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What constitutes a platform

New business models become reality, due to the saturation of the economy with computers and networks. Uber, AirBnB, Alibaba, Youtube and many more have created platforms, where service providers can meet and agree with interested people. These services poach, up to now, in the traditional business fields of taxi companies, hotels, department stores and media corporations. Typically, these platforms do not feel in competition with traditional providers. No drivers are hired, no hotels are operated, no goods are moved and no content is generated. In fact, they are not subject of existing regulations, which, for example, taxi drivers have to meet: a clearance certificate free of traffic offenses and other criminal acts, a medical certificate, the technical standards of the vehicles, the provisions of the passenger transportation law. In this sense, today’s platform providers are not commercial service providers in the above sense, but they are simply offering a place, where the providers and users can get together. What constitutes such a platform?

In the first step, we look at various building blocks, which form together the platform.

  • Protagonists (roles)
    A platform connects three groups of people. 1) The producers, who offer certain products respectively services. 2) Consumers, who are looking for these products and services. 3) The brokers, who connect producers and consumers and operate for this purpose a platform.
  • Added value for the protagonists
    The unique selling proposition of a platform, the USP, is the added value that the providers and buyers of the services as well as the intermediaries draw from the platform. A common interest may be the business sector (e.g. passenger transportation, accommodation, consulting and coaching services for companies). The producers have direct access to individual consumers. They find similar services bundled under one umbrella. The mediators benefit from the network that evolves over time.
  • Marketplace (Point of Sales)
    Services become visible, comparable and accessible on one platform. For this purpose stands are built, just as in a marketplace, in which the providers present their deliverables. The platform operators have the task to prepare the marketplace in such a way that allows the providers to present themselves in an easy way and that provides the buyers at one place the desired deliverables. This includes measures that ensure the reliability of the providers, make the offers comparable, enable the exchange of information and even ensure trustworthy payment transactions.
  • Information hub
    A platform lives on the available content. These are e-books, brochures, white papers that are ultimately provided by all protagonists. In addition, information brokers can place here payable content. The appeal of the platform increases eventually through appropriate interaction functions: forums, surveys and the like.

Bottom line: The platform is the basis for many new business models and at the same time the hub for a wide variety of business areas. Producers, consumers and brokers exchange their contributions under one umbrella. Like traditional market places, every participant can meet its needs here: offering and buying services and exchanging information. The variety of possible uses and the satisfaction of the interests of all protagonists constitute the platform.

The adequate quantity – the phantom of planning

Imagine somebody is planning a trip from Hannover to Madrid and is trying to fill his VW Golf with 100 liters gasoline. Without a petrol canister more than 50 liters would leak immediately on the floor of the filling station, since the tank can not absorb this quantity. Even if this sounds unreal, this craziness happens every day in all companies. The managers demand results from the employees, which go far beyond realistic expectations. External support gets purchased, although there is not sufficient internal capacity to support the measures. Objectives are simply not aligned with the available capabilities. In the absence of meaningful parameters, practical experiences and realistic conditions, the adequate quantity spooks through the entire planning process like a phantom.

This phantom generates at least one of the following three effects.

  • If more does not offer anything more
    Goodwill is not enough, if one reaches the limits of the capacity. The furnishing with the necessary resources does not lead to any advantages, if the workload can no longer be stemmed by the existing workforce. If external support is planned in areas, where collaboration with internal people is required, but they do not have time, then it is as if the tank is full and still being filled. A lack of an overview of the workload, incorrect estimates of the required person days and ignoring the basic conditions of an initiative lead to wasting the tight budget. In this case more does not offer anything more.
  • If too little offers nothing at all
    The smarter approach seems to be the use of less than necessary from the outset. This is the case when sufficient capacities are available internally, but in the procurement of external support money is spared. The task can not be controlled with the available internal know-how. Nevertheless, insufficient support is provided – perhaps in the hope that one gets more than one pays. This is as if you want to drive far away, but the tank is not filled the way that one can drive with an economical driving style so that there would be at least a chance to arrive. Without having any idea of the required quantity, with the hope that the outcomes will be produced by themselves and with distrust of the external service providers, this prevents the desired results. In this case, too little is not only correspondingly less, but it leads to a total failure of the task.
  • When the right amount draws the line
    The appropriate approach is based on clear objectives, anticipatory costs and the transfer of estimates to existing resources. Not only the available times of the individual employees are taken into account, but also their personal knowledge and experience as well as an estimation of the set-up times. In addition, the expenses of the external parties must be assessed and assigned to the individual tasks. In sum, one comes to an estimate, which must be mercilessly integrated into the timeframe. Trivialization, gossip, or veiling in order to whitewash the planning may create the impression that the planning is good. Practically, it is only a matter of time before the hidden difficulties arise and the initiative fails. Two thirds of the projects fail due to poor planning. Ambitious targets, cost pressure and the lack of employees put the planners under pressure. With all the effort, however, there is nothing to be done but to fit into the situation, to adjust the objectives to the available capacities and financial resources. In the end, the right amount determines the limit of the achievable.

Bottom line: For almost all, it is comprehensible that one can drive less far, the less one puts gas into the tank. However, this seems not to apply to the planning of projects. On the one hand, resources are wasted, because they do not fit into the internal realization possibilities. On the other hand, means are greedily spared, in the hope of reaching far enough – maybe the initiative fails anyway and one can make this failure more cost-efficient. The right amount can not perform magic, but make the goals reachable. As long as a corresponding feel for the adequate quantity is missing, all have to look for the phantom of the adequate quantity.