Tag Archives: Platform Strategy

F.A.S.T Approach To Product Strategy

A few weeks back I wrote a blog post on how you can bring technology and growth more close to realization by adopting 5S Tech Strategy The blog post talked about taking a 5S approach towards product development that could help create a more robust & user centric product. I am extending my thinking now at strategic level to make an attempt at addressing the problem we face today :- How to counter the rapid change happening around us.

In so many years , the only thing I would ever speculate would be about an outcome of a cricket match or weather in cities I would have visited , but that still came with certain level of confidence; Today policies , businesses & impact on people has gotten reduced to a level of speculation never seen before! Feedback loop that drives future has shortened and is demanding faster reaction time.

In this blog , I will talk about the F(lexible) A(daptable) S(wift) T(ransformational) approach to Product Strategy. Each of the four pillars have been described by taking examples that are recent and defining in how they are impacting lives & society.

Flexible

Pandemic has shown us that flexibility is a key attribute that any design will have to cater for future. If we do not carry that trait our ability to respond will be constricted.

Health & fitness as a product is currently driving the Indian urban market. People now are willing to spend a good amount of their disposable income towards gyms, health devices like Fitbit and many more. The running events or rather the Marathon events are slowly gaining popularity in India, especially in Metros. Number of professional runners in India who train themselves through out the year to participate in Marathons is increasing by triple digit figures year on year.

But due to pandemic this activity has been drastically , where the whole joy of running in groups , meeting up and combining social activity with physical sport has gone for a toss. So should they stop organizing events ?

The obvious answer is NO , most of these event management firms have shifted to a virtual format where-in they are still able to charge 50% of registration fee than a normal event and provided for a simple mechanism to upload results post your run. They are trying to be flexible about where you run , when you run and how you measure performance.

Key Take Away : The product should be Flexible enough to continue to cater to its addressable market and foster engagement with its user base

Adaptable

Breweries and distilleries will make the switch from booze to hand gel as the government relaxed manufacturing rules in a bid to make up for shortages of alcohol-based disinfectants. Credit: Stock image/Pixabay

In late March , Belgium gave the go-ahead to breweries, distilleries and other recognized alcohol-makers to exceptionally produce disinfecting hand gel as demand surges due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Rubbens Distillery was one of the first businesses to cater to a new pandemic-related niche — making hand sanitizer in addition to gin. The pandemic has forced many European businesses to improvise. This Belgian gin distillery now has a popular line in hand sanitizer!

More examples across Europe reflect upon how the crisis forced thousands of companies to adapt — either to stay afloat, or to cater to a new pandemic-related niche. In France, perfumeries made disinfectant. In Denmark, a gourmet restaurant now sells only burgers. Elsewhere in this Belgian town, a lingerie manufacturer pivoted from corsets to COVID, and now produces face masks.

Key Take Away : The product / solution should be Adaptable to serve unrelated needs emanating from its customer base.

Swift

Swiftness to respond , is a great attribute to have. We often see inflexibility that comes when using different technology stacks and it becomes difficult for engineering teams to respond swiftly to changing market dynamics and retain market share. If you look at the new wave of platform hypothesis you would come across the following terms more often than ever :

Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS and Headless.

It is agile and nimble, always up to date approach that can help provide swiftness to your solution if the underlying platform is able to support the above tenets.

Whilst above is an example from how digital needs to transform and respond to changing business strategy. The following example is from manufacturing where 3D-printing platform have countered supply chain disruptions enabling on demand solutions for needs ranging from personal protection equipment to medical devices and isolation wards. the digital versatility and quick prototyping of 3D-printing has enabled the rapid mobilization of the technology and a swift response to emergencies in a closed loop economy.

An Italian engineering company, Isinnova, came up with a 3D printable respirator parts for free to help keep coronavirus patients alive , called a venturi valve, it connects to a patient’s face mask to deliver oxygen at a fixed concentration. The valves need to be replaced for each patient. The biggest supply crunch is with ventilators, but respirator parts like the ones in Italy and even simple nasopharyngeal swabs for testing are all in short supply. Meanwhile, the technology of 3D printing, which allows digital design of parts and the “printing” of them off a machine that creates them layer by layer, is ideally suited to emergency manufacturing because it is fast, cheap and can be done without a big factory

COURTESY OF ISINNOVA

Key Take Away : The platform / solution should be enabled to provide Swift response to the challenges that are thrown by macro factors governing the market.

Transformational

With above tenets in design , the product offering needs to be truly transformational to disrupt the market. May 26th was historic day in spaceflight era. It was a start of new journey. For the first time ever on this day , SpaceX launched a crewed mission to the International Space Station . NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Douglas Hurley took this journey on Crew Dragon spacecraft and shepherded it into a new era of space exploration.

At $1.7 billion dollars, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle is the least expensive spacecraft developed since the Mercury Program, which, adjusted for inflation, cost the agency $2.7 billion!

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-2 inside the company’s hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Another fun fact is that the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley drove to the launchpad in an electric car manufactured by Tesla, another of Musk’s pioneering companies, foregoing the “tin-can” Astrovan that has been the traditional crew transport since the US began sending humans into space in 1961 🙂 .

Self driving cars and reusable space rockets , we would have never imagined to move out from prototypes to production systems , but that is a reality now and maturing everyday!

Key Take Away : For a product to truly disrupt the market it has to be Transformational unless that happens competition will catch on and take over.

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

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 !

 

Platforms & More…

It has been time since I shared any thoughts. Have been irregular for sames reasons always .. caught in web of work and finding time for everything ! I tend to forget always that “yes I can do anything but I cannot do everything !” . Enough of self-infliction , will try to get back into groove and be honest to myself to do things which I like doing !

I am an avid read of Founding Fuel(who have the vision of creating  playbook of entrepreneurship through multi-channel knowledge sharing using their esteemed network of thought leaders) . While reading one of their articles from last week , I found it interesting enough for sharing it as blog post with some personal retrospection on it.

Read On…

Roughly last week on Founding Fuel an article was published about how much control is too much control for a platform. This article talks about some interesting history in early 1930s of how one the Bell Lab engineers Clarence Hickman developed a working model of answering machine but the underlying technology around magnetic storage and the research around it was shutdown by Bell Labs due to reasons related to people’s perception in relation to its usage and ramifications thereof on Bell Labs future ( Remember that Bell Labs remains most prolific entity in world that would have produced most Nobel laureates outside university / academia infrastructure as private company !) ( refer Tim Wu On the Master Switch )

Another powerful example is related to guiding principles of TCP/IP by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn aimed at interconnecting computers. It had no central control and does not offer any specific optimization for an application. an extreme end of platform design

Above and many other examples mentioned in the article relate to following facts:

  • Businesses heavily control platform strategy
  • Controls are often misguided with too much or / less making a platform subservient to stakeholders or / negative usage
  • Enterprises struggle with definition of platform success
  • Enterprises struggle to see if the platform is balancing act for every stakeholder
  • & Platform itself does not know when it has failed on above parameters!

Now-a-days technology has made it possible to create a platform vision as a foundation to any business idea , but its economic model definition remains conflicting and suited to business itself on how it sees or visualizes the same but it is important to keep referring to core definitions of a platform business.

A platform is a business model that

  • Creates value by facilitating exchanges between interdependent groups. To make these exchanges happen, platforms harness and create scalable networks or users and resources.
  • Platform business needs to facilitate transactions and boost efficiency from the perspective of supply, demand or supply-demand relation.
  • A platform business, should ensure that transactions are carried out efficiently and profitably.

For a platform business, the essence is to ensure that transactions are carried out efficiently and profitably.  The key, undoubtedly, lies in whether a platform can deliver increased transaction efficiency from the perspective of supply, demand or supply-demand relation?

If a business can manage that, it will be able to rise above the fierce competition , ensure effective guardrails with inversion of control , and eventually grow bigger. When it grows bigger in terms of economic value than the creators itself , it starts to become a platform .