Tag Archives: platform evolution

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Habit Forming Platforms Part I

In my previous blog I had talked about Technology Evolution & touched upon how we have seen waves come in and go. I am converting that into a series of posts. First of the many posts related to Habit forming products & platforms. It captures my reflections around customer engagement mostly inspired from my readings of the book by Nir Eyal : HOOKED : How To Build Habit-Forming Products 

Nir Eyal is an Israeli-born American author, lecturer and investor known for his bestselling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.  He teaches and has expertise in areas of psychology, technology & business.

Everybody you meet , there is always a common thread on talks of how to improve customer engagement. I also do realize that we are trying to make sincere efforts to improve it all the time but still keep failing at it ! It is important to retrospect why this is the case and why do we keep losing engagement from our customers , not making the value proposition compelling enough to keep their attention live and fresh !

When I started reading the book , it became very clear to me how forming habits is imperative for the survival of many products. The current pandemic is a living example where the consumption patterns and habits are rapidly shaping to create survivability  , continuity , & pivoting away from the pandemic.

Back in 2001 , when I joined the industry internet was coming out of womb and world was still about rich desktop applications. Some of us would remember Power Builder front-ends on Windows ! People at that time would expect the technology on web to be just like that , comparison point of totally then divergent tool sets ! there was expectation that web should replicate every aspect of experience there by underscoring the other tranformational impact of internet.  It was a struggle on how to manage this transition with scores of teams involved trying to get this right .  the books offers a set of learning on how such situations should be addressed from a platforms stand-point.

  1. Companies need to change behavior by presenting users with an implicit choice between old and new.
  2. Platform services should be enjoyable for the sake of its customers.
  3. Building Platforms that are marginally better than others will never shake the old habits of customers , with broad adoption base.

A classic paper by John Gourville , a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School stipulates that

Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.

As we build platforms

  • We need to be better by  miles to even stand a chance for customers to get hooked to us.
  • If the platform and products require high degree of behavior change , then they are doomed to fail even if the benefits of using the new product are clear and substantial !
  • We need dramatic improvement to our software design or restatement of problem to break the users out of their old routines. 

Quoting another example from the book is that of the QWERTY keyboard , which was developed in 1870s ! Simply putting this layout prevented users from jamming metal type bars of early machines. Many people have tried to since then reinvent keyboards and relate it to better ergonomics BUT QWERTY still remains a standard. How does it survive ?

For a simple reason that there is very high costs attached to changing the user behavior and challenge the stored value for it within its customers. The whole process of relearning and adopting stands little or very less chance of success!

Business heads , platform architects , designers & developers need to:

  • Engage
  • Gauge
  • Modify

to make important decisions regarding how platform should be developed to trigger engagement for customers to get hooked to it.

We will talk in upcoming blog posts more around how to challenge and change the stored value in customer’s mind in order to increase likelihood of adoption. In the mean time , if you have any feedback or comments , please do share !

 

Technology Stack Evolution

Technology paradigms have been making shift through decades. Trends are moving fast in terms of offering agile & pivoting solutions to problems at hand.

From an engineering stand point I have seen following evolutionary trend as waves:

IT Application Engineering → Product Engineering → Platform Engineering

With every wave our approach on how we conceptualize a solution from self-build to best-of-breed has gone through ideological change:

IT Application Engineering

  • Point-to-Point
  • Narrow audience. Build for one works for one

Product Engineering

  • Vertical in terms of features
  • Broader Audience . Build for features serves many
  • Customization may give birth to unmanageable monolith

Platform Engineering

  • Horizontal in terms of features
  • Wider Audience through knob controls on infrastructure seeding
  • Extensible through API design
  • Build on top of it and not within
  • Scales

With the above evolution & need for diversity in addressing different problem statements , one needs to keep following points in mind :

  1. Cookie-cutter approach does not work for diverse business models
  2. “Thought partners” are required to co-develop solutions , listen and adopt design inputs instead of simply being vendors
  3. Need to address data infrastructure, visualization and distributed microservices
  4. Concepts around minimum viable product help understand customers’ journey at a high level and evaluate the technology needs

At such a massive scale, it is always beneficial to develop a set of design principles that can guide your decision-making.

  1. Choose tech solutions made by challengers and visionaries with an extensible, API-first mindset
  2. Avoid legacy companies that might be lagging behind as they try to evolve their monolithic platforms.
  3. Do lot of proof-of-concepts that build hands-on understanding

Platform approach comes with certain amount of decentralization embedded in it for use and extension thus allowing elasticity in solution to serve diverse needs :

decentralization

When we start thinking on above lines it helps us to become creative across two major parameters:

  1. Expanding or Testing into a new market
  2. Expanding or Testing a new product line

Technology should enable this entrepreneurial spirit from start-up to scale across various sub-streams.

I hope this short read provides condensed view of how to evolve your technology stack.

Additional Reference

You can find more details and insights in my catch-up with  Segment.com , that got published on their blog last month on How Our Stack Evolved At Cimpress   . Thanks to Geoffrey Keating from Segment for taking the interview.