It is not sufficient to have a promising business idea. There are many hurdles to overcome before the actual work begins. In the days of Henry Ford it worked out well, as soon as you mastered the entire value chain. Meanwhile, the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction. Today, the one-hundred percent vertical integration is being replaced by a very low percentage – at the SMART plant in Hambach, France, it amounts to ten percent. Digitization will lead to even flatter vertical integration. These become possible, when the many tasks are spread across many shoulders. Platforms provide such shoulders.
It does not matter, whether we are talking about different platforms or one that contains all the necessary functions. With the following offers tomorrow’s entrepreneurs can focus on their actual business model.
The fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is driven by the opportunities of network-based ICT – cyber-physical systems, big data, cloud services, 3D manufacturing, embedded technologies, etc. The use of these offerings cannot be avoided. However, you do not have to take care of all aspects anymore. These tasks have been taken over by platforms that provide these services in a user-friendly way.
The term was created in the field of IT. The operating system combines different components into a functioning whole. Under the slogan XaaS (Everything as a Service), today platforms are being provided in an application-oriented way – from infrastructure, to production facilities, to special applications that are used when required and paid only then.
Area of Expertise
In 10 main occupational groups you will find the different professions, each responsible for specific areas. The specialization of the individual areas provides today a vast amount of practical experiences that can be used without the need that one has to familiarize oneself with the respective area. The fourth revolution will lead to more and more platforms, where experts offer their deliverables as a service.
The current networks are websites where producers and consumers meet on a platform provided by a broker in order to offer a certain service – UBER, AIRBnB, Paypal, Ebay etc. In the future, exclusive biztopes will emerge, where selected participants support each other in their business. The Henry Ford of today shares his means of production on a platform with his competitors and stands out in speed, good ideas and versatility.
The place to trade has always been determined by the goods and services that have been exchanged, as well as by geographical features. An overlap of markets rarely took place. Today’s markets are just a click away from every user. Therefore on the one hand one is quickly at the point of action, but on the other hand one is also exposed to all offers. The benefits of the classic marketplace, with its reference points and regulations, are already being exploited by platforms where sellers and buyers meet at auctions – eg. Covisint, SupplyOn.
The little sister of a market is the niche that forms in the corners, where big markets do not expect much revenue. Through the Internet, this niche is as reachable as the big market. Depending on the success of the niche, it can quickly develop into a market and cover with its platform more and more areas.
Business model In a modular world, the actual business models use pods (i.e. small, autonomous units that develop value-add) that are needs-oriented created and eventually resolved when they fulfilled their purpose. The required resources are drawn from the various platforms (see above) on an expenditures basis (pay-per-use). The costs are created by integrating the technology, the operating system, the area of expertise, the network, the market and one’s own niche. If the results are correct, then over time the users will optimize the interaction with the platforms.
Bottom line: The start of a new business model no longer requires the immense preparation by building the necessary technology, a coherent operating system, the experience of a specialist area, the lengthy development of a network, the development of a market or its own niche. Platforms allow start-ups or new businesses to focus on designing their core competencies. Platforms make businesses more agile.
The roles within the scope of agility are Product owner, Scrum master and Development team. The team is not further described, but it often consists of roles like analysts, developers, testers and users, who work closely together. The effectiveness of the team comes from the fact that it consists of less than 7plusminus2 members. The special characteristics of those players are usually not further clarified. And this, although those agile players do the real work and have to be people with special qualities.
Besides the professional expertise and skills, the employees need additional capabilities. Agility gets its advantages from the concentration of the resources to the essentials, the ability to act flexibly, to orientate oneself towards the customer and the results as well as, above all, to decide self-determined. In order to affect, the players need special characteristics.
So that the employees can keep up, they need a fast, intuitive perception. The short cycles of the work packages do not allow lengthy studies. It is about quickly understanding the circumstances and the relationships and to transfer them into solutions. This is not only a matter of technical aspects, but also the cooperation between the involved parties and their personal mood. Comprehension needs trust into the gut feeling.
A sprint is the agile development cycle that takes two to four weeks and creates functioning partial solutions. It requires not only the understanding of the current situation, but also the anticipation of possible future circumstances. The corresponding trend signals can be derived from trend research or from a realistic assessment of the product life cycles. The better you adjust to future difficulties, the faster a measure has an effect. This anticipation becomes possible with the ability to imagine the future subjectively without holding on objective arguments.
In an agile environment, driven by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), the basic conditions change rapidly. So that the employees are able to react to the environmental causes at the right moment, they need the ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions. This requires self-confidence and courage in order to dare in the respective situation to act quickly – without the safety net of formal regulations that remove the responsibility for their actions.
As soon as the circumstances are changing, the existing approaches are becoming obsolete. The insistence on the current approach runs counter to the new conditions. The ability to adapt facilitates the players to let go the previous solutions in favor of new, better-fitting ones. The art is to know when the right moment has come to change the approach. To overcome the current standpoint, it helps to be aware that there are always at least three solutions for a task.
Self propulsion / discipline
To make agility work at all, the players need an inner motive that keeps them moving. Set-up times, dead times and down times are influenced by the individual employees. Central control can not accomplish this. Therefore you need employees who are entrepreneurs. They act as if it were their own company – 24/7. If this momentum is kept continuously, the right activities are carried out appropriately and reliably. This drive is controlled by every employee. In the best case, these forces can be released by appropriate work conditions (e.g. flexible working hours, a pleasant workplace, and no disturbing influences).
Bottom line: Managers are focused on the Product Owner and Scrum Master. But the actual work is done by the development team. The management of the heterogeneous team members is not further described and lies in the hands of the Scrum Masters. He keeps the team together, keeps the momentum and takes care of problems. But to really ensure agility the team members need a quick comprehension, an early anticipation of changing conditions, quick reaction and adaptive abilities as well as a disciplined self-motivation. In the long run the agile organization only functions, if the agile players are people with special characteristics.