value platform

Future-proof your business with The Platformed Enterprise

I've been writing about business platforms and ecosystems, laying the groundwork for the model I'm sharing here in this post. If you missed it, you might want to visit this post, which introduces the topic at a high level, and this post where I define ecosystems and platforms in more detail. Another that may be helpful is this one that outlines "nested strategy" -- keep the Enterprise level in mind as you read further here.

To recap: In order for a business to become future-ready, it must shift from a siloed, linear model to a more dynamic, ecosystem-based model. The metaphor for business changes from a machine to a biological system that simplifies complexity and enables agility and resilience.

I like Yochai Benkler's definition of platform: “a technical and organizational context in which a community can interact to achieve a specific purpose.23  This takes the concept of platform well beyond the technology realm, but the same basic concepts apply. A platform in the technology context defines the shared purpose, standards and rules for anything that sits on the platform. Just as Apple developers must play by a different set of rules than Microsoft developers, one could argue that the entire Apple brand is a platform that defines an extremely coherent, differentiated plug-and-play environment and experience for customers and the broader ecosystem.

The platformed enterprise™

As discussed here, a core concept of an ecosystem is value exchange across diverse parties with complementary self-interest. To create a thriving business ecosystem, one must consider the "keystone species", ie. your priority customer. In a biological context, the keystone species is what holds an ecosystem together, and it influences all other types of plants and animals that make up that ecosystem. An ecosystem for a grey wolf is radically different than the one for a starfish. That means that the core value desired by your keystone customer informs your entire ecosystem internally and externally. For example, Apple's keystone customer type is "rebels who think different" -- which attracts and influences the entire ecosystem that forms around it regardless of customer type (individual, SMB or enterprise) or geography.

Which brings me to the model itself:

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The model is built in layers, designed to simplify the complexity of organizations and extended partners, with everything sitting on top of the strategy layer.

The Strategy Layer

Strategy at the enterprise level must be defined first, and is entirely based on the keystone customer. When you first define the keystone customer mindset or psychographic (examples here in Enterprise level), it serves as the organizing principle to simplify business ecosystem design.

The strategy layer defines the required ecosystem for attracting your keystone species, the specific value sought by the diversity of "species" within that ecosystem, and how players and motivations interact to create differentiated value across the entire system. It includes customers, employees and partners (offerings and experiences), as well as the broader communities and the environment in which the organization operates (informing a more aspirational purpose, plus increased ROI for sustainability and CSR).

“People think focus means  saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means  saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully." - Steve Jobs

Focus is critical here; without a very clear definition and prioritization of your keystone species, you're left with trying to be all things to all people... which means you're nothing to anyone. No ecosystem will form or thrive around diluted focus with no clear way to decide what should be in or out of the system. Steve Jobs focused on a specific mindset, resulting in Apple being the first company to hit $1T in value.

The experience layer

This is the actual customer experience. It should itself be platformed, ie. fully seamless across departments and business units, and informed by the guidelines in the strategy. If you are aiming to create a platform-based business model, it sits in this layer; design should focus on the specific value exchange between platform participants.

But of course this focus on business model alone is not enough. You need to also apply platform principles to your…

operating model Layer

Your strategy and customer experience must be supported by an operating model (org structure, metrics, processes, etc) that is fully aligned and optimized for the specific value you’re trying to create. By defining the rules of the platform, you work more efficiently and eliminate redundancies. As you mature, you’ll also able to do things like externalize your core competencies across partners and a broader ecosystem to achieve unprecedented scale.

By thinking of your organization as a platform-based ecosystem designed to deliver a specific differentiated value, you can vastly streamline your business and achieve measurable efficiencies internally.

The Technology Layer

Most talk of platforms focus here, on the technology layer. But we believe that technology must be addressed last, because technology is an enabler of value creation. What value must be created across the ecosystem, across which entities, and how is that value exchanged? Digital transformation must be built on a solid understanding of the goals at the strategy, experience and operational layers in order to be successful.

In my opinion, this is the root cause of digital transformation failure. Digital is often tackled as a siloed initiative without being fully integrated into the rest of the business in a way that delivers a set of specific outcomes aligned with the enterprise-level differentiated value.

Questions or comments? As always, thanks for reading... your comments are very welcome. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

How to link brand, CX and digital to drive measurable results

Now that we've reviewed the Value Platform and Value Archetype™ concepts, let's see it in action. I originally designed the Value Platform™ to address a common problem that I saw in the brand strategy world: the lack of connective tissue between the brand strategy and everything else. 

This post provides a sample framework to help you ensure that your brand promise can be operationalized. We help CMOs look good by driving measurable results from their brand work. 

Value Platform Example: AirBnB

Previously I shared the Value Platform model plus the eight human-centric Archetypes -- one more more of which can serve as the differentiating central idea or organizing principle for your entire business. The archetypes should anchor on a core customer need, since customers are the ones buying your product and paying your bills, but should be relevant across stakeholder groups. 

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AirBnB provides an excellent example of a company that is built around a customer-centric idea, Belonging... which happens to be one of our 8 archetypes. 

In the AirBnB blog in 2014,  Brian Chesky wrote: 

Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?” It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.

I encourage you to read the whole post, as it provides great context for how they think about the business within this customer-centric context. 

Below you'll find a draft of AirBnB's full Value Platform and operating model in grid form. It's based on secondary research currently, but we'll be validating with the company directly. 

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  • Value Platform Archetype: While Belonging is the central idea, the marketplace concept wouldn't work without delivering on certainty/trust. Freedom in its various flavors (adventure, empowerment) shows up in the internal culture as well as the actual travel experiences. These archetypes inform the rest of the platform. 
  • Purpose: Belonging is infused in AirBnB's mission statement of "helping create a world where you can belong anywhere" and it's brought to life in a marketplace-based business model which inherently brings this concept of belonging and connection to life. 
  • Who we serve and what we offer: The team at AirBnB has worked to pull the "golden thread" of belonging into the employee and partner experience. They've also prioritized the impact on the broader ecosystem, translating belonging into a CSR platform of non-discrimination. 
  • How we work: AirBnB's operating model is highly team-centric and self-organizing. They strike a good balance between top-down guidance with empowered, bottoms-up decision-making. While the structure is still functionally based, they've used the culture and processes to ensure that they all drive towards bringing the customer outcome to life. They even hired a head of Diversity & Belonging. What I didn't find, but would recommend, is having an outcome-based perception metric of "feeling a sense of belonging" -- as well as identifying drivers of that perception (similar to NPS driver analysis) -- to better guide the organization and resource allocation. 

Hopefully this example demonstrates the outside-in, customer-centric approach to business strategy that serves to break silos, unify departments towards a shared outcome, and strongly differentiates the brand. As always, questions/comments welcome. I'll highlight a B2B example next. 


Why your transformation effort is likely to fail

Why your transformation effort is likely to fail

There’s a lot being written about digital transformation. Customer experience transformation. Future of Work transformation. Oh, and let’s not forget innovation. No matter the type, they all seem to be failing. McKinsey reported that "just 26 percent of respondents say the transformations they’re most familiar with have been very or completely successful at both improving performance and equipping the organization to sustain improvements over time" in 2015; two years later, they found that "companies are no more successful at overhauling their performance and organizational health than they were ten years ago."

I'll share my theory, formed after countless conversations with senior leaders over the years and numerous customer-journey/root cause analysis projects....