Essential Next Generation Digital Platform Needs
While there’s been considerable attention paid to the next generation of technology enablers such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, machine learning and the Internet of Things, it’s important to consider the technical foundation that can underpin these enablers to provide the next generation operating system for your digital business model, processes, products and services.
This foundation is likely a platform business model and technical architecture that incorporates digital experience essentials such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud. Each of these “essentials” plays a key role to ensure your applications are user-centric; accessible anytime, anywhere; data-driven and available on-demand. This SMAC stack, as it’s often called, is an essential foundation for the following reasons:
- Social computing – Social computing enables connection to a new generation and is a new effectiveness frontier for workforce productivity. Social computing can transform work processes in functions such as product development, operations and distribution, sales and marketing, and customer service, as well as across the entire enterprise.
- Mobility and wearables – Mobility is allowing us to re-imagine the way we access and consume information, communicate, and conduct business transactions – including payments. Wearables (including smart glasses and watches) and augmented reality (AR) applications provide the next breakthrough in customer experience, instant information and hands-free process optimization.
- Analytics – Insights from big data and real-time analytics can help make better decisions, improve efficiencies and gain competitive advantage.
- Cloud and hybrid IT – Cloud technologies and platforms are providing agility and flexibility, and cost savings via software-, infrastructure-, and platform-as-a-service delivery models. End users and consumers typically gain the benefits of improved experience, productivity, reduced costs, easy access and a pay-as-you-go subscription model.
Beyond this foundation, which has become table-stakes to stay competitive, what else should enterprise buyers look for in their next gen digital platforms? How can off-the-shelf platforms and accelerators help an organization avoid re-inventing the wheel on major initiatives and enable the innovation, agility, flexibility, cost savings, reuse and standardization that will power their future transformation?
With this in mind, here’s three recommendations to help you in your selection process:
1 – Digital frameworks with off-the-shelf platforms and accelerators
As discussed in “4 strategic themes for digital transformation in 2018”, to help accelerate digital transformation initiatives and provide an agile platform for future growth, it’s important for digital frameworks to move from DIY to off-the-shelf platforms and accelerators.
In prior years, there was little in the way of digital transformation frameworks or proven approaches to guide organizations along their transformation journeys and they typically had to figure this out for themselves. In 2018 and beyond, we can expect to see a greater array of pre-assembled digital transformation platforms and frameworks from technology vendors that can help accelerate your digital journey. In addition to the major players’ cloud platforms, offerings such as SAP’s Leonardo and GE’s Predix are some outstanding examples which I believe are incorporating all the right elements and doing so in an ecosystem-oriented approach.
Since there are now so many frameworks on offer, it’s important to look at the technology vendor’s provenance in terms of how they came into the digital platform space. Did they arrive from a background as a cloud vendor, an ERP vendor, an IoT vendor, an integration vendor, a content management vendor, an industry-specialist or some other heritage? How broad is their platform vision and roadmap and how strong is their platform in areas beyond their core competencies?
2 – Alignment with digital DNA strategic themes
When selecting a platform or framework, it’s important to determine what you want to accomplish and review the full functionality on offer. Ideally, the solution should provide a core platform as well as the requisite technologies, techniques and innovation approaches to help you take advantage of the core DNA elements essential for digital transformation.
As we discussed in “Tackling digital disruption in your industry”, a robust technical foundation for digital transformation needs to incorporate support for four strategic themes for success: 1) platform business models, 2) leading approaches to corporate innovation, 3) combinations of emerging and disruptive technologies (i.e. the SMAC stack, plus the newer enablers we mentioned earlier), and 4) digital services mastery (i.e. agile design, development, deployment and ongoing management).
In making a selection, it’s important to review how each platform provides technologies, techniques and approaches for all these areas and how much guidance is provided in terms of best practices, use cases and documentation? Explore how the vendor’s support for these four themes complements your own capabilities, knowledge and skill sets.
3 – Industry-platforms with extensions to jump-start use cases
It will be important to look beyond one-size-fits-all approaches and look for highly-flexible, industry-oriented platforms with extensions and accelerators that give you the ability to pick and choose exactly the components you need, and to evolve and add services and capabilities over time. Integration with your current applications and infrastructure will also be critical to support evolution over revolution.
For example, if you’re a retail business, you’ll want a platform that has industry-specific extensions that can accelerate your use cases. Does the technology vendor have machine learning algorithms that can be quickly and easily trained to help optimize the routing of trucks in your supply chain? Can their IoT architecture easily lend itself to help reduce energy usage in HVAC and refrigeration units? These are the kinds of questions to think through when looking for industry-compatibility.
Overall when thinking about your digital platform or digital core, it’s important to ensure the essentials are there in terms of social, mobile, analytics and cloud, and then to look at each of these three areas we’ve explored in this article: what’s available off-the-shelf in terms of building on top of the cloud foundation? What’s the level of support for enabling platform business models, for accelerating innovation, for carving out unique new value propositions from combinations of technologies, and for designing, developing and deploying applications in an agile and iterative manner? Finally, what’s the industry fit of the platform in terms of helping to jump-start your industry-specific use cases and getting you where you need to be in days or weeks, rather than months or years.
If you’re curious as to why ClearPrism as opposed to the larger management consultancies? Our philosophy is that if you’re interested in generating real results quickly, we believe that you don’t have to hire fifty people to get to the five or so smart people that actually perform the work. Just hire those five smart people directly and we’ll help you orchestrate to turn digital transformation requirements and expectations into reality.
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