My friend and colleague Phil Simon recently published a new book called The Age of the Platform. I know from conversations with Phil that his new book is a personal journey to explore a very large and significant topic for which Phil has a lot of passion: how business technology must evolve to provide the value and functionality that businesses need to move successfully and agilely into the future.
Exploring on the Edge of Innovation
Like many of us, Phil is an explorer. And he decided to explore a large area of business and technology – the successes and failures of companies that are based on platforms that consist of multiple offerings, ecosystems of partners and customer communities, and cultures of innovation (driven both internally and externally).
He has taken the good kind of risk in putting together The Age of the Platform – he wants to move to somewhere new in his thinking and has shared the beginnings of that process in this book. Innovation comes from taking risks, taking leaps away from where one has been -- to find new places and ideas. Phil shows that his exploration of the Platform as business model also parallels his search for what he wants to do with his life in new phases of experience.
In his forward, Mitch Joel nails what Phil is doing with his own journey:
It’s tempting to stick with what has always worked best for you, but today it’s critical to explore new platforms – and to build your own. As obvious as this sounds, it’s amazing to see how many businesses refuse to experiment with new technologies and media. They’re afraid of new platforms.
And Phil, after running through key questions to consider in order to decide if a platform will lead to fertile business growth, has this to say:
If these questions make you feel uneasy, don’t worry. Embrace the uncertainty.
Platforms require it.
I recommend that if you haven’t already read The New Small, go through it before reading The Age of the Platform. In The New Small Phil talks about businesses that are forward-moving, interested in varying degrees of business innovation, reasonably tech savvy, deeply interested in customer success with their services or products, and take the life of their businesses very personally since they are usually doing something they love. These “New Small-ers” understand that technology should only come into play if it clearly benefits the purpose of the business.
The Age of the Platform provides value to businesses of all sizes that either: do not fully understand certain technology changes that are occurring and how they might impact their organizations; or do not understand how to innovate their businesses to survive and be more competitive – or both. Reflecting what The New Small revealed, Phil’s discussion of the “change-tolerant business” is quite significant. Phil provides a quote from Robert Charnette: “A highly change-tolerant business can both adapt to and cause market turbulence for its own benefit”. Phil then goes on to explore how “knowledge is power” for achieving the change-tolerant business, especially in these times of: burgeoning data and content, many new technologies, and many new ways to bring data and technology into a business for its benefit.
While discussing ways that a “platform” mentality can be manifested in businesses of all sizes, Phil provides an excellent case in Hubspot. Hubspot is a source of internet marketing technologies and expertise for small businesses, particularly for inbound marketing and social media. The case was co-written by my friend and colleague Kirsten Knipp, now a VP at Hubspot, who shows that Hubspot is not only a technology platform that integrates with other platforms, but a platform of knowledge and innovation, thus becoming a “virtuous” platform of openness and sharing to benefit both Hubspot, and its customers and partners. I highly recommend a thorough read of the Hubspot case to understand how a “platform” can be put into play for companies, since most companies are not Amazons or Googles.
You may not agree with everything Phil says in The Age of the New Platform but it’s likely that the book has provoked new thinking about how business and technology must evolve, and also opened up an examination of ideas and functions that may no longer be relevant for businesses that want to sustain competitiveness and innovation. Phil has invited his readers to interact with him at www.theageoftheplatform.com to continue the conversation.
Disclosure: I’m a friend and colleague of Phil Simon, I’ve read all of his books, and intend to read any new books he writes.
About the author: Julie Hunt is a software industry solution strategist and analyst, providing market and competitive insights. Her 25+ years as a software professional range from the very technical side to customer-centric work in solutions consulting, sales and marketing. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitive and on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategic Product & Market Intelligence Services