Think Networks and Platforms

ourtoolsWe used to live in a world of hierarchies where the chain of command made things efficient and streamlined. Information would bubble up the chain and decisions were made at the top, and passed back down. Many of us still hold on to that hierarchy belief. But by now, most companies are learning that time delay and accuracy decay—and directives moving up and down the chain—simply can’t keep pace with networked economy speed demands.

Intimacy and Engagement = a Better Experience

Most CEOs recognize—and stress the need for—deeper customer intimacy and more relevant customer engagement. And they’re attempting to architect their organizations to create better experiences through digital transformation initiatives. Sensing and responding to customers in narrowing windows of time is a critical mandate. While none of this is new, the crescendo of metamorphosis is upon us. The chain of command is exploding into a distributed network of connected nodes.

One-to-one relationships and linear knowledge flows have scattered into vast one-to-many and many-to-many bi-directional networks. Goods and services can now be exchanged as quickly as information is. The real cost to replicate and distribute nearly any digitized artifact in the network costs almost nothing. Anything in the network can potentially reach everyone in the network, so can anyone.

Knowledge lakes, which change slowly and slightly over time, are giving way to knowledge rivers—always moving, always changing, and always on.

Digital Connections = Evolved Organizations

For the past 50 years, the continued path of digital connection has been reaching deeper and deeper into the smaller realms of our world, organizations and ourselves. As we become more connected, the properties of our organizations change. We shift from a collection of individuals –playing one role in efficient assembly lines of production and distribution—to a connected network of people and machines with constantly evolving capabilities, and new roles of sensing and responding to the most important network demands.

  • Enabling us to sense and respond, technology is increasingly becoming our intelligent agent. Machines now open support cases, sometimes solving them automatically with little to no human intervention.
  • Marketing applications can automatically segment people into groups and interact with customers and employees through email, SMS, voice or other channels.

Customers and employees (partners, influencers and other transient nodes) easily move interactions, communications and behaviors between public, private and corporate networks using a mesh of changing and evolving applications and devices. They’re often connected to many networks at once, and/or the same networks through multiple channels or devices.

The organization of the future is not a mighty castle with a moat around it. It’s a network—itself just another node in a larger distributed network, or several networks. It has learned how to shift its shape, properties, norms and capabilities to adjust, adapt and capitalize on evolving needs and opportunities within its primary or adjacent networks. This may include:

  • Deep specialization in one core competency that can now reach mass scale through unprecedented opportunity for distribution (like FICO is doing with its analytics capabilities).
  • Becoming a platform where everyone in the network can exchange value (like Amazon did by inviting competitors to sell to their own customers).
  • Packaging up new core competencies and making them available as a digital service (like IBM has done with Watson).

Networks and Platforms = Unlimited Opportunities

Power laws govern networks. The best products, services, content and people are hyper-rewarded because of the connection and speed by which their remarkable products and services spread. Conversely, the average (which used to be good enough to survive) is catapulted into irrelevance. In order to be relevant and thrive in this new world, CIOs have to do more than just modernize their existing infrastructure. They must inspire and enable their organizations to capitalize on the many new opportunities that networks provide.

Technologists have spent the last few decades optimizing networking hardware to enable bits and bytes—to travel across wires and through air—to reach the other machine. As people and objects become networked, everyone and everything become nodes that can be seen, heard and joined to smaller or bigger nodes to achieve specific outcomes. This connection possibility opens up unlimited new opportunities to create, disrupt and invent.

Today’s CIO should enable their organization to leverage these new capabilities and envision how new mash-ups might be used to create more value. They have to anchor their thinking around networks and platforms to lead their organization into the next generation of commerce.


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