Strategies for Sustainable Growth of Platforms

This article has been sitting on my desk for quite some time, and I finally managed to finish it after going through the process of building something from scratch and taking it to its full potential three times in my career. Though the technologies, implementation and users are all different, what I observed is certain foundational aspects have always stayed intact.

When I started my career with an automotive major, the use case was building a centralized supplier portal/supplier database for more than 50k+ suppliers across the globe and which had to be rolled out to 100+ countries, so that the $100 Billion+ organization could take leverage of the production capacity, pricing efficiencies and ultimately better supply chain models to be put in place. Later in the financial domain, an AI feature which involved neural network processing behind the scenes and had a direct impact on the revenue had to be rolled out to opted-in customer base. With the recent experience working in Platform Engineering, releasing features and focusing on adoption for efficiencies. I’m not sure if you noticed, there is a strong Why before every experience. I have tried my best to put them across various phases that a product evolution with each one of them having a purpose for any Product to take the adoption/growth journey.

I broadly categorized the phases that a product had to go through these 4 Stages. Please note that this experience is specific to B2B scenario and B2C could be having different buckets.

Platform Growth in Stages

Stage 1: Zero to One

First stage is where most of the products fail or loose traction and hence this is crucial. For everything that needs to be done, having an early adaptor, a users who can take the journey with you knowing the product isn’t perfect yet will be important. Building the foundational infrastructure while focusing on the MVP(Minimal Viable Product) addressing customer pain points to get the platform off the ground. Market research and competitor analysis can provide valuable insights and guide the development process.

This phase is the long pole in the tent and one needs to make sure while building the platform to have scalability and flexibility in mind to handle future demand. Through the Product evolution journey it’s important to focus on the feedback as it’s an iterative process and your backlog for improvements only come from this feedback.

Stage 2: One to Hundred

This stage is crucial for sustainment of the Platform Product and also to address more use cases for various types of customer that get onboarded. One will see a community being build around this phase with regular feature release or capability demos and few times customers will be our voice of the product. It’s important to keep the engagement and drive towards customer satisfaction with aspects like self service and roadmaps for visibility into what’s coming.

Table stakes like Observability, patching, scalable architecture will need to be addressed at this stage. Having a strong partnership with vendors who can expedite and help in solving few use cases will also be an alternative that needs to be evaluated.

Stage 3: Hundred to Thousand

At this stage, it’s about handling the volume and having focus on Support, Operations, Automation for workflows, Governance and standardization with templates wherever possible will be crucial aspects. It’s important to drive the platform with right metrics which support strategic business objectives.

Double down on the customer satisfaction and how swiftly we will be able to respond to feedback and new requirements. Platform product evolution is all about contact improvement and ensuring the platform is relevant in the ever-evolving market with cutting-edge technology stack and hence evaluating the landscape to stay ahead will be important.

Stage 4: Thousand and above

This is the stage where the talk around ROI, optimization and having a solid team built around customer success will be crucial. In summary, growing a platform requires a strategic and iterative approach in building product features. Building a solid foundation, attracting and retaining customers, scaling the platform, and staying responsive to user feedback and market trends are key factors in achieving sustainable growth and success.

SGMM Model for Growth aspects

The reason for holding off this article is as you can see, there are lot of items through this journey as a leader it’s important to have a framework for yourself to consume the complexity. This is where I was trying to fit this in St. Gallen Management Model which simplifies things in the thinking model of Why/What and How’s of this. Here is a snippet of how it looks like and just a different way to look at the Platform Product Evolution.