Creating a future-proof IT: How the Enterprise Digital Platform supports digital

BrandPost By Ima Buxton
May 31, 2017
Cloud Computing

The “Enterprise Digital Platform” is the foundation for connected business ecosystems. Its multi-layer architecture integrates core IT-applications and allows creating new information-based revenue streams.

Online Retailer Zalando has produced an amazing success story since its launch 7 years ago. In 2016, it generated a turnover of almost 4 billion euros and is one of the leaders in digital retail. But far from being satisfied with its success, it is taking a huge step by redefining its business model: Zalando envisions being a platform that functions as an operating system for the fashion world, with multiple ways of integrating all forms of fashion contributors and stakeholders. In this “platform business model”, Zalando is creating a hyper-connected business ecosystem of consumers, customers, partners and ‘connected things’.

IDC has analyzed what technological architecture is needed to support the constantly evolving business, digital and IT requirements. The resulting research paper “Introducing the Enterprise Digital Platform – Enabling the ‘Real Time Platform Business’”,which is sponsored by software company SAP, concludes that this platform is a cloud-first architecture consisting of a set of highly flexible building blocks based on innovative technologies. These blocks are represented by the multi-layer architecture that IDC believes digital platforms will have in common, regardless of the industry.

So what are the components on the various layers of this structure? Its fundament is a modern IT-core that integrates all mission-critical applications and information systems to sustain operations and business continuity. Core IT is not a ‘separate’ environment – rather the applications are brought to the center of the integrated ‘Enterprise Digital Platform’.

On the next level is the “data layer” – a data discovery environment with great analytical capabilities designed to extract business value and meaning. On the “development layer”, IT-professionals can continuously deliver new digital products and services. The “integration layer” uses services and APIs to connect the internal and external ecosystems. Finally, on the ”engagement layer“ the users have frontends that connect them to this ecosystem, allowing a whole new customer-centric, immersive experience.

What, then, makes the digital platform so central to the enterprise architecture in the age of digital transformation? It is exactly that it is the technological enabler of the main benefits of digital transformation: Redefined business models and the tapping into new, information-based revenue streams. It allows enterprise-wide collaboration and beyond through connected eco-systems. As part of the technological innovation process, IT organizations can reduce cost and accelerate the modernization of core IT.

The building of the digital platform is not a task that the IT department can manage in isolation –it needs to involve the organisation as a whole. Efforts start by joining with the CDO and other chief executives directly or indirectly involved in the digitization process to create a “Digital Dream Team” which can align stakeholders and build the basis for the “Real Time Platform Business” of the future. IDC proposes an approach in six steps, starting out by securing support on board-level and then mapping out the most important use cases. With this in place, the team can begin tackling the platform itself and re-engineering existing application so that they are integrated into the digital platform architecture. Once this has been established, the enterprise is positioned to continually support new business models and drive innovation.

Download your free copy of the whitepaper “Introducing the Enterprise Digital Platform – Enabling the ‘Real Time Platform Business’” and find out more on how to get your digital business model in place. 

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Further reading

Become a digital leader:  A new set of KPIs enables CIOs to deliver on digital transformation

Information transformation: Useful checklists to generate revenue streams with real-time data management  

Learn from the digital thrivers: 5 recipes that give CIOs guidance on how to flourish in digital transformation initiatives