Almost every organisation is transforming towards a technology-enabled “platform-based” business model. And if they haven’t already started this transformation, they will need to do so soon. Over the next decade, 75 per cent of organisations will be completely digitally transformed — evolving to what we call the Future Enterprise. Those that do not transform might not survive.

The platform will be the anchor point for this transformation, and the focus will be on developing and maintaining a digital business ecosystem. What does that mean for various industries?

  • For banks, the open banking revolution means established players must connect with FinTechs, leveraging APIs to provide customers with a platform for aggregated (but personalised) services.
  • Retailers are trying to leverage a platform to create personalised experiences at scale (similar to the Amazon model).
  • Manufacturers are connecting their products (e.g., cars, vacuum cleaners or even toothbrushes) and operations — integrating IT and operational technology (OT) to create platforms that deliver new experiences to customers.
  • Utilities are building digital grids that act as platforms to connect with suppliers, regulators, financial traders and customers (via smart meters).
  • Healthcare providers are trying to create universal patient identities based on shared data platforms to ensure that patients receive the right treatment in critical moments.

The decision to redefine an enterprise technology platform to support the ecosystem-driven digital business models of the future — a digital transformation platform — will be the most important decision your leadership team will make in the next decade.

Such a platform must have three important qualities to be considered a true digital transformation platform:

  • Enterprise-wide: A true digital transformation platform is not just a platform that’s used to underpin an individual digital project (for example, a mobile commerce project, or a connected devices project, or an initiative to create an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot). A true digital transformation platform provides a set of standard, common capabilities that can be made available across enterprise projects and programs everywhere — whether their focus is on enabling new, innovative products and services or re-engineering existing systems and processes.
  • Full-life cycle. A true digital transformation platform is not only concerned with enabling operational systems and processes in deployment. It also provides facilities that help businesses manage the end-to-end life cycles of the business-technology capabilities and systems that it enables — from ideation, through design and deployment, operation, improvement, all the way to retirement. A true platform also ensures that those life cycles can be data-driven and, to the extent that’s appropriate, automated.
  • Multi-stakeholder. A true digital transformation platform is not just about serving the needs of one stakeholder constituency (for example, developers, integrators, IT management, employees, customers or partners). It provides services and capabilities that enable the needs of all of these groups (with respect to digital products, services, processes, insights, workspaces) to be met.

Elements of a DT platform

As you can see from the graphic above, there are five critical dimensions to any digital transformation platform:

  • Intelligence: The capability to drive intelligent behaviour and actions, linking human and machine-derived knowledge from the widest possible information sources, will drive optimum system behaviour and business outcomes.
  • Orchestration: Orchestration involves interweaving “digital threads” between external-facing systems, processes and services with internal processes in a seamless fashion, and providing visibility of operational performance and issues.
  • Experience: The quality of experience that an enterprise can deliver is already a key differentiator — and it’s only becoming more important: to deliver outstanding experiences not only in the digital realm, but increasingly across boundaries between digital and physical products and services. Creating technology-driven, game-changing experiences will be critical to capturing ecosystem-enabled revenue streams.
  • Trust: Organisations need to share data and resources internally and externally in a secure fashion to drive new revenue streams, but also to redefine the relationship with the ecosystem based on digital trust.
  • Agility: We’re not talking about project delivery agility here, but agility at the scale of the business: high-level adaptability that enables an organization to balance speed with control in different areas of its business.

A very specific approach to building and managing a digital transformation platform is vital for delivering digital transformation at scale. With digital transformation success being so intimately tied to the creation of new, ecosystem-driven digital business models, it’s not enough to allow individual initiatives to pursue their own agendas. Core IT functions need to be re-invented based on the knowledge gained from successful digital initiatives, while digital initiatives need to absorb the knowledge from successful, scalable, long-lived core IT services. Both camps need to collaborate and align around the needs and expectations of increasingly diverse networks of ecosystem stakeholders.