Somewhere there could be a group of people sitting in a room coming up with a new definition for “platform”. It appears to be overused. Any online content or service provider, device, website or application — open or closed — that offers its data, functionality or even its users to itself or external partners and developers can say they have a platform. [taking a breath after a long sentence] And while any company is entitled to do this, what the internet may end up with is a lot of available, aimless data too cloudy for many to discern what is really valuable.
Platforms benefiting from Strategy get off to a better start, especially those reaching out externally via APIs. Having a Platform Strategy in place means the company knows what they want to achieve; They either have a vision for their platform or are aware they need to cultivate vision and value at the hands of outside innovators, partners and developers; They identify their audience; They follow solid API Design practices ensuring their platform is technically sound and structured — an important subset of Strategy.
In most cases, they’ve had other teams, internal or external, listen to their needs, examine their technical offering and validate their approach. They execute on formulated plans to reach that audience and likely appoint talented evangelists in conjunction with their own marketing and product management efforts to deliver their platform as its own highly tuned product.
Newer startups seem to get their platforms launched on the right foot because they typically center platform efforts at the core of their business. Strategy is inherent. They make a conscious decision from the start to trust outside innovators with the growth of value, and possibly users, for their business. In some cases, it’s required for funding. Bigger, likely older companies, catching on to this, going ‘platform’ for growth or survival, could recognize their power to nurture innovation with their platform and not just proliferate their brand. That practice alone conveys some structured intent, which is a good foundation for Strategy.
Even those platforms that have offered public APIs and SDKs for years can benefit from a clarified Strategic approach. They can take stock in what return they’ve received from putting their data and content out there. Sometimes the best way to reach the right people is offering the platform in the context of other complimentary services. Strategy helps a company recognize other platforms, even offered by competitors, that demonstrate the unique and valuable elements your platform offers by contrast.
If developers are what you are after, Strategy helps identify groups and events of pre-qualified developers who can benefit most from what you are offering. Strategy also identifies other services and channels where your platform has potential. I especially favor the approach of making your platform’s tools available at the developer tooling and hosting level; a place all app creators must go anyway. I’m talking about the mobile frameworks like Sencha, appMobi, Phonegap and others where readily available APIs and easy access to data can translate to instant integration.
I have the incredible opportunity to be part of the Platform Strategy services team at Mashery. Along with Devon Biondi, Colin McCabe and Sasha Kamenetska, the work we do benefits platform technologies across all industries. Our team delivers Platform Strategy very often in conjunction with Mashery’s industry leading tools and services, which are assets to delivering Strategy as well. Ranging from the activity/interest in a platform generated by our Developer Outreach team, to analyzing API usage by registered apps as reported by the platform’s API management dashboard, Strategy succeeds before and during a platform’s integration with Mashery.
Perhaps the best part about offering Strategy to a new or existing Mashery partner is this: By requesting Strategic services for their platform, a company demonstrates interest in recognizing their platform business goals and shaping a plan for success. It gives their platform a chance to emerge ahead of those that don’t and we get to work on a success story in the making.
Our team posts platform research and trends on Mashery’s blog. We will be presenting on Strategy practice and case studies at upcoming events. Follow me and Mashery on Twitter for more details.