Digital Platforms can be defined as a collection of application designed to hold and facilitate cross-use and access to other applications included on the platform. A Digital Platform usually include applications for data-ingestion, transactional engine to perform tasks or rules-based activities based on AI Machine Learning and analytical engines. Digital Platforms also include Application Programming Interfaces (API) that allows different internal and external applications to talk to each other, and regulatory and compliance monitoring tools. All that is offered as an integrated, specialized, turn-of-the key service via Cloud Computing and seamless communication to enterprises and also to final consumers.
System Platforms and IT Platforms
These terms were used before the full effects of the Digital Revolution took place, as Platforms were then either 3rd party developed and installed on each enterprise’s site or proprietary.
Open Digital Platforms
Open Digital Platforms means that the original developer has not become the gatekeeper and the system is open to further independent development for improvements and new purposes other than as it was intended. Open Digital Platforms can additionally be Open Source.
Open Source Platform
Can be defined as an Open Platform in which the original developer and vendor allows for certain components of its software to be edited, modified, and adapted to different functionalities. This allows for innovative use of software applications. Open Standards is the final level of user autonomy and creativity as programming elements are publicly available and non-proprietary components can be added by multiple agents to the original Open Digital Platform.
Ongoing Enterprise Integration and Management Needs
Since the beginning of the already finished Digital Revolution, enterprises have been struggling to simplify, unify, integrate data and applications within an enterprise, that explains the Enterprise Resource Planning (E.R.P.) boom when SAP, Oracle and Microsoft required multi-year, multimillion investments for customized on-site, closed, enterprise-wide platforms. This need has now further increased with the adoption of massive-data creation technologies like the KETTLs here explained, and the need to integrate, analyze and bring that data to use plus have access to cutting-edge applications to manage them.
Enterprise Digitalization Generated Business Capabilities
Digital platforms handle end-to-end increasingly complex business process and functions. In this present time where through Digitalization economic activity has switched from process-driven to data-driven Digital Platforms have already become the most cost efficient, necessary and fast-innovation-sharing technology to deliver competitive services.
As already discussed the ongoing 4th Industrial Revolution and the KETTLs that form part bring a sleuth of opportunities that require improved and often new Business Capabilities for enterprises and administrations to remain competitive. Digital Platforms offered by remote providers in the Cloud, bring cutting-edge new capabilities without own development time nor fixed costs. As such there is a multitude of specialized platforms jockeying for dominance in a given industry or function like those specialized in facilitating advanced marketing campaigns in banking or those managing IoTs enabled machines in warehousing.
Supply-Demand Adjustment Needs
Digital Platforms also allow for supply and demand optimization within B2B and in particular Logistics through the creation of virtual market-makers to disintermediate and to lower costs. This was explored as soon as internet arrived in particular in the late 90s, but limitations on past existing technologies, and the lack of real time, reliable data plus the resilience of 3rd Party Logistics and other intermediaries added to overall lack of trust among agents, botched most of the previous attempts.
Sector and Supply-Chain Level Needs
Past production advances like just-in-time manufacturing, plus emergence of e-commerce, cost cutting needs and full globalization has been pushing Logistics and Transport enterprises to seek innovations to better coordinate suppliers, partners, intermediaries, other transport mode operators and B2B customers throughout the whole value chain, with spectacular results so far. Now Cloud Computing with the added benefits of BlockChain technology covered in the next section offers an important opportunity to further share information, reliable, unbiased and in real time thus generating and enhanced collaboration and transaction optimization.
Ecosystem Level Needs
Until recently Digital Platforms that were oriented towards final customer use, limited themselves to connect buyers and sellers for simple transactions. Digital Platforms are now multisided multi-sided value exchange driven that bring together consumers, service and stakeholders. This opens the door to new customer services, facilitates customer information and loyalty plus innovation and further development of new business capabilities. Combined with BlockChain technology that brings transparency to transaction highly facilitates new business models based on Collaborative Economy. These new platform businesses are rapidly multiplying including travel, parking, clothes and residential and vehicle sharing. This use of Digital Platforms is very promising and deserves attention for their broader use in transport and logistics and also overall public administration.
Wang, Guo, Closed or open platform? The nature of platform and a qualitative comparative analysis of the performance effect of platform openness, 2020.
Digital Platforms allow companies and operators to interact and position themselves in the sector in a more efficient, clear and visible way. In Passenger Transport, Digital Platforms allows for the consultation of routes, schedules and tariffs, and for the reservation and payment of an increasing number of services and combinations of services. It results on a significant improvement of customers’ experience while facilitating planning and operations throughout standardization, integration and simplification.
Improved Teamwork between departments within the same organization, and among all actors involved in the logistics chain.
Increased Collaboration between companies to balance supply-demand more efficiently obtaining all parties a greater benefit for both parties. Incremental derived from the improvement in the agility of negotiation between the parties, for example ON A freight market, and greater universal visibility of supply and demand, among others.
Reduction of Transaction Cost due to Simplified Documentation of goods traffic between agents, plus reduction of transactions and waiting timesand redundancies.
Increased data transparency of all types of terminals and transport infrastructures.
Traceability by customers allowing requests generation and customer service to be integrated in the same platform.
Emergence of New Agents and New Services like Digital Freight Forwarders or Digital Chartering and Market-makers. Digital Platforms allow small, innovative agents to penetrate the market. As coordination and transfer becomes more efficient new Digital Marketing Platforms integrating broader variety of providers that offer a specialized Value-added transport services.
Improved Planning Capabilities including standardization, optimization and streamlining in a variety of functional areas. The use of digital platforms simplifies and facilitates the control of the infrastructure and the fleet. The consultation of routes, timetables and fares, plus reservation and payment from a single customer contact point for different services throughout integrated apps. That facilitates and simplifies all these processes. Service delivered and customer satisfaction is improved at relatively low cost. Additionally, allows more security in data and payment management.
New Possibilities for Enhanced Collaboration: document simplification, reduction of transactions and waiting time, plus improved transparency allows reinforced teamwork among departments and companies
Operator-User and Operator-Supplier Relationship Improvement: thanks to the possibilities that the different digital platforms can offer.
New Capabilities in Customer Service and Follow-up Marketing as digital platforms facilitate the follow-up of the different communications, requests, with customers and suppliers.
Sources: CETMO and “Impacte de les KETs en la digitalització dels diferents àmbits del transport”, CENIT-CINESI – December 2020