When you hear the name “John Deere,” you probably think about their equipment, namely the signature green-and-yellow tractors. However, the company’s leaders describe the company quite differently—not as products or brands, but as platforms for meeting the current and future needs of all those who are linked to the land. The list includes farmers, ranchers, landowners, bankers, retail grocers and government workers.
In 2012, the MyJohnDeere platform was launched to start a wholesale push toward precision agriculture that would improve productivity, efficiency and yield. Through this digital industry platform, John Deere helps agricultural producers consolidate the management of equipment information, production data, and farm operations—and ultimately improve the bottom line.1
Far-sighted companies are stretching their boundaries and beginning to pursue digital industry platforms to grow their business in multiple arenas. Underpinned by digital technologies (social, mobile, analytics, cloud and Internet of Things), a platform is essentially a well-defined technical architecture, firm governance and set of technology services—all focused on enabling the creation of new industry-specific applications.
Companies can use their platforms to rapidly innovate, develop and deploy the products and solutions needed to drive their digital business strategies. This foundation will enable better ways of operating, as well as create new kinds of revenue streams. Accenture calls this trend the “Platform (R)evolution”—and it’s one of five pivotal technology trends outlined in the Accenture Technology Vision 2015.
Platforms are designed to be the blueprint for how companies will build, connect and deliver applications specific to industry problems. The platforms serve as a pool of reusable functionality and capabilities to make building and evolving these applications fast and easy—and to help companies ultimately achieve better business outcomes.
In the digital economy, these platforms also serve as business model strategies that create competitive differentiation. The key characteristic of a platform-based business is that others outside the company are creating value for the enterprise—in many cases enabling entirely new digital models for the enterprise. Companies like Apple, Facebook and Salesforce.com paved the way with their platform-based businesses.
Now, established non-tech industry enterprises are moving forward with major strategic initiatives to become platform-based businesses. Case in point: GE has formed a strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services to launch the GE Predix platform, the foundation for its ambitious vision of the Industrial Internet.
Of course, platform strategies are not just for enterprises. In China, the government is using a platform approach to drive its smart city initiatives. With the population of China swelling, the government is turning to technology for help in solving urgent issues, from traffic flow and public transit to power grid management.2 Understanding it cannot achieve this ambitious goal alone, China’s smart city platform approach is enabling major providers like Schneider Electric to address complex urban transportation, building and energy management challenges in an integrated, scalable, and repeatable platform approach.3
Finally, platform-driven ecosystems can enable companies to grow even faster through the network multiplier effect. Apple, Google and Amazon have mastered this approach. The rapid adoption of their platforms by broad communities of developers and users has spurred astonishing value creation and very high profit margins. Other companies are now following suit, seeking ways to leverage these networks to drive sustainable growth in faster and economically smarter ways. As more companies interconnect, more revenue will flow through these ecosystems, providing new growth and more opportunities for productive and profitable partnerships.
How will your company create digital business platforms to address industry problems and opportunities? Which platforms and ecosystems will give your organizations a competitive advantage?
To find more about this year’s Accenture Technology Vision, you can read the full text, view the accompanying videos, visit our microsite, and keep checking this blog to see more in-depth discussion of these trends.
“John Deere Launches MyJohnDeere Web Portal as Customer Resource,” John Deere press release, June 29, 2012.
"Bright Ideas for Cities of Light," China Daily, October 29, 2012.
"Schneider Electric Boosts Partner Programs for EcoStruxure," Data Center Knowledge, June 7, 2013.