Will the Third Platform be Your Business’s Third Rail?
What is the Third Platform, exactly? No, it’s not the name of the platform for a train that will take you to the Promised Land of Success. It’s not the platform that sits under a hidden block containing a climbable vine that will grow skyward to Cloud 9, where coins abound. Rather, it’s actually the third step in an ongoing change in the way business is carried out with information technology tools.
The exemplar of the first platform is the mainframe computer, which had its origins in the 1960s and continued to evolve to manage large-scale business operations. Their powerful processing capabilities, and ability to run multiple operating systems simultaneously, mean that continue to be an important part of large business computing. The second platform was the much smaller PC, which dominated the period between 1985 and 2005. Now, the third platform is mobile technology, the cloud, social networking, and Big Data that comprise the industrial revolution of information technology.
It’s easy to see that more and more people are casually working on smaller and smaller devices, with smartphones doing many (if not all) of the same things a top-of-the-line PC could do in 2004 and more. People that would rather not deal with a monthly cellular service fee will most likely carry out their workflow routine on a tablet instead. The combined influence and popularity of these devices will threaten the profitability of the PC industry’s participants who make solely PCs; “Industry analysts also predict that 2015 will be the first year that more American consumers will access the Internet with mobile devices rather than PCs,” says Mark Neistat of the US Signal Company.
Social networking is expanding in developing countries at blistering rates: as Neistat postulates, network access in the Middle East and Africa is projected to grow by about 23%, with the Asia-Pacific area coming in at 21.1% and Latin America at 12.6%. On the continent where it all started, however, social networking won’t gain nearly as much ground in a saturated “market” at 4.1%. Those networks that differentiate themselves from the Big Four (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+) and even from social location services like Foursquare and offer outstanding features — even for a certain niche — will stand to expand even faster. Case in point: Facebook’s Instagram acquisition, which contributed to a meteoric rise (by 17,319% in 2012) in social media traffic.
The best network for your business will depend on your focus. If serving customers directly is your game, open up channels on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If you feel the need to get the attention of businesses, a LinkedIn company page will fit the bill nicely, along with a product page if your business has developed one. Twitter and Google+ profiles are good to have as well, as they hold a treasure trove of information to share with your followers. Whichever network you use, they’ll give you an idea of how many people know about your business and want to keep coming back for more.
Big Data will be an even more dominant feature in the IT landscape, and is instrumental to effective and efficient in-house marketing campaigns. As your business creates it, Big Data will help you determine which people come back most often, as well as when, where, and why. The key to reaping the highest profits from this collection of data is in finding the patterns and information that will predict the repeat returns of the ideal customer. Even if you don’t find that you have a group of loyal, repeat customers, you can judge the impact of any promotions or events from the data you’ve gathered and hold more of those events in the future.
The biggest technological aspect of the third platform is the cloud. With it, you can do and see all of these wherever you have an Internet connection, from the smartphones and tablets above to larger laptops that work exclusively from the cloud with no local storage (e.g. Google’s Chromebook). With more data being stored on the cloud, more people can access their data from more than one location, eliminating one’s need to go back to a home computer to retrieve it. Thus, more people can work from more than one place at different times of the day.
The Third Platform is here to stay. Where can it take your business?