Removing friction to enable seamless collaboration throughout the business boosts the organization’s ability to generate value. When the barriers between internal departments and siloes are broken down, teams can combine knowledge and assets to enhance products and services, re-use existing business assets in new ways, and co-create the solutions of the future.
Organization-wide collaboration needs to be supported by digital platforms that enable connections between different segments of the business, and provide diverse teams common ground and access to the same pool of technological capabilities. Adopting these platforms, and the thinking to match, provides a basis for key technology decisions that simplify the business ecosystem, stimulate innovation, and accelerate delivery across functions.
Our Digital Platform Strategy framework is a blueprint for platform building based on five essential focus areas. Addressed together, these break down the complexity of an enterprise platform, ensuring classes of foundational technology combine to bridge organizational gaps, allow new ecosystems to flourish and deliver business outcomes.
Architecture and API Remediation: Engaging customer experiences that evolve to meet changing market conditions require making the most of existing assets and capabilities. The API and architecture approach should include remediating legacy systems so they effectively expose key assets that can be re-used or built on by developers. A platform of self-service APIs that mask underlying process, technical, and operational complexity allows teams across the enterprise to easily experiment with and launch new customer-facing solutions in response to market demands. The platform can be extended to facilitate collaboration with customers and partners - paving the way for industry ecosystems.
Self-Service Data: Businesses increasingly rely on real-time analytics to power decisions. The data platform therefore has to be ubiquitous; streamlining the use, management, and operations of complex data technologies to provide intelligence on demand. The platform should also support a self-service ecosystem of curated data assets, addressing strategy issues such as data ownership and authorization.
Experiment Infrastructure and Telemetry: Innovation lives and dies by the ability to learn quickly through purposeful, measured experimentation. Using nimble processes, architecture, and instrumentation, experiment infrastructure helps the organization make the right decisions about experiments and investments by putting them to the test in a controlled and transparent environment.
Customer Touchpoint Technology: Knowledge of the customer is the foundation of delivering value. Together, a consistent content strategy, a single organizational view of the customer, and transparent telemetry provide unprecedented customer insight that paves the way for highly personalized product offerings. These support new, targeted value streams that can be delivered quickly across multiple channels.
A robust digital platform not only provides a foundation for organizational collaboration, but helps ensure that collaboration is quick, painless and effective, encouraging further teamwork and fostering a virtuous cycle of cooperation and positive outcomes.
“(A platform) helps accelerate the time to convert concept to cash, either with experimentation or getting consumer insights,” says Thoughtworks Digital Platforms Practice Lead, Vinod Santhanam. “Importantly it also increases your overall system stability - and that leads to happier, more productive teams, and improves the developer experience.”
While technology can provide the bedrock, it’s also vital that senior management gives teams the space and impetus to collaborate on a digital platform, and makes it clear how doing so will contribute to business results. Failing to make this case, or adopting a ‘build it and they will come’ approach can result in collaboration that’s limited to the technical level.
“Wiring a whole lot of technology together with the hope that people will come and use it as it’s intended, so it’s not outcome, value or use case-driven; and just executing a bottom-up architectural initiative – those are the main failure modes for building platforms,” says Thoughtworks Principal Consultant, Zhamak Dehghani.
In addition to collaborative technology, the enterprise needs to be imbued with a sense of common purpose, where the focus on departmental responsibilities doesn’t cause teams to lose sight of the overarching goals - most of which will center on delivering value to customers, internal or external.
“Every team should be running as a product team,” says Ryan Murray, Thoughtworks Director of Digital Platform Strategy. “Their product might be technology, but they’re looking to understand the internal customer’s goals and figure out how to make them successful. We see that mentality at (external) customer touchpoints, but really you need to bring it to every level of the organization.”
Cloud technology is the fundamental enabler of the platforms that support organizational collaboration. But cloud-based architecture should be seen as the infrastructure upon which various business capabilities can be created.
These capabilities (and the technologies they are based on) will vary depending on the business outcomes required, but will be broadly grouped into the platform focus areas we have outlined, providing actionable data, connection to customers or streamlining product or service development and delivery.
Together, even if initially associated with separate functions, platform capabilities become “great opportunities to accelerate time to market, bake in security and enable repeatability for the rest of the organization,” Murray notes.