“If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up today as a software and analytics company,”
– Jeff Immelt, former CEO, GE
About 25 years ago, the then rage was email, which was as popular as the internet today. This was followed by a proliferation of websites, browsers, and the first generation of ecommerce businesses. The next gen live with their mobiles, marketplaces, and extensively use a variety of mobile apps; they hardly ever find a need to open a browser window and everything is accomplished through an app. In the not too distant future, there will be a generation that will only converse with bots, and get a response that will help them make smart decisions, without ever having to interact with a human being!!
New kids on the block
John Deere, the farm-equipment giant created an open software platform – MyJohnDeere, which is an information system to help agricultural producers optimize the management of crop production data, equipment information, and farm operations. John Deere opened their platform to the entire ecosystem across farm input suppliers, machinery dealers, farmers, agronomists, and software companies to collaborate, connect, and drive improvements in productivity, efficiency, and yield. John Deere transformed from a farm-equipment manufacturer to provider of sophisticated, value-added agricultural services driven by technology and software.
Michelin, one of the largest tyre manufacturers in the world, launched EFFIFUEL an ecosystem that uses IoT sensors inside vehicles to collect data on fuel consumption and tyre pressure, along with temperature, speed, and location. This data is used by Michelin to provide training on eco-driving techniques and tyre management recommendations to individual drivers and fleet operators, yielding significant savings. Michelin transformed from a manufacturer selling tyres-as-a-product to a service provider offering data-enriched, value-added transportation services that result in improved performance and cost savings.
Yes, the world has changed indeed! It is a fact that software is at the heart of the disruptive change and innovations as you have seen above. Just imagine for a moment – if non-software businesses are racing ahead to offer innovative solutions based on state-of-the-art software, what should traditional software companies do? Can they afford to be satisfied with status quo? Absolutely NOT.
Software businesses should aspire to build innovative solutions that can scale for the world and be local at the same time. This is no longer a theoretical need, but a vital business demand. The challenge is how fast and effectively one can do that. And that is the kind of change and transformation customers and users would love to see in your software.
At coMakeIT, based on our experience in developing, evolving, and modernizing software products for global markets, we have deep insights into the tectonic shifts that are shaping the business world and the software industry, some of which are highlighted below:
- Every product is becoming a service
- Mobility is enabling various work modes, by erasing physical barriers
- Future belongs to ecosystems, not isolated products or stand-alone platforms
The fundamental shift can be summed up by the phrase Every company is a software company, for which John Deere and Michelin are great examples as I have shown above. Products and people are more connected now than ever before. Data originating both from product usage and contextual data from internal & external systems and devices provides us an unprecedented opportunity to offer new, data-enriched services and convert routine users to committed fans.
How should you lead such a transformation?
Whether you are a start-up, or a fast-growing business in a scale-up mode, or a successful business with legacy software, it is a near certainty that you are thinking about innovation and transformation more often than you ever did in the past. Research indicates that transformation is predominantly centered around product innovation, and irrespective of the nature of your business or the domain that you serve, you should focus on the following areas to create meaningful impact:
- Create lasting experiences
- Scale to be universally pervasive
- Serve multiple business models
Apps, SaaS, Platform (ASP) – an approach to software transformation
Traditionally software businesses are used to three broad approaches to achieve leadership and success:
- Domain leadership
- Technology leadership
- Market leadership
In practice, it’s difficult to view them in isolation as there is a lot of fusion between them. The most impactful and successful ones are businesses that fuse all the three approaches and offer innovative, disruptive solutions to unseat entrenched companies and disrupt established and business models. Fusing the above approaches, we at coMakeIT developed ASP, a unique playbook to help guide and execute your software transformation.
ASP is a unique approach that lets you choose and execute the right strategy for transforming your software – an Apps, SaaS or Platform strategies. These are all essential ingredients for your transformation and success. It may or may not be possible to achieve all three at the same time, but it is important for you to have a roadmap for all of them. A little of one and more of another – depending on the immediate benefit – but have all of them. They are not disconnected. Collectively they make your software complete and help in achieving 360° leadership.
ASP playbook helps you to plan and chart the course of achieving that state. The playbook guides you to map the journey from as-is to the to-be states and helps you in selecting the technologies to achieve your future state. Here is a brief about each of A-S-P and what it means to your software.
Apps implies a lot more than a mobile App. To achieve it, it needs technical, functional, and organizational focus. Even for a legacy application, this is one of the important milestones in their transformation as they modernize. This involves elements of technology and product modernization. Apps are characterized by the following features:
- Functional decomposition
- Self-contained, independent business functions
- Mobility, pervasive spread, and personalized experiences
This enables increased focus on users and also lead to an increase in usage of the software with very specific functions. It also enables continuous increments to be delivered with minimum operations lag.
Getting there: There are many ways of getting there. I will present a deep dive on this topic in a subsequent post where I will discuss how to choose right technologies for this strategy. But take it for now that you could use Low Code Platforms, Open source frameworks, Hybrid Applications, Native mobile applications, PWA etc. There are lot of options and depending on the overall mix, that will lead to a careful choice of technology.
Being SaaS also means you have achieved a level of domain completeness to be able to serve multiple businesses and technology scalability to serve many geographies simultaneously with optimal IT infrastructure. Also, this is perhaps the 2nd key milestone in the modernization and transformation journey of any software application. A SaaS application is the pivotal point, and is characterized by the following additional features:
- Deployed on cloud
- New revenue model
- Modern frameworks and flexible architectures
Getting there: A seemingly simple thing has a lot of technology to take care of. An SLA of 99% means 3.65 days of down time in a year. While an SLA of 99.99% means 52.56 minutes of down time in a year. So, if you have to deliver continuously and cater to these timelines, what do you need to focus on? Not just Containers, DevOps, A/B releases, Continuous everything, but Organizational culture, risk mitigation, and elastic infrastructure and at times even more.
This is the highest milestone in the transformation journey of any software application, with two possible scenarios. You either evolve as a platform that is used by other businesses to build and offer differentiated applications, or support an ecosystem, where you coexist and deliver business value as part of a platform. A platform has the following differentiating features:
- Open, collaborative systems
- Deliver continuous business value
- Support new business models/ecosystems
Getting there: As there are different types of platforms ranging from a maker platform to an application development platform to a market place, you must choose the platform avatar that best serves your business needs. Even though it is a formidable challenge, you must strive to ensure that all the players in the ecosystem adhere to the same principles, to ensure that the entire platform and ecosystem is fail-safe and works seamlessly.
While we touched on some of the essential elements of ASP, we understand the depth there is to each of the strategies, and we will focus on each of them separately. As we deep dive into each element of ASP, we will also show how our proprietary tools – product maturity canvas and technology radar, will help you navigate the transformation journey. I am sure you will be interested in learning more about the ASP playbook and how the tools will help you. Stay tuned.