A digital platform or digital service is the environment within which a particular piece of the application is run. It could be the operating system or the hardware, either a web browser plus related software and so on, or any other underlying program codes, as long as the intended program code is run with it in this environment. The digital platforms are highly efficient and very fast because they run a series of processes in parallel. For instance, a social network’s “web servers” are usually smartphones with internet access, web pages are downloaded from the servers, and the information is stored on smartphones.
Most software companies focus only on software development and do not realize that the digital platforms used by different platforms differ significantly. Software developers create the programs to run on the platforms, but the digital platforms implement the software into the environment. Thus, the emphasis is always on developing a better user experience, but seldom on how well the programs and the corresponding software run on the platforms.
That is why no one digital platform can be considered a success until and unless it has a successful ecosystem. The success of any platform ultimately hinges on how well the ecosystem is built. On the surface, the ecosystem looks relatively simple. Users sign up for the platform, download the software and start using it. The trouble starts when no one shares the data or uses the same application on multiple platforms.
The modern digital platforms are characterized by extensive collaboration and data fluidity. The user has the ability to send data between devices, use multiple devices to get access to the same data and share data between applications without any significant loss of data integrity. However, building such an ecosystem requires an experienced team of professionals who know how to design the specific ecosystem that a company requires. Most importantly, it requires the expertise of a deep understanding of the device and platform user communities. Only then can a digital platform succeed.
A successful ecosystem not only defines the nature of a digital platform but also determines its potential for innovation. Successful platforms allow for significant innovations, as users share new functionality and applications in their communities. At the same time, digital platforms facilitate a cost-effective approach to innovation by significantly reducing the costs incurred during the innovation process. All of this leads to an increased innovation rate and an increase in product innovations.
Ultimately, a successful digital platform needs to cater to the needs and desires of the end-user. This requires careful planning and engineering. It also requires an accurate understanding of the complexities involved in designing an appropriate ecosystem. With the right form of collaboration and data integration, platforms can deliver excellent user experiences at lower costs. Innovation then becomes not only cheaper but also easier.