Building a modern business platform is a requirement for teams, organizations, and teams of teams today. When we defined the “modern enterprise” and “business platform” we took from our experience in working with startups that started their teams in the last ten years, non-profits and associations, and some of the largest companies that have been around. We also have leveraged tremendous knowledge from other institutions and companies such as ITIL and Gartner Research.
While these established frameworks and the knowledge bases these institutions create are invaluable to day-to-day digital technology/information technology/enterprise architecture practitioners like those on our team, they are a little too inaccessible to those who need to know about them today. The CEO, CFO, CMO – basically anyone at the helm of the modern enterprise.
Here’s our informed and highly distilled perspective on the key terms to make them easier to understand:
- Modern Enterprise – A team or organization that coordinates People, Processes, Information, Systems (including things) on the Internet that started natively on the cloud or is now 100% on the cloud.
- Internet Architecture – The discipline of evaluation, design, architecture, engineering, and management of digital business technology including that of the Interface, Software, Database, and Systems.
- Business Platform – A streamlined, organized, and unified system of systems that manages information for critical business processes required by all people connected to an organization, including customers, employees, partners, and devices.
Modern Enterprise: Responsibility and Context
A modern enterprise differentiates itself from a traditional enterprise in two ways. First, the contexts: people, processes, information, and systems need not be owned or operated under the same corporate entity but are coordinated to be responsible for the company’s needs. Rather than defined as a collection of departments, the functions of a company are organized in responsibility areas. Second, that the contexts can be shared between responsibilities.
Hence, we have the modern enterprise canvas which makes it easy to inventory and design a modern enterprise. Although companies are truly multi-dimensional, this two dimensional canvas is a good start for teams having a hard time understanding how their company works. After having a visual idea of how a company works, Internet Architecture can help build a new or enhance the current business platform.
Internet Architecture: Context and Technology
Internet Architecture is a term I started in 2000. I recognized then, as I see now, that business information technology development & maintenance was going to be disrupted by internet software. This disruption needed a more holistic discipline. The term full stack developer” still doesn’t quite embrace what an “internet architect” needs to know to truly lead in technology today.
I saw that technologies would change al the time, but that the core principles in a few areas would remain the same. Being a good internet architect requires abstract, strategic, and tactical knowledge of four distinct areas of technology:
Interface – Interface design, engineering, architecture is focused on user experience for all types of users such as Customers, Employees, Partners and of different devices such as mobile, tablet, Laptop, TV, Watch, Voice. What started in the desktop browser is now ever increasing as “things” take over the Internet. For example, how does one classify how “Alexa” Or a “Nest” interact with humans (human-computer interaction)? A good interface architect can design, engineer, and build interfaces today as well as in the future when “X” or Y” comes out.
Software – Software design, engineering, and architecture have been around since the beginning of the PC revolution, and now as software strategies depend on what the goal is. A good software architect knows to combine the appropriate amount of existing systems, tools, frameworks, libraries, and languages as well as new work. Why reinvent the wheel to make a car or smelt your own iron to make nails?
Database – Database design, engineering, and architecture today are much more complex than it was before. The decisions required today include whether and how the data will be sent between systems and things in queues, how it’s stored in relation and non-relational formats, how it’s organized in a graph, and how it’s searched in an index. Some databases are delivered as a service with just an API endpoint, whereas others require advanced orchestration. Although it is one of the oldest technology disciplines, the technology is always changing but some fundamentals remain the same: storing and moving the appropriate amount of information for the person or process properly.
Systems – Systems design, engineering, and architecture are probably the oldest disciplines. Systems thinking is also now embraced as a fundamental skill in business. A good systems architect looks at the big picture strategically and can move towards a vision as well as zoom into the component level.
The idea of a “business platform” didn’t come to fruition until recently for us and other companies. That’s because the businesses had to change their strategy to best leverage the technology.
Business Platform: Technology and Strategy
As defined by Gartner in their research paper: a digital business technology platform consists of five major types of platforms connected together.
- Customer Experience for Customers
- Information Systems for Staff / Employees
- Data & Analytics
- Ecosystems for Partners
- Internet of Things for Devices
We look at it a little differently since a “customer” or “staff” is a relative term in platforms such as a two-way marketplace or a shared economy system like Uber. Although there are specific distinctions between the “core” team and the external folks that interact on the platform, one group of “customers” are suppliers whereas another group maybe buyers.
- Experience (CXM, CMS, Internet)
- Information (CRM, ERP, Intranet)
- Data (DB, Analytics, ML, ESB)
- Ecosystem (API, Extranet)
- Things (Sensor Data, GPS, Motion)
Although this is not a complete “Business Platform Canvas” it shows how systems – just one out of the four contexts – maps to the five different parts of a business platform.
If we were to map out people, processes, and information similarly, we’d end up with a three-dimensional cube. Now you can start to see why building the best business platform for your business is a little more involved than hiring a marketing agency to create your customer experience, or an analytics company to create some pretty charts. For a team starting out or an established company, building a platform should not be difficult. That’s why we’re here.
We’re creating a knowledge base for business and technology so that building platforms is easier for leaders and entrepreneurs. We’re curating a framework of open source & commercial technologies as well as online services so that you don’t need to worry about what to use. We’re partnering with experts to create a network of highly qualified and vetted individuals so that you don’t have to worry about how you’ll build it. Finally, we’re also building a platform so that you can interact with our knowledge base, our experts, and our architects in the best way possible.
Interested in what the future holds for your business platform? Email me.