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Why great tech innovators think about platforms


Mark is its CEO W3.Digitala consulting firm focused on digital transformation.

There is one thing that top tech entrepreneurs have in common, and it’s something that many boards could benefit from following: platform innovation.

Consider the legacies of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Richard Branson and how they all reinvented entire industries. Closer to my home in Australia, the same goes for Scott Farquhar, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Bevin Slattery and Michael Malone.

For more traditional businesses to follow suit, boards can start by asking how they can elevate entire sectors—and people—with their technology, and how technology can reinvent their industry.

The textbook platform plays

Uber’s approach to solving two problems—the shortages of the taxi industry and the untapped supply of cars—with one platform is the textbook platform game and the best place to start in terms of innovation. Developing a platform opens up efficiency while offering higher profit margins for a financial sector.

I think Australia is ripe for this kind of platform innovation on a massive scale. We have a number of technologies maturing at the same time, with the convergence of 5G, IoT, artificial intelligence and edge computing paving the way for a golden age of platform gaming.

5G alone can transform our economy, including healthcare, agriculture, logistics and supply chains. With dedicated 5G networks, security and customer experience, many businesses have a huge opportunity to innovate.

Cross-cutting Technology

There is also potential for businesses to branch out and disrupt other sectors. Telstra, for example, provides infrastructure in the health sector. The right platform game could enable robotic surgery. While it wouldn’t make sense for a major telecommunications company to build surgical robots itself, it could allow others to innovate using its technology.

This is not just theoretical. By the end of the year, more suppliers of surgical robots will be enter the world market. However, with the right infrastructure, that number could explode—lowering the cost of market entry, increasing supply chain opportunities, and creating a related technology catalyst.

Knowing where to invest

How should Australian boards understand this new technology and know where to invest? The answer is contradictory. Stop thinking about the technology itself and try to understand the human issues at play.

For example, let’s look at the global health care system. Covid-19 exposed many weaknesses, mainly due to population density and geography. However, these “disadvantages” are opportunities for technical innovation. With geographic proximity, the technology could transport specialized medical personnel from one remote location to another, saving someone’s life in an emergency.

If this technology is successful, we can export it to other markets.

Time for action

Particularly fragmented markets with many players are ripe for this type of business risk, and the need is pressing.

The global economy has relied on the same industries for so long that businesses are risk averse. We need organizations to work together, gain access to international research and find ways for the economy to capitalize on the new era of platform games.

True innovation comes from bringing diverse teams together and benefiting from each other’s capabilities, skills, networks and processes. However, we have not yet done this on a large scale.

Short term risk, long term benefit

Through my experience, I have found that some corporate boards that evolve their business through digital transformation know that 80% of what they try will not work, but that the remaining 20% ​​could bring success for the next 25 to 30 years. This is the kind of boldness that drives true innovation.

Digital transformation may be painful in the short term, but the long-term opportunities are too great to ignore. With the right investment, I believe Australian business can play a huge role in solving some of humanity’s most pressing challenges while delivering significant economic benefits. It is at the platform level where there is the most effective room for change.

The opportunity is too good to pass up for brave thinkers and technology innovators.


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