Why a platform must always be open, flexible and extensible to succeed in the market

Today, six of the top 10 companies by market capitalization are platforms. And, if you look around, many aspects of consumers’ daily lives are platform dependent. From a business perspective, platforms have become essential for gaining a competitive advantage. Today, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to create platforms, not only because platforms present a powerful and ubiquitous business tool for creating and capturing value, but also simply because it has become essential to stay relevant in today’s digital age.

That’s why companies build a platform, use a platform, or want to build one. Today, it has become imperative to understand the definition of a platform, as well as how some of the best companies have built their platforms, because there are so many definitions and strategies floating around in the market.

While in the commercial context a platform is often referred to as Atlassian Marketplace that connects producers and consumers, there are also platforms that are used internally within a company, noted Ashwin Srinivasan, Senior Engineering Manager, Atlassian, setting the stage for understanding what a rig is and the different types of rigs that exist. He shared, You could think of a platform as anything that offers the ability to solve rather than solve the problem itself. It allows reuse and allows features to not have to be built from scratch every time. He added that the platforms also serve as building blocks to build something bigger and bigger.

During the round table on ‘What does it mean to build a platform?’ Ashwin was joined by Bansilal Haudakari, Senior Director of Engineering, PayPal; Chinmay Dargar, Senior Director of Engineering, Gojek Tech; Tushar Tayal, Senior Engineering Manager, Swiggy; and Mannat Saini, Director of Engineering, Flipkart. As the panelists delved into the many definitions of platforms, a clear view was that platforms are the path to reinventing a business by going beyond automation, because of the tangible value they are able to create.

Factors determining the success of a platform

Platforms inherently have a lifespan, Paypal’s Bansilal pointed out. Citing the Harvard Business Review, he reiterated that the three key elements of any successful platform are connection, gravity, and flow. Elaborating on the connection aspect, he shared, “The ability to seamlessly connect producers and consumers is very important, as is its ability to share and transmit. Gravity is how you attract your consumers and producers from the platform. Flow is about the platform’s ability to create value. »

Other key elements that could determine a platform’s success are configurability, scalability, cost-effectiveness and speed of execution, panelists noted. Tushar from Swiggy highlighted, While at the heart of consumer centrality is a critical factor determining platform success, a platform’s ease of use is a critical factor in driving consumption or usage of a platform. -shape and therefore its success.

An interesting thought put forward was the need to not just build a platform, but a platform of experience. An experience platform translates into a platform capable of continuously generating value. “Experience platforms are open, flexible, seamlessly integrated across brands, and create value,” Bansilal said.

And the construction of the foundations of an experience platform rests on four pillars. The first is the strategy that determines the market projection, prices and feedback loop. Second, analysis helps target the right market. Third, the infrastructure that helps deliver frictionless and build functionality in a fast turnaround time. Fourth, the architecture that supports different integration models. When a platform is built on these pillars, the platform will be able to maximize profits and reduce costs, while continuing to deliver that specialized value from the platform.

Technical and architectural challenges of building a platform

As companies build platforms, they will invariably face challenges that differ depending on the stage of product evolution and the organizational structure of the company. For example, the type of challenges when building a platform are different for a high-growth startup compared to a large enterprise. But, regardless of the size of the startup or the stage of evolution of the product, silos tend to occur. More often than not, enterprises will need to look closely at aspects related to network topologies, traffic routing, data governance, personalization, and authorization, among others.

Gojek’s Chinmay pointed out that at the grassroots, organizations will need to answer two fundamental questions. The first is to make a decision about what to centralize and what to stay distributed. Here he felt that one could learn from the Internet, which is the largest platform to date, which takes a protocol approach, which promotes distributed autonomy, but at the same time, some policy definitions centralized apply. The second question is what is open versus closed, inside versus outside as well as inside. There are two patterns here around Gateways, Packages, Adapters, which help to contain and compartmentalize things and change them as you go.

A robust marketplace for the future of customer engagement

Today, marketplaces, which are among the most popular platforms, are becoming even more essential for businesses and consumers. They are also reshaping not only the marketplace, but the very core of customer experience and engagement. Swiggy, being one of India’s most popular food tech marketplaces, leveraged the very nature of the platform to redesign the customer experience.

Giving Swiggy insights, Tushar shared, When an organization like Swiggy creates a new business like Swiggy Genie or Instamart on the same marketplace platform, it follows the philosophy of “build once and use everywhere”. And, with it, we are able to connect different points of experience – from ordering to operations. From an end-user perspective, a Swiggy devotee is now able to experience more categories on the same platform. All of this helps to engage users in a meaningful way, giving them a seamless experience from order to delivery and post-order support. This, he noted, was key because experience drives conversion and conversion in turn drives revenue.

The Atlassian experience and beyond

Time and time again, industry experience has shown how a platform’s ease of integration, often referred to as frictionless entry in industry jargon, is a key factor in determining the success of a platform. But, as Ashwin pointed out, sometimes building and scaling a successful and resilient platform requires a shift in mindset at the enterprise level.

He explained how Atlassian, in its first decade, was a product company selling downloadable software.We had big products like Jira, Confluence, Bamboo, among others. Each of these product teams was independent and this autonomy and product focus is what helped the company succeed. But, over time, especially when we started to give more importance to our SaaS offerings, we had to think about a common platform and reusable components across multiple products and use cases, He shared. Besides the internal motivations to build a platform, Atlassian is also investing heavily in evolving its platform to meet the needs of its third-party ecosystem. Atlassian Marketplace, which has generated more than $2 billion in lifetime revenue, is a testament to the value of the company’s core product extensibility.

Citing another example, Ashwin shared how a lean team built a simple abstraction on CloudFormation in AWS in a matter of weeks, then started to get two or three services adopted, then continually invested in more and more features. And this very thin layer on CloudFormation, which has gradually expanded to provide fine-grained abstraction over other AWS services, is today the internal platform for each of Atlassian’s more than 10,000 services. The experiment reiterates a very important principle that any complex system that works consistently starts out as a simple system that works and then evolves. An attempt to directly construct a complex system is almost inevitably doomed to failure. So with platforms it’s very important to understand what the core value proposition is and what is the easiest platform that will serve that core value proposition and start onboarding adopters and taking taking into account the comments, he explained.

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