Platform Disruption of Global Trade

Platform Disruption is part of the geopolitical shift that is diminishing the power of the US economy in favor of China. I’m sure Americans will look back at the Obama years and puzzle over whether more could have been done to maintain US prestige as China’s economy changed phases.

I envisage a time, say three to five years from now, when platform businesses like Alibaba will control substantial segments of global trade. Global trade itself is the subject of platform disruption.

platform for disruption

Platform disruption in China

Platform disruption  will substantially alter the multilateral trade governed and counted by global institutions like the IMF and World Trade Organisation. It will be direct business to consumer trade. The Alibaba platform will mediate that trade.

Alibaba expects B2C cross border trade to equal $1 trillion by 2020. That’s about 6-7% of global trade in goods.

I think within five years of that the figure will be nearer $3 trillion and much of it will be controlled by China platforms. A few months back Zennon Kapron and I wrote about it in The Chinese Road to Platform Disruption. You can download a copy here. The report also looks at how platform disruption is structured.

We’re about to publish a partner report on how Chinese Millennials are adding to the strength and power of the Chinese platform. But The China Road to Platform Disruption is a good place to being understanding the platform as a geopolitical tool.

The Economic Baloney of The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy is one of those phrases that make it very difficult to be mean. Who could diss it? It’s nice. The fact is, the sharing economy does not stand up to a whole lot of scrutiny. No doubt you will have seen the graphic explaining the sharing economy  (it has morphed a little into an “asset light” economy):

  1. The world’s biggest taxi company that owns no cars
  2. The world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate
  3. The world’s most populous content owner creates no content
  4. And so on

A year ago Fast Company said it was dead. Rightly, they pointed out, that when it began the sharing economy was all about sharing things like garden tools, or renting the car to a neighbour. In fact, as FastCo points out, the power drill became the symbol of sharing and “bringing humanness back”.

The baton though has passed to companies like Uber and Airbnb, hence the snappy list above

The funny thing about this “trend” -whether it is sharing or asset light – is that it is not new.

Airbnb is built on the same principles as couchsurfing – expect that couchsurfers pay no money. Airbnb has been experimenting with more of the couchsurfers’ ethical approach with “experiences”. Experiences allow people to hook up with locals and see something of a city through local eyes.  It doesn’t seem to be sticking. Having said that, Airbnb is a great business and very skilled at managing trust. It has other characteristics that make it novel and attractive but I’ll come to those.

In essence though Airbnb is a booking service. It has liberated people to make money and brought real estate that might have been used for long term dwelling into the short term market. But the idea that it is new as a business model is a stretch. It is a booking service just like (with one essential difference, below) or Expedia.

Just to add a little spice to the argument, didn’t InterContinental Hotel Group  (IHG) sell off most of its hotels anyway, deciding its business was in hospitality not physical asset management? This is their strategy:

We focus on strengthening our portfolio of preferred and differentiated brands, building scale in key markets, creating a long-lasting relationship with our guests and delivering revenue to hotels through the lowest cost, direct channels. Our proposition to owners is highly competitive and drives superior returns.

It is asset light and asset light has been around a while. When the Baltic States went into recession in 2008 it turned out that the majority of fleet vehicles in these countries were owned by the banks – most transportation companies leased rather than bought. Many golf courses and resorts around the world are made up of apartments owned by a member and rented out by the club or resort.

Companies like Expedia, though, have innovated the online business model significantly. Five years ago Expedia turned its affiliate network (remember affiliates? They are what got Amazon up and running) into an API community. It now partners with 8,000 companies who run independent travel businesses through the Expedia platform. That’s a strong platform strategy.

TechCrunch has an interesting proposition that the essence of Uber and Airbnb is that they own the user interface, via their apps. A short while back Facebook won plaudits for doing something similar – Facebook Home in effect took the Android/Google, interface away from the handset operating system and maker and made it Facebook’s. The user interface is undoubtedly an important asset in mobile devices, and is very limited screen space.

But the sharing economy/collaborative economy argument misses some essential points. That IHG strategy I mentioned above has the benefit of allowing the company to scale and to manage its brands more effectively. Executive bandwidth goes into these activities – finding hotels to secure a management tole in, building and projecting brands, scaling the business, finding ways to build deeper relationships with customers, working up the price premium.

One of the points Nick and I have made in The Elastic Enterprise (IHG Is a great example) is that externalising previously core functions (like asset management) frees management up to do other tasks, like seeking scale and value. We also pointed out that this allows a completely new approach to adjacencies, a point taken up recently by Deloitte. Adjacencies are now back in fashion in M&A.

A second point we have made is that the essence of the platform is the transaction engine. does not take money from you – the hotel does that. Perhaps that was’s missed opportunity. Airbnb takes the cash and settles with owners. Uber, likewise. In theory both can control rates (Uber certainly does) and have just to flick a switch to change the fees going to the centre as opposed to the operative/owner. Apple, Uber, Airbnb do control cash.

That is a very important distinction to make. It means that they have scaled cashflow from across the world. In a world starved of liquidity, being a liquidity business is an incredibly powerful position to hold. It is the distinction between highly scaleable platform businesses and non-platform businesses. The platform is a transaction engine. Companies that control liquidity have the means to scale. It is not the only distinction but in the cold calculations behind the “sharing economy” it is a very important one.

Ecosystem, innovation ecosystem, and Platform: Finding the right combination

In the world of business platforms, the ecosystem features large – but how many of us understand what ecosystems are, in business at least, or how ecosystems function?

The idea of a business ecosystem has two origins in business writing. In one strand, you can see the idea of a very distinct, contractually committed community at work. This is the innovation ecosystem. It is the ecosystem as a partnership network. Big companies often allied to big with some investment in startups and more in new initiatives.

The other way to look at the ecosystem is its power really stems from the power of advocacy.

If you have a thousand organisations or individuals in your ecosystem, you have a thousand advocates. That means you build up a significant foothold in the information market around your product, service, platform. The information market is critical – it is what, in the past, companies bought through marketing and PR. In the modern age the ecosystem can give you multiples of what PR spending can.

This latter view of the ecosystem though is not an innovation ecosystem. While companies in Apple’s apps ecosystem build new products and services, they don’t innovate with Apple on the fundamentals of the iPhone or the platform. In that sense they are not partners.

As Nick Vitalari and I pointed out in The Elastic Enterprise this new type of ecosystem is spontaneous and often fractious, a meeting of peers built on common terms and conditions rather than on bilateral contracts. It calls on a very high order of community management skills.

Why does the difference matter? Well here’s why. Many companies are confused by the difference. They set out with an innovation ecosystem strategy hoping to gain the benefits of the advocacy ecosystem. By understanding neither very well they end up achieving few of the benefits of either.

In my view GE has fallen victim to this problem. I am a GE fan as SHIFT should make clear. CEO Jeff Immelt has done immense work. A recent HBR article though pointed out some issues arising with its ecomaginati0n program. Ecomagination, GE claims, has earned it over $160 billion. But what is it?

Launched in 2005, ecomagination has always been a bit amorphous. Is it a marketing campaign? A corporate strategy? A guide for product and service development? In truth, ecomagination is all of these and more.

Now, a sensible riposte to this is who cares. It made $160 billion. But the way it made revenues was by selling GE sustainability R&D. Ecomagination isn’t any particular product or service; it is a strategy to pursue green objectives in energy products. In that sense it is a business line, as much as anything, so it is bound to make money.

GE has tried turning ecomagination into a platform. Its strategy now “includes a new open innovation program that encourages ideas to reduce greenhouse gases from Canadian oil sands production.” Prior to that it hosted two open innovation challenges around green tech in partnership with VCs.

GE has tried similar platform plays in cancer diagnostics (healthymagination) and industrial data.

You can see very much the “innovation ecosystem” approach at work in these examples, In healthymagination GE tried to build up its diagnostics business with a $6 billion investment around crowdsourcing diagnosis of cancer, particularly breast cancer. However, the crowd was actually quite a small number of companies, allied to GE’s relationship with VCs, just as in ecomagination. Five years in, in 2014, GE made just seven investments. It is likely that GE’s attempts to remake its business around platforms would be better served by acquisitions – by buying into companies at the leading edge of data and diagnostics like Illumina.

In industrial data, GE has repackaged its turbine maintenance data and made it available to the wider world, using that experience to pivot to a big data strategy in healthcare as well.


Initially the Predix program looked like being an apps-type play with the data made available to the developer community to build new business. Right now GE boasts of a much smaller innovation ecosystem (there is another partner ecosystem here). There is still some momentum in the apps store for industrial data concept. However, it is complex to sign up for the Predix community and nor is it universally available. Many of the contributors have GE email addresses, so are presumably GE staff. Nonetheless there is a substantial set of GitHub projects, though it is unclear how much engagement these have created.

As an innovation ecosystem, GE’s strategy is a mixture of old fashioned PR, intelligent packaging and sound investments. But it doesn’t spill over into an advocacy ecosystem.

An advocacy ecosystem would be the tens of thousands of SEO experts who quickly advocated for Google Page Rank as a breakthrough in search relevance. That was back in the early 2000s. Or the hundreds of thousands of developers who worked on iPhone apps. Or the millions of businesses that transact with customers through Alibaba.

In each of these cases the activities of the ecosystem pitched the platform to the world and closed the sale!

Healthymagination by way of contrast has not created a powerful advocacy network of analysts, developers, writers, users who want to rewrite the narrative on cancer.

What it has done has provided a strong banner under which GE has made significant investments in reducing cost for health care providers, for example. Here’s a list of achievements.

That’s no mean feat but it is not what the ecosystem is really about. It dresses itself in the language of ecosystems without really engineering them with a platform strategy.

If that sounds negative it is not meant to be. GE is a great company. In Shift I spelled out how I think platforms become disruptive and summarised some of these points here and again here. One key element is how you win the information market or information layer.

GE has not captured the information market through an ecosystem. It has bought it in industrial data through its power, financing and muscle, whereas in health it can barely be said to own it at all. That means it loses out on many of the benefits of true platform ecosystem.

I’m doing a deeper dive on the issues in my new book. But to summarise this issue there are of course different types of ecosystems. The innovation ecosystem is distinct from the advocacy ecosystem. Tomorrow I will spell out how those differences arose

A Platform’s Role is to Reduce Friction, so Say Hello to Stripe Atlas

The platform is the single biggest agent in the economy for reducing business friction. It’s also a strategy for market domination because of the advantages a platform can offer to customers. We said this in Edition 1 of the Elastic Enterprise, and now Nick and I are busy figuring out an update to the book, we think this is the single most interesting persistent feature of platforms, and one to focus on. That thought struck me when I started to hear about the new Stripe Atlas service.


I hadn’t quite clocked what Atlas was about until I read DC Cahalane’s post on LinkedIn Pulse. Here’s the full skinny for Irish companies – in fact for any company – and this is the pitch for winner-takes-all, friction free, business startup and expansion:

Through its new product, Atlas, Stripe, already the payment platform of choice for the majority of new Irish startup companies has now enabled a new Irish company to cut through the red tape and set itself up as a US based, Delaware corporation from day one….Your Atlas account comes with a fully functioning US bank account from Silicon Valley Bank, thrown in. It’s an incredibly well thought out product offering.

You can see the implications. Right now I am finishing off a study on millennials and the disruption of Chinese banking. Thousands of miles away and yet a similar theme. China tech platforms are offering services highly integrated services. That includes, taxi booking, ride booking, travel booking, payments, ecommerce, logistics, wealth management and so on. As we said in Elastic Enterprises stretch horizontally across industries. They refuse to recognize old industry barriers. Their main thrust is to reduce business friction.

Here’s Stripe’s version of what it is offering:

With Stripe Atlas, entrepreneurs can easily incorporate a U.S. company, set up a U.S. bank account, and start accepting payments with Stripe. Starting today, it’s available to developers and entrepreneurs globally.

Today’s business world knows no boundaries, neither geographic nor vertical because the platform raises the capability of a company beyond old ideas about core competency. That’s the meaning of platform elasticity. Does it have other implications? Platforms tend to be a  winner takes all strategy.  Atlas will put Stripe in prime position for winning the business of any born global (and that means high growth and multi-currency) enterprise for the next decade.

The Platform Economy

The platform economy is finally attracting much wider attention than when we began this site five years ago. Companies like Airbnb were startups when we first started to write about them as platform companies! Over the past few weeks the big global consultancies have begun staking a claim to the platform space. And we are now collecting more of our work here. Platform economics is about to go large.

I covered two interesting platform economy developments on my personal blog a couple of days back, particularly Accenture’s offer and the new work of the Center for the Global Enterprise.

In mid-2015 Deloitte’s admirable John Hagel began laying out their view of the  rise of platforms and ecosystems. Here’s a quote from the Deloitte report on ecosystems:

Long-standing boundaries and constraints that have traditionally determined the evolution of business are dissolving, allowing new ecosystem possibilities…

It echoes what Nick and I have been saying about radical adjacency now for five years.  This is a true business revolution, which is why we used the term in our sub-title. The race is on now to find the right way to  create platform enterprises – or rather to convert old enterprises to elastic ones.



The need for new platform thinking


There is a gap though in a lot of the writing around platforms. When we wrote the Elastic Enterprise we focused on the narrower elements of what capabilities go into a creating a platform and ecosystem model.

Over on Strategy and Leadership we have looked at the types of ecosystems out there and in a further article looked at the integration of crowdsourcing and ecosystem development. Sadly these are behind a subscription wall.

You can find a summary of the IT approach to platforms on Cognizant’s website (we co-authored with Cognizant CTO William Strain). There is a detailed account of new management thinking required for the platform age here in a separate paper authored with Cognizant.

The missing ingredient however is the relationship of the platform to the overall restructuring of the global economy.

The global economy is changing in a range of ways that are pivotal to how platforms function. Platforms reduce cost, hence contribute to secular deflation; the biggest uptake of platforms and the most scaled examples are to be found in China, and China is rapidly headed towards global trade dominance; and platforms are becoming critical to transaction flows.   Zennon Kapron and I wrote about the impact of the Chinese platform on the financial industry (in The Platform for Disruption, October 2015) and are currently looking at the digital native and the transformation of finance.

Followers of the Elastic Enterprise will remember that one of the main definitions of a platform is its power as a transaction engine. More recent work, elsewhere, has emphasized the network effects or two-sided market, as the defining characteristic of the platform. This is wrong (I argue that here).

Network effects are a special case of companies that can seize unbreakable monopolies and therefore need regulation (think of the telephone industry). Alex Taborrak on Marginal revolution has an interesting post on that and Nobel-laureate Jean Tirole’s work, though I think his definition of a two-sided market is far too wide.

Nick and I have always emphasized the transaction engine. Organisations that grow the capability to process millions of transactions per day – Alibaba, Uber, Airbnb, Apple all have this in common. Tyler Cowen has posted an interesting take on Chinese digital books sales, pay-to-read, here. It revolves around a transaction engine not a two-sided market.

Having said all that, what we have to do going forward is document the impact of the platform in disrupting the global economy. My next book does that to some degree but the more eyes on the cause, the better.

The Case Of Fidelity And Platform Services

Most of us think that banks lack true innovative power. I guess that’s true in a structural sense – they have huge legacy systems and to release any kind of integrated applications have to do a lot of work on Cloud or other intermediary platforms.

But yesterday I had a long chat with Sean Belka who runs Fidelity Labs, the innovation arm of Fidelity, the fund managers.

Fidelity Labs is experimenting with a number of user interface and user experience technologies like Google Glass.  Sean made the point that Fidelity is interested in working out how it can differentiate itself in all the major social platforms. Social is a must-have but it can also provide some competitive advantage.

It’s interesting to see such a powerful player with a strong interest in social as a channel but more interesting still is the story Sean tells about Fidelity as a platform company (I’m going to write elsewhere about how we define platform. In short I think we call many things “platform” but the term covers a lot of different activities).

In the case of Fidelity their funds platform has all the characteristics of an extensible platform of the type we saw emerge in different sectors like mobile from about 2008 onwards.

It is similar to a two-sided marketplace in some respects but it is also a rich information market, a facet you don’t see in two-sided markets; and it brings in intermediary as well as primary players in the market. Thousands of funds and brokerages and other third parties do business through it. It is often called a “supermarket” but supermarkets do not have rich information markets.

This type of platform is, however, now working its way into retail as competitors grapple with how to compete with Amazon.

Sean was making the point that the platform has been around for nearly 20 years and provides a continuous source of durable advantage.

That advantage is “utility-like”. It is both a source of low-cost competition and a differentiator – the significant convenience of a single shop for investments.  And Fidelity can now make more of the differentiation as it increasingly turns to social channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, increasing the usability of services and improving UX.

These improvements defy traditional low-cost competitor rules – they don’t lead to lower qualities of service. Better UX leads to better service and fewer hurdles for making trades or taking other actions.

This platform-platform strategy is also picking up. While Facebook is currently about social communications it must surely edge its way towards taking full advantage of its audience reach.

The fact that fund managers have developed incredible platforms – Fidelity’s serves over 5,000 partners – is an oversight in most accounts of platform business. We tend to think of the tech-first examples like Apple and Android and Amazon.

But like eBay, Fidelity predates both. And next steps: Cloud, deeper personal service and service integration, allied to AI, all on the platform. Financial services could, in fact, be a pace setter.

Does A Platform Imply A Two-Sided Market?

Digging deeper into how platforms are conceived, used and then managed, it is worth asking do they always imply a two-sided market? You might also ask does it matter? The answer is yes. We need to understand what defines a platform. Nick and I have emphasised the transaction engine. But is the emphasis misplaced.

The idea of the platform as a two-sided market with network effects  stems from work by Parker & Van Alstyne (2000;20002005)  and Rochet & Tirole (2003).

Those markets are generally understood as a refinement of network effects. A network effect happens, for example, when a company like Facebook grows its  member base. Each member will benefit if the platform has more members, i.e. more friends. The increased utility of a social network lies in knowing more people in it – to a point.

In the case of many software markets, recruiting new users is delegated to existing users (e.g. DropBox used double incentive marketing to reward its users for bringing in new users – however it had to reward both the existing user and the new user, which is why the technique is called double incentive).

This needs less incentivizing when the addition of users makes everyone’s experience better (e.g. as it does on Skype). Participation needs to be incentivized when the network effect is low (as in DropBox).

Clearly not all platforms offer network effects. Yet the network effect can have a profound effect on how business models are designed – it is cheaper to market them.

Some platforms benefit from an indirect network effect:

AirBnB users benefit when there are more apartments; Uber users benefit when there are more taxis. These types of services have grown as match-pairing technology improved and it might be the ability to match needs rather than a network effect that makes them successful.

This is substantially different, however, from Skype where each user needs another user, not another Skype or service provider.

 GrabCad members do need other members but not in a truly imperative sense. Having access to other members lies in the category of “very nice to have” rather than “must-have”. The counter parties truly add value without causing dependency.

Here are Parker & Van Alstyne’s examples of two-sided markets:

” credit cards, composed of cardholders and merchants; HMOs (patients and doctors); operating systems (end-users and developers), travel reservation services (travelers and airlines); yellow pages (advertisers and consumers); video game consoles (gamers and game developers); and communication networks, such as the Internet.”

The network effect on AirBnB and Uber looks weak in comparison. Indeed even these examples are indirect rather than direct, with the exception of credit cards. There is a point where any market can claim a network effect if the definition is diluted. Cars are platforms for parents and children? The catwalk is a platform for attraction and repulsion?

In many instances, though, the new platform is enabling productive activity. In the case of GrabCad, the objective is to share design drawings in order to reduce the development time of new products. In open source platforms a similar productive activity is taking place.

In these cases too the platform has a network effect but is not bound by a two-sided market. It is bound instead by a moral framework. The only way to achieve the moral objectives of the community is to recruit ore members and evangelize it use.

In cases like App Stores, which are the epitome of the modern business platform, the network effect is actually negligible. There is no compulsion for anybody to buy an iPhone because of the apps on it. On the other hand the availability of thousands of apps makes it possible to achieve two ends:

The first is an advocacy community for the iPhone and Apps Stores

The second is extreme personalisation for every user.

Platforms have many characteristics that make it difficult to nail down one definition.  In unusual cases they have network effects. In some cases they are advocacy communities that propel a platform symbiotically with its advocates. In other cases they are bound by a shared moral objective. Each of these gives a clue to how to engineer participation.

Here are some other examples.

The last column in the table below refers to the degree to which an actual exchange is a focal point of the platform. Exchange can be a high or low focus or it can be direct or indirect.

“Multiparty” is a new development in platform environments, beyond two-sided markets. For example Apple’s struggle with Health Kit is going to be making it work for multiple-sided markets including hospitals, family doctors, labs, devices, monitoring services, analytics and users. In that sense the market itself becomes ecosystem-like and poses new degrees of complexity on marketing and coordination.

PLATFORM Network effect Two-sided market Multi-sided market Exchange
Quirky Low No No Medium
AirBnB Medium Yes No High
GrabCad High No No Indirect
App Store Low Yes No High
Health Kit Medium No Yes MultiParty
Credit cards High Yes No High
Billing Medium No Yes Multiparty

I’ll come back with some more thoughts in the next few days. Here is a definition provided by Gawer, taken from Parker & Van Alstyne:

“Industry platforms are products, services or technologies that are developed by one or several firms, and which serve as foundations upon which other firms can build complementary products, services or technologies.”

I don’t find this enlightening but I do think it illustrates the difficulty of finding a good definition.


How we define a business platform goes a long way to shaping how we see the new economy. In my view there is no satisfactory definition out there yet.

Alex Moazed, CEO of Applico Inc, had a go at defining it recently:

A platform is a business model that creates value by facilitating exchange between two or more interdependent groups, usually consumers and producers.

The definition has the advantage of brevity but it doesn’t encapsulate what platforms are really about and how they function.

Along with David Card, SVP at GigaOm research I have been searching for a more encompassing decision for a new paper on IT-Business integration, due to be published end June.

We’re clear that many things are described as platforms even though they have quite different characteristics.

Netflix’s description of its internal processes suggests these are now largely “platform” based. Their cumulative effect is to enable an exchange. But organizing a whole enterprise around platforms suggests the concept has to mean much more than exchange.

It’s clear from this that “platform” can be a powerful term for internal reorganization.

Another feature of a platform is that it enables other people to create or produce. In that context it usually also facilitates exchange, as Alex Moazed says.

These platforms also tend to be tightly coupled to ecosystems, or loose groups of people who use a shared production resource such as an SDK and a “platform”.

Then there are platforms that are very much about exchange  marketplaces like eBay and Etsy.

And GE stakes a claim for its industrial data initiative also to be called a platform. In this case GE generates data from its global installed base of energy turbines and offers that out to a developer community via data APIs.

platform graphic

What about Expedia’s transaction platform, which 5,000 businesses now use as the back office to small scale travel businesses?

Or AirBnB’s, which is a resource sharing platform, as is Uber’s. And yet, then again Quirky has developed a platform that is almost wholly production orientated, and so too has GrabCad, a platform for engineers who want to share designs. Isn’t Kickstarter a platform? And the Respect Network, a platform for storing personal data.

There are huge differences between these projects and yet there is also commonality.

The commonality is the enabling factor. They are not selling a product to a consumer. They are enabling financing, production and transaction. These factors mean the platform is the economy. It is facilitating the factors of production and exchange.

More formally it facilitates the sharing of core services, the development of co-productive resources, and the development of marketplaces.


After the first edition of The Elastic Enterprise the idea of connectors, one of the five dynamics we identified,  took root in the business community. In the space of a couple of years new ideas around connectors emerged and developers, start-ups and not-so-young companies began creating new, friction-reducing products as part of the new business infrastructure. It also made me realize that is the real back story to the elastic enterprise: the creation of the new business infrastructure.

One of these is Ping Identity. I wrote about Ping and identity recently on Forbes:

Identity is the new universal connector, the technology that is making seamless, friction-free business happen. It invites companies to become adaptive and nimble. Previous (and continuing) examples include RSS in content and APIs more generally.

But there is also another area, billing. I got talking recently to the folks at MetraTech whose billing solution is being used by airports like GRU in Brazil to stitch together new business models and incentive schemes for a broadening community of concessions. I’ll be writing about that soon for GigaOm research:

Without a billing partner that can help deploy a settlement system across the whole partner base, the airport (GRU) will have to rely on manual monthly transaction management – old ERP. In place of that it uses Metra Tech’s relationship billing system.

The billing system is in fact built on its own abstract or metadata model rather than being specifically designed for airports or any vertical. That makes it highly adaptive and explains why Metra Tech can function with a small organizational footprint. Vertical service integrators can quickly adapt the platform to a specific client in a specific sector.

Translated into an abstract operating model, the billing metadata model becomes the key connector, enabling a wide range of business relationships at variable settlement rates. It reduces friction, meaning none of the business partnerships needs to be managed on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis. And it enables the partnerships to maintain flexibility.

Enterprises can improve their performance and flexibility by adopting connector technologies. The context for that could be the idea of federation or simply universal access. Companies can federate services between multiple partners providing customers with one single signon. Or they can provide their own workforce and partners with single point of access to a wide variety of cloud services.

Either way the idea is to take pain and friction out of connection. Something similar happens when platforms like Apprenda provide customers with a way to migrate assets quickly to the Cloud. Sounds complex but it simply means providing enterprises with a way to unlock information silos by moving the assets into a space where they can be made accessible.

Connectors look like the unsung heroes of innovation. They are not glamorous but they are part of the new infrastructure of business, rapidly being constructed by companies like Ping, MetraTech and Apprenda. Do you have a connector strategy?

The Role of Social In The Future Enterprise

Social media is like search engine optimization. It is easy to self-educate, it is slightly complex, but it is also game-like. In both cases the market or audience gives you feedback – you get likes or Tweets or analytics that tell you how many readers you got and who liked what. You know where to go next with it.

What it also does is distract you from the real purpose of communications – figuring out something valuable to say and laying it out for people to make a judgment or a contribution.

Are social media activities the best ways for an economy or an enterprise to market products? A low friction economy would rely on individuals to communicate their preferences to friends word of mouth. Continue reading