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How to Design an Open Platform That Can Reinvent Industries

The greatest industrial transformations in recent history have all been driven by platforms. Finance, communications, retail, transportation, these are just a few of the major industries that have been completely reinvented thanks to a wave of dynamic new platform approaches. Yet the manufacturing industry remains ripe for change.
What do we mean by platform? The word has two principal definitions: a horizontal surface (physical), and a declaration of principles (beliefs). Business platforms are shaped by both of these things in that they are the foundations upon which companies ply their trades in ways that uniquely reflect a company’s own values and convictions.
An open platform differs from a traditional one in allowing outside parties to directly engage with it, expanding its breadth and driving new value, but without changing its fundamental structure. In the simplest terms, an open platform is an innovation machine.
One of the defining and most unique facets of HP’s 3D printing business is its 3D Open Materials Platform model, so we’re proud to have it named as a winner in the Collaborative Innovation Leadership category for the 2018 Manufacturing Leadership Awards.
HP realized early on that turning 3D printing into the kind of mainstream technology that could reinvent the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry was not something that we (or any one company) could do alone. We knew we’d need to forge partnerships with companies around the globe to develop a diverse range of 3D printing materials to complement HP’s own, and make them all available on a collaborative open platform.
Disruptive technology is at the heart of HP’s 3D printing business, and leveraging it via a dynamic open platform enables it to change the fundamental dynamics of a major industry like manufacturing in ways that were previously not possible. It is ultimately the ability to create and sustain a robust partner ecosystem to foster innovation, increase adoption, and lower prices through economies of scale that will determine our success.
Open platforms benefit from the circular “network effect” in that they gain value the more people use them which grows the addressable market and attracts more innovators who drive new products and applications. And that, in turn, attracts more new users, and so on.
But creating a successful open platform takes much more than simply matching supply and demand. If you want to design a successful open platform that has the potential to reinvent entire industries – manufacturing among them – here are the five most important things to consider:

  1. Network: Your network is the connective tissue and the nerve system between entrepreneurs and consumers. How you design and implement it is critical. What will make it valuable to people on both sides of the commerce equation? What will drive the growth of the network effect? If your network isn’t growing, it’s shrinking.


  1. Value: How will all participants benefit uniquely from your platform? How will it drive exponential growth through the co-creation of value?


  1. Creativity. What are you doing to drive it? What are the tools you’re providing to enable it? What barriers are being removed that will make the platform seamless? How does it draw new innovators to the platform?


  1. Incentives. How are they defined? How are they delivered? How can they inspire entrepreneurs to create and capture value using the platform’s unique capabilities?


  1. Business Model. What is your monetization model? How do you drive sustainable differentiation from the competition? How does the business model drive value from the open platform’s collaborative structure? How well does it scale? What will propel its ongoing success?

Industry transformation isn’t driven by any one catalyst, it’s a series of changes of increasing depth and magnitude that allow businesses and economies to grow and thrive into the future. The adoption of open platform models and the creation of far-reaching, collaborative partner ecosystems are among the most important keys to unlocking manufacturing’s digital future. Our greatest asset will be in the strength of our community.
Fabio Annunziata is Director of Business Development and 3D Materials at HP Inc. He leads the 3D materials business and the HP Materials Open Platform.

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