Making smart platforms stick

A smart-platform strategy along with modularization can help combat the uncontrolled growth in solution complexity for manufacturers in several ways. It can reduce costs by minimizing operational complexity, increase competitiveness by accelerating project delivery, and deliver a benefit to customers through more competitive pricing

The benefit is not immediately visible

As mentioned, the key objective of modularization is to reduce complexity costs or increase customer value by creating a more competitive product portfolio. However, no one wants to invest in a year-long (or even years-long) implementation of a platform strategy only to find out in the end that there are no tangible benefits. Without early, clear, and measurable corporate objectives, with ambitions that grow over time, the impact of the smart-platform strategy doesn’t become evident for quite some time, and the strategy loses momentum.

Maturity of smart-platform thinking is unbalanced across the organization

As a smart-platform strategy is inherently cross-functional, certain challenges arise with regard to the pace of different functions in the organization. In particular, different levels of maturity in R&D and sales in understanding and implementing the smart-platform strategy can lead to misalignment and misunderstanding when it’s time to bring the strategy to life.

Five principles can help anchor smart-platform strategies

Five principles address the challenges described above and help companies embed smart platforms in their DNA, giving them a better chance at sustainability beyond just a successful pilot.

Organizational structures support the implementation and long-term success of smart platforms

A shift from customized solutions toward a more module-based “catalog” approach commonly requires new roles, responsibilities, and authorities. Whereas multiple project managers once had oversight of their distinct and largely independent projects, module leads now take responsibility for standardized modules that span across projects. Additionally, a platform lead works to ensure the compatibility of platform and module standards across projects. To be successful, the mandate for this cross-functional ownership of the platform must be clear and is often sponsored from the highest levels of the organization.

The way companies address which function should take the lead, how to ensure customer-centricity, and whether power should be centralized falls into three archetypes:

Technology-driven model: Places end-to-end product responsibility with R&D and is represented by the module and platform leads.

Market-driven model: Module and platform leads are often placed within separate and regional departments and the product-portfolio manager has a clear customer and sales focus.

Balanced model: A central function (the platform lead) helps balance the interests of R&D (the module lead) and sales (the product-portfolio manager).