Pipelines, Platforms, and the New Rules of Strategy• Marshall W. Van Alstyne
• Geoffrey G. Parker
• Sangeet Paul Choudary
FROM THE APRIL 2016 ISSUE
An absolutely must read article
For decades, the five-forces model of competition has dominated the thinking about strategy. But it describes competition among traditional “pipeline” businesses, which succeed by optimizing the activities in their value chains—most of which they own or control. “Platform” businesses that bring together consumers and producers, as Uber, Alibaba, and Airbnb do, require a different approach to strategy.
The critical asset of a platform is external—the community of members. The focus shifts from controlling resources to orchestrating them, and firms win by facilitating more external interactions and creating “network effects” that increase the value provided to all participants.
In this new world, competition can emerge from seemingly unrelated industries and even from within the platform itself....
..... Businesses that fail to learn the new rules will struggle.... When a platform enters the marketplace of a pure pipeline business, the platform nearly always wins. That’s exactly what happened when the iPhone came on the scene in 2007. By 2015, it accounted for 92% of global profits in mobile phones, while most of the giants that once ruled the industry made no profit at all.....
.....Platforms have existed for years. Malls link consumers and merchants; newspapers connect subscribers and advertisers. What’s changed in this century is that information technology has profoundly reduced the need to own physical infrastructure and assets. IT makes building and scaling up platforms vastly simpler and cheaper, allows nearly frictionless participation that strengthens network effects, and enhances the ability to capture, analyze, and exchange huge amounts of data that increase the platform’s value to all.
You don’t need to look far to see examples of platform businesses, from Uber to Alibaba to Airbnb, whose spectacular growth abruptly upended their industries.
Though they come in many varieties, platforms all have an ecosystem with the same basic structure, comprising four types of players. The owners of platforms control their intellectual property and governance. Providers serve as the platforms’ interface with users. Producers create their offerings, and consumers use those offerings.