2018: Re-platforming the enterprise

In 2018, we’re going to witness the re-platforming of the enterprise so companies can respond to market changes faster, be more productive, and make better-informed decisions. The enterprise will move to common platforms because businesses are demanding a much more agile and stable information platform (than their custom platforms) on which to create and operate.

Common platforms are rich in analytics, follow the information flow of the business, and are simple enough that users can constantly change the business without writing (much) code. They are flexible, constantly evolving, and quickly scalable.

This type of platform is beyond the capabilities of any internal “build your own” platform. A modern platform requires a level of investment, skills and time that CIOs no longer have. Instead, companies will leverage common platforms from Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others. This move is about leaving behind technology you made, and accessing technology you need.

What these platforms provide are pre-integrated services and a user experience that enables pace, agility and collaboration. Over time, the advantages of these platforms will continue to grow, as additional cross-application analytics and other add-on services become available.



But the biggest advantage of moving to a common platform as a service (PaaS) is that it frees up talent and working capital that can be applied to differentiated services rather than “plumbing” or infrastructure services. While the initial costs of these platforms may at first appear equivalent to in-house IT, what companies regain are the funds that would be spent over time to maintain customized and legacy systems.

This means that enterprises must re-set where they customize. It is no longer at the infrastructure layer, but now on top of the common platforms, at the application layer — as part of the end-user experience. The differentiation comes from the information the enterprise provides to its customers, partners and employees in context, improving outcomes.

The Predix example

The smartest companies have made the transition to a common platform. A good example is General Electric and its Predix industrial IoT platform. By standardizing on a common platform that it developed and then opened to others, GE quickly moved from a holding company model to an operating company model. Data and systems are moving to the common platform, and as that happens, boundaries blur between different sectors of the old business model, and new intersections and efficiencies begin to develop. Going forward, GE will house all new investments on Predix. As GE’s website states:

We created Predix to drive the digital transformation of GE’s own businesses spanning over 10 industries from aviation to utilities. Today, this unique and flexible platform is being adopted by industrial leaders around the world.

As others join the Predix platform, it will get stronger and solidify GE’s position as a market leader.

Three issues

In moving to a common platform, enterprises will grapple with three key issues:

  1. Adoption — There are two approaches. A top-down approach from senior executives is often needed to establish a common platform enterprise-wide. However, sometimes the platform push comes from the bottom-up, resulting in multiple platforms and technologies. In our experience, a top-down approach has a greater likelihood of success in driving organizational change. Predix is an example of a top-down approach.
  2. Skills and roles — As enterprises move from proprietary platforms to PaaS, traditional IT and applications departments and skills will no longer work. Applications and operations must come together as one team (DevOps) and operate differently (agile). Companies will no longer invest in the skills to develop and maintain proprietary infrastructure, but instead will invest in the skills needed to manage shared platforms and, more importantly, develop differentiated applications.
  3. Vendor management and long-term viability — As large and sophisticated as these platforms are, they are still relatively new. Platform providers are working hard to scale rapidly ahead of competing platforms and ensure that interoperability lives up to claims. In addition, large enterprises are unlikely to use only one platform, and will require a steady hand to manage the integration and operation. Finally, enterprises will need to understand and monitor the platform’s vision for future growth and its long-term viability.

Over time, moving to these large, common platforms will provide the enterprise not only with a foundation for improved business processes, but also analytically rich services and new integration possibilities across previously siloed business units. As a result, we may see two- to five-fold business acceleration, as well as the de-commissioning of hundreds of application servers, because their functions can be provided by the information-rich process layers in the single platform.

Bill Fiora is a member of the Strategic Competitive Intelligence team, which supports DXC Technology’s highest-priority new business pursuits with market, customer and competitive analysis. @billfiora


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