Magic Bands Platform.
It doesn’t have to be home-grown — partnerships with tech companies can also help pave the way, the Accenture executives observe. “Philips is launchingPhilips HealthSuite platform with three tech partners: Salesforce.com CRM +0.74%, Amazon IoT, and Alibaba Cloud. With a platform business model, Philips is driving new growth paths that complement its core business in medical equipment. The platform business model lives alongside the traditional product business.”
Disney, the resort and entertainment giant, also is evolving into a tech platform provider in its own right. The company’s MyMagic+ program is based on a technology platform that tracks customers’ travels throughout Disney World in Florida. Guests wear RFID-enabled MagicBands, which are wearable devices that integrate payments, hotel room access, ticketing, FastPass, and location tracking.
Non-tech companies will “become the next innovation giants,” the Accenture report’s authors predict. “Within three to five years, non-tech companies will emerge as leaders of technology and business model innovation, shifting power away from the traditional tech and digital born organizations.” In addition, this new power base will be highly distributed: “New geographic innovation hubs emerge,” Accenture predicts. “This shift will inherently drive a geographic dispersion of innovation hubs away from tech centers like Silicon Valley to a variety of global hubs with industry concentrations.”