Digital Platform Strategies

SASSE organised an online event titled “Global and Local Digital Platform Strategies” on 22 April, 2021.  The event discussed the topic from the perspectives of both academia and practitioners while also presenting some of the results obtained from our research project so far. In the opening presentation of the event, professor Kari Smolander from LUT University mentioned that companies often do not seem to have a clear strategy regarding the use of platforms and do not always even agree on what is meant by platforms or integrations into them. Without having a common view, it can be difficult to create general guidelines for the development of platform strategies. 

The first invited speaker, Perttu Aunola from Trimble Forestry Europe, stressed the importance of digital platform ecosystems. Trimble develops and maintains a platform centered around planting, harvesting, and supplying wood, and the platform ecosystem consists of various actors such as forest owners and harvesters as well as some of the largest forest industry companies. The specific characteristics of the industry, such as the importance of the location of production facilities, lay the foundations for joint action for the various actors on Trimble’s platform.

According to Aunola, a platform’s ecosystem must deliver direct benefits for its members, for example in the form of cost savings. However, it must also clearly highlight the benefits of co-operation. This will make it easier to reconcile any disagreements between the different parties, while also enabling mutual learning and the development of the entire platform together with the different actors. The key to success regarding platforms is not the utilized technologies, but the value and benefit platforms are able to generate for their ecosystem.

Erkka Niemi from Unikie approached the use of platforms and platform economy from the perspective of automated vehicles. The range of companies and operators in the industry is wide, and as software is becoming increasingly important in the development of these vehicles, numerous Chinese technology companies, Apple and Amazon have started their own projects on the matter.  Significant developments have been taken recently in the development of these vehicles, although obstacles still exist. The ever-changing conditions and variables that arise from the vehicles’ operating environment are particularly challenging. 

In general, self-driving vehicles will have implications for both vehicle owners and, among others, businesses such as insurance companies. It is therefore interesting what kind of ecosystem is formed around the development and use of self-driving vehicles. One example of this is PAVEF (Platform for Autonomous Vehicles Ecosystem Finland), which consists of different actors and aims to promote the development of automated vehicles and business innovations emerging from the deployment of these vehicles.

The last speaker at the event was Professor Ola Henfridsson from the University of Miami, who discussed in his presentation on the different platform-driven strategies that are relevant in both platform development and governance. Henfridsson also stressed the importance of platform ecosystems and the opportunities a platform creates for different actors to build their business on the platform. When it comes to digital platforms, the key is to provide enough resources to these actors but to avoid providing those too much so that it would make the platform easily copied and as a result, redundant.

Overall, with the increasing digitalization, platforms enable organizations to improve their own operations for example by improving their processes but also by offering their customers completely new products and services. In the current environment and in the near future, the role of data will continue to gain importance in the platforms’ operations. As a whole, the role of customers using platforms is more varied as they also create data for the platform, which is of vital importance for platforms in developing their offerings. All the presentations further highlighted the significance of platform ecosystems and the need to assess the role played by the different ecosystem members when developing platform strategies. The key for a successful platform strategy is to be able to deliver the kind of value that the ecosystem members would not be able to achieve alone.

Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

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