Breaking the re-platforming cycle

picture of road traffic signs as a metaphor for re-platformingI’m still surprised how many organisations are stuck in a cycle of re-platforming their internal systems. Not that these systems aren’t important, they’re as critical as the steel frame in a building. It’s just that, like the steel frame in a building, they don’t differentiate your offer to your customers that much. Is now the time to break this cycle so that your technology team can focus on the right things?

It’s interesting to contrast where start-ups and large corporates focus their efforts. In start-ups, there’s an obsession with investing the maximum effort in improving the offer to customers. Everything else takes second place. But in large corporates, customer-facing investment has to fight its way past of long line of inwardly-focused investment. Most CIOs have a long list of candidate projects in HR, email and office, procurement and finance systems. And that’s just the start of the list. It’s a wonder that large corporates have any time left to worry about the customer.

Dig in to the drivers for these re-platforming projects, and all too often the primary driver is a poor one. The ending of support, product withdrawal or scarce legacy skill-sets are often top of the list. But at this point, a parallel narrative emerges. We see opportunities to engage colleagues, drive efficiency, enhance flexibility or modernise ways of working.

But if the opportunity is so compelling, why haven’t we mobilised on the project already? The answer is that we have, each and every time we’ve touched these systems before. And we still haven’t captured it.

In all honesty, the other reason that we have the long list of internal projects, is that there are still too many seats around the board table that have an inward focus. And no self-respecting director would be without their own change agenda. And yet these same boards are concerned about digital disruption.

We have an opportunity to break the cycle, but we need to change the narrative. We should accept that our internal systems are not a major differentiator. Once we do, moving the capability to software-as-a-service platforms seems an obvious next step. We then free up our investment, and our technology teams, to focus on the customer. The growing number of companies moving to cloud email is a big step in the right direction. At this rate, large corporates might just catch up with start-ups, eventually…

Breaking the re-platforming cycle

Rob works with technology start ups and leading retailers on the impact and opportunities of digital technologies

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