There are powerful digital dragons out there! They include companies that have wholeheartedly embraced digital disruption and are using it fearlessly to invade and dominate markets they didn't even play in before. If you need to avoid getting burnt to a crisp by one of those fire-breathing digital dragons, you need to get out of the way, and fast! But thats not really going to help, and it’s not really possible. Like we have said before, there’s no place to hide. You need to face it and fight it. Disrupt fire with fire! Become a fire-breathing dragon yourself. Come on baby, put out that fire! as Jim Morrison of The Doors would say in today’s scenario.
You will need a digital business model. And you will need a digital business technology platform too. The model will make you a dragon, and the platform will give you your fire!
What is a digital business platform? What are the components that make up one? Well actually there is no one platform that you can buy and plug in. At a high level we can break it up into three layers - a product and services layer, a core platform services layer and a infrastructure services layer.
The product and services layer is the layer that you would expose to your customers and partners. This would be the layer that would be responsible for the customer experience - it would expose the APIs and enable access to the applications that would be directly responsible for customer engagement and meeting their business requirements.
The core platform services layer would be the enabling layer for the applications and provide the integration, identity and authorisation and other core micro services that can be used to build up the applications that will serve to meet the business requirements of the customers.
The infrastructure services layer would provide the hardware and platform services that would be required to develop, test, deploy and host the digital platform applications.
What are the technology building blocks that are needed to support a digital business? We can look at five major platforms that would be required to enable the new capabilities and business models of a digital business.These are:
Customer experience platform
This is the platform that contains all the main customer-facing elements, such as customer portals, omnichannel commerce and customer mobile apps. The Customer portal and apps are used by customers to gain information, get customer service, apply for services, place orders and transact, and/or view various status. Enterprises need to be able to participate in social networks for community interaction and transactional functions. The customer experience platform needs to be able to support this by enabling the posting of data (feeds) and by receiving data posted by customers. Customer analytics will be used by enterprises to analyse customer behaviour and social sentiment. Customer analytics can be diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive. The output/results of customer analysis can be fed to any other parts of the technology platform. The customer experience platform becomes the gateway through which other platforms can provide communication and value to the customer. All inbound data, insight, customer requests and e-commerce, as well as all outbound information and fulfillment of services should go through the customer experience platform.
Data and analytics platform
It is very important for the enterprise to have a "single view of the customer". For example, customers should be able to walk into a branch, store or service center and ask about transactions and services that were done on a mobile app. The organization should have an up to date view of each customer that includes purchase history, browsing behaviour patterns, preferences, social sentiment etc. to be able to create relevant offers and services for the customer.
Analytics is core to any organization as this is what will drive all the actionable insights that will be required by any digital business. This would contain all the information management and analytical capabilities which would allow data-driven decision making. The purpose of the analytics platform is to provide real-time analysis and actionable insights that will allow real-time and contextual actions to be taken in reference to a customer’s current behaviour. The platform will allow these decisions to be made; and prescribe courses of action that can be executed. The analytics platform can deliver insight that is descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and/or prescriptive.
Today there are many devices everywhere that are connected (in homes, hospitals, cars, buildings, manufacturing, warehouses etc.) that collect and relay data in realtime. The relevant data for an organization’s business can prove very useful as it can be used for monitoring, optimization, control and monetization. The capabilities of this platform include connectivity, analytics and integration to core and operational systems. For eg. data from connected devices in cars can provide use cases for optimization of assets (e.g., use less fuel, obtain better yield) and insight on usage (e.g., driving patterns). The IoT platform can either act as a gateway to analytics and storage capabilities that exist in the data and analytics platform or do all of the data monitoring, storage, analytics and algorithms in the IoT platform itself.
This is probably the most strategic platform as this is what will enable the ecosystem - which is a defining part of a digital business. This platform will support the creation of, and connection to, external ecosystems, marketplaces and communities. The main elements of such a platform are API management, control and security. This is the platform that exposes the APIs of all the internal applications to the ecosystem partners and customers to enable them to participate in the organization’s business.
The purpose of this platform is to enable an enterprise to create value from the outside with business ecosystems in the digital world. This requires the ability to make assets like data, algorithms, transactions and business processes available through APIs to external business ecosystems; to construct ecosystems that an enterprise can host to connect new partners and developers, and to pursue new business models; and an ability to connect to industry ecosystems such as marketplaces, supply chain hubs and financial networks. The essential components that make up this platform are API management for the management, security and governance of the enterprise's APIs that will be public-facing and APIs from partners that will be employed by the enterprise. This can be used for managing Customer-facing public APIs as well as Partner-facing public APIs.
Information systems platform
This is a common platform and this is what would support all the back office operations, such as ERP, finance, HR, purchasing, billing and other vital back-office systems, employee collaboration and workplace — Email, telephony and video, file storage and sharing, collaboration tools, productivity tools. Each industry has a set of core systems (e.g., core banking and core merchandising, provisioning systems in telecom, actuarial systems in insurance, and supply chain and warehouse systems in industrial sectors, etc.).The Business intelligence applications would include reporting, dashboards and analysis of back-office and core system data. All these systems would then be integrated using various integrated methods to allow for the translation, transformation and orchestration of data and services as required by the other systems in the overall digital platform.
These platforms are built on services-based principles and architecture, and on the cloud primarily. The primary goal of building such a platform will be to enable the creation of an interoperable set of services that can be brought together to create applications, apps and workflows. A micros-services based architecture is the key to developing and deploying such a platform, as this is what will give you the flexibility to easily put together scalable applications for any business requirement. It is like using lego blocks that can be put together to build an end service. And as we have said earlier, this is not a single platform that can be provided by a single vendor which you can go out and buy and deploy. It will need to be put together depending upon your business needs and the organisation’s strategy.
A digital business technology platform is a must in today’s business landscape. If you are going to digital war, you are going to need a digital platform. Build a digital platform.
Go get yourself a dragon!