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Why is Everything a “Platform”?

by Bill Swanton  |  February 15, 2018  |  Submit a Comment

Last week, I wrote about the Digital Business Technology Platform.  A quick perusal of recent Gartner research you will quickly find references to Platform as a Service (PaaS), Endpoint Protect Platforms, Digital Experience Platforms, Data Science Platforms, Conversational Platforms, Platform Business Models, Trading Platforms, Compute Platforms, Hybrid Integration Platforms… and the list goes on.  Gartner analyst Betsy Burton looked through Gartner.com and found over 60!

So why is everything a platform?  The cynic in me says blame Silicon Valley.  Forget products, the venture capitalists are only interested in platforms, like Apple, Uber, and AirBnB that bring people and companies together to transact business and give the platform owner a piece of the action.  Back in the late 1990s, we called these “trading exchanges” and some, such as Elemica are still operating.  The difference is that today people have applied the idea to new types of interaction where there isn’t a cost effective alternative that can scale to generate significant revenue.  Platform Business Models are hot!

The result is that everyone wants to be a platform and the term has expanded well beyond the traditional concept of hardware and software infrastructure used to build and run an application.  And of course, every vendor worth its salt wants to call its product a “platform” to get attention from the financial and venture capital markets.  Like it or not, everything is a platform and we just need to be careful to qualify how we use it.

At Gartner, we are finding the concepts of product and platforms very useful for establishing governance.  As companies move to agile development, they quickly realize the power of treating their applications or web/device apps as products with a well understood customer to keep happy and prioritize improvements.

Product Platform

They quickly realize the products are dependent on other software platforms that helps them work.  A platform is a kind of product that is used to build other products on top of or provide services those products need. , such as:

  • A technical platform that provides user experience tools to product teams
  • A transaction engine that provides back end services
  • An existing legacy or ERP system that is now being accessed through products (e.g. mobile apps) instead of its own native user interface.

A platform’s customers are the product teams that use them, so the product management model can still be applied.

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Bill Swanton
VP Distinguished Analyst
22 years at Gartner
22 years IT Industry

Bill Swanton came to Gartner through the AMR Research acquisition and brings more than 34 years of enterprise manufacturing expertise to his role as VP and Distinguished Analyst. Mr. Swanton covers application strategy and the business value of IT, including IT benefit realization techniques used by Fortune 1000 companies to expand the value they receive from their ERP and other application investments. Read Full Bio




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