What is a digital platform?

A digital platform can improve experiences for customers, employees, and partners. So why do so many companies fail to get people on board?
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Digital technologies present opportunities for enterprise leaders to rethink their business to create better experiences for customers, employees, and ecosystem partners, and to lower costs. When companies act to take advantage of these opportunities through digital transformation, they undertake two primary activities: building a digital platform and building a new operating model.

Both these activities must happen concurrently, and that presents a pitfall: A company is limited in how far it can go in changing its operating model unless the digital platform succeeds. Approaching this pitfall incorrectly causes many digital transformation initiatives to fail.

Success with a digital platform doesn’t depend on the technologies comprising the platform or the implementation. Success depends on users adopting the platform.

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The wrong approach

Many companies take a technology-first approach when building/assembling their digital platform, acquiring technology they hope will accomplish their objectives of better experiences for customers, employees, and partners. This is a destined-for-failure approach. The truth is, digital technologies in and of themselves create no value. Their power is in enabling a change in how a company operates; that new operating model creates the value.

What is a digital platform?

The digital platform handles an end-to-end business process necessary to achieve the improved experience for customers, employees, and partners.

Multiple components comprise a digital platform (typically a data-ingestion engine, a machine-learning transactional engine to perform tasks or rules-based activities, an analytical engine and increasingly, an AI engine, APIs, or tools that allow digital platforms to talk to other software, and tools monitoring regulatory compliance). These components must be aligned and integrated to create better experiences for users.

Digital platforms enable a data-driven world rather than a process-driven world. The digital platform handles an end-to-end business process necessary to achieve the improved experience for customers, employees, and partners.

Digital platforms cut across traditional organizational structures, silos, policies, and technology investments to enable the new operating model. They force a different organization, a different talent model, a different mindset, and a different set of policies and processes.

Rethinking and re-engineering these components of an operating model necessitates deep, organization-wide change. That amount of change and disruption often causes resistance. So how can a company drive user adoption of its digital platform?

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The path to success with a digital platform

It’s vital to think about the moment that matters most to each type of user.

The best approach is an “experiences” approach, focusing on the people who will use the digital platform – the end users, whether they are customers, employees, or ecosystem partners. Companies undertake digital transformation to create competitive advantage. Therefore, it’s vital to think about the moment that matters most to each type of user. If the platform delivers the experience that matters, it will be a success, and the company will gain competitive advantage.

The moment that matters most will differ according to the type of user, their responsibilities, and the tasks for which they use the platform. For an employee, for instance, the most important moment may be a smooth process surrounding the birth of a child. For a healthcare provider’s digital platform managing a hospital’s revenue cycle billing process, the important moment might be being paid on time.

Thus, the first step in the experiences approach to building or assembling a digital platform is to identify the moments or things that matter to the various types of users, because that is the experience that the platform must deliver. These moments are the absolute musts where the digital platform must delight users. Otherwise, they won’t adopt/use it.

Metrics for the moments

The second step is to establish metrics – a way to measure whether the platform delivers that experience and delivers it in a timely fashion. Two typical ways to think about measuring the user experience are the completeness of the job and the time it takes to complete it. Using the hospital example again, the metric might be fully collecting all the revenue that is due to the hospital and doing it within 60 days. The metrics help the company know whether the platform is delivering on its business objectives.

Companies need to design their digital platform around delivering “important moments” experiences for each kind of user and finding the appropriate metrics. Then select the technologies that will support those moments and metrics.

When you take an experiences approach and focus first on the absolute musts that the platform must deliver to delight each type of user, people will adopt the platform more readily. This leads to a much easier path and less resistance to the organizational change that so often defeats digital transformation activities.

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Peter Bendor-Samuel is CEO of Everest Group, a management consulting and research firm with headquarters in Dallas and offices around the globe.