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Platform Sprawl Leaves No Industry Behind
Jul 11, 2017 | by Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Choudary | MIT Sloan Management Review
Digital platforms are making inroads and creating a $5 trillion market.
The “age of platforms” is now firmly established. As we described in our 2016 book, Platform Revolution, platforms are no longer restricted to retail or high-tech, but are visible across multiple industries — and the trend is accelerating.
In the book, we highlighted the trend by noting that in 2007, the five major mobile-phone manufacturers — Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and LG — collectively controlled 90% of the industry’s global profits. That year, Apple’s iPhone was launched and started taking market share. By 2015, the iPhone generated 92% of global mobile-phone profits.
It’s a great story, but the way it progressed seemed almost unique — until now. The iPhone’s rapid domination, and the subsequent free fall of competitors, has become a recurring story. Apple exploited the power of platforms to match producers and consumers in high-value exchanges. Their chief assets are information and interactions, which also create platform value and competitive advantage.
Today, so many industries are realizing the importance of moving to platforms that few industries are exempt. For example:
- Significant competition is heating up in heavy industry (Siemens, GE, Schnieder, ABB, Legrand, Rockwell Collins, Emerson, Dassault). An emerging ecosystem, likely with players such as IBM Watson and Microsoft Azure, is providing the backbone.
- Infrastructural shifts are becoming more common in banking and fintech, with many companies investing in Ethereum and other open-source, blockchain-based technologies. Established companies such as Deutsche Bank are making major efforts to transform traditional business models, while startups such as Quantopian are crowdsourcing trading algorithms and running funds using the best of breed.
- The insurance industry is moving toward new value-creation models and leveraging an environment that’s based on wellness instead of monetizing illness. For example, MassMutual has made significant strides in its platform efforts. In addition, insurance companies are increasingly willing to cross-sell competitors’ products to build and maintain customer relationships.
- Digitization of global trade is creating huge opportunities across global supply chains. These include supplier ecosystems, container shipping, logistics, trading, and ports. Most transportation players also are moving to platform models.
- Health care is seeing a fragmented ecosystem landscape emerge as well, with equally fragmented regulation regarding patient-data ownership. The Affordable Care Act had the paradoxical effect of moving the deployment of electronic medical records forward while possibly locking in older technologies. Now this industry will feel increasing pressure to move away from traditional enterprise implementations toward more open platform solutions.
- Fast-moving consumer-goods companies, such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and GlaxoSmithKline, are looking downstream to establish direct links with consumers through an ecosystem. For example, food producer McCormick has worked to establish a digital layer around its spice product line.
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