Gartner has been espousing the importance of the digital platform as a critical construct for end user and technology and service provider (TSP) organizations alike for a few years. Depicted below, it’s critical because it both asserts and provides the key elements required for an organization to create and fulfill a digital business strategy.
For end users, the keys are to recognize the importance and prevalence of things (and the sensing and data collection they enable), the interactions and experiences with and for customers, the underlying and evolving (flexible, pluggable, scaleable) IT infrastructure, and the need to branch out to create and participate in (presumably new) ecosystems. All of these are now or would be infused with “intelligence” in the guise of AI/ML or related analytical capabilities. As a result, that platform will do the work instead of humans as consumers ask for an item (likely not be any brand name), and selection, fulfillment, and delivery are automated.
For TSPs, the importance of each element is similar, but the targets are different. Business customers are the focus, “things” may have less of an impact in non-IoT markets, and IT systems must enable cloud/SaaS and related technologies while also providing (or integrating) billing, customer support/success, sales, and marketing management facilities related to those business customers and their implementations. All of these are now or would be infused with “intelligence” in the guise of AI/ML or related analytical capabilities, focused on qualifying buyers, supplying information when needed, assembling/orchestrating services, and provisioning the end product or solution. This will both enable and result in more tech buyers purchasing direct – that is, with few human or channel partners involved. This has begun to be exhibited (thus far without the advanced “intelligence” element as described) in marketplaces from providers like AWS (AWS Marketplace) and HPE (Cloud 28+).
But if that is the case, where do ecosystems fit into the picture? Two Johns – Santoro and Kostoulas – at Gartner have written a great note advising end users on the the roles and types of ecosystems that exist and how they help drive digital platforms (read it here).
TSPs – somewhat ahead of end user organizations, I believe – are heading to a point at which the ecosystem IS the marketplace AND the platform. AWS and HPE exemplify this. While there are numerous providers that offer marketplaces (which clients can read about here/part 1 and here/part 2), these two TSPs are taking things a step further. Both firmly believe that the marketplace and its capabilities (and draw of ISVs, which in turn draw customers) are critical, though for slightly different reasons. AWS sees the marketplace as a natural extension if its platform (and vice versa), enabling interactions and transactions between partners and its customers to be more frictionless. HPE sees the marketplace more as a digital platform, since it is not focused on being an IaaS/Paas cloud platform provider so much as a platform that attracts, qualifies, and pairs buyers to sellers (sometimes offering provisioning, but not offering transactions in its platform) and also offers a wide variety of other digital capabilities supporting the community (public or potentially private). Here’s the array of services such providers may offer:
Increasingly, however, offerings marketed, sold, and provisioned in these marketplaces will not be solely individual products or products from a single vendor. They’ll begin to be “ecosystem solutions” comprised of services offered by multiple vendors and integrated/orchestrated through APIs and back end controls. Because of this, they’ll have to be well behaved as services, they’ll likely be containerized for portability, and they’ll be transacted, billed, and run – likely as managed services of sorts – by the marketplace provider or potentially white label or 3rd party MSP. As this happens, the marketplace and underlying platform – and the ecosystem – become inseparable.
If you’re a buyer, you should consider “shopping” (or buying or at least BYOLing) through these constructs. If you’re an ISV, you need to join up, be part of one or more marketplaces, and see where that will take you. If you’re in the channel, you’d better be adding substantive value, or your days will be numbered.