Emergent Platform Approach is Best
The best way to create a platform combines an immediate solution approach with an emergent platform play. It requires a market ripe for a platform (see my earlier post on how to recognize the signs), integrating existing solutions (and yes, even some of the walking dead) using an initial platform built on the fly and then continuing expansion and enhancement of the platform.
In its initial stages a staged platform may not be externally distinguishable from a solution suite. This addresses the platform chicken and egg problem, since from it provides immediate customer value by combining and orchestrating existing solutions into a more complete integrated solution.
In many ways it is similar to what an enterprise IT department does to solve their own real-world end-to-end problems - combine point solutions into an integrated whole. The difference is that by building a platform in parallel the company can provide a coherent, truly integrated solution rather than a patchwork of point solutions. A platform lowers the cost of future integrations and technical debt – making the platform more valuable and faster to respond over the long term. A platform also has access to valuable, aggregated data that can be used to increase its value to customers.
This approach greatly lowers the risk in establishing a platform, by providing much faster revenue generation and market feedback than the “direct to platform” approach. There are more upfront expenses versus the simple solution approach, but nowhere near as much as the pure platform approach. It does make it harder to find investors – since they need to be a savvy mix of PE (private equity) and VC (venture capital) investment.