Signals sat down with Bob Solomon of Software Platform Consulting recently to discuss some of the trends and themes he is seeing develop across the Platform Economy as the business world adapts operations and digitally transforms their processes.
Good morning Bob and thank you for sharing your insights with us. Please give our readers some background on your professional career and how that path led to where you are today?
After spending many years in the food industry, I moved to the world of software in 2000, joining Ariba (now part of SAP). I spent most of my 10 years with Ariba working on the network part of their business, which ignited my interest in networks, platforms and marketplaces. Since then, all I have done is worked for or advised B2B platforms. I think of it as simply a sub-specialty within B2B SaaS.
What are the types of projects or activities that you help your customers with today?
I help my customers with just about whatever they need to grow and prosper as a B2B platform. Usually, that is some combination of product design, business model design, pricing, sales, strategy, alliances, recruiting, and payments. No two projects are alike, though they often share common principles.
When you think about your day-to-day work and what your customers and colleagues are focusing on and thinking about, what would you say is the most remarkable change compared to 18 months ago?
For me, the most remarkable change is the speed with which an ecosystem of software providers has evolved to serve marketplaces and platforms. Even 18 months ago, I had to tell my clients that the things they wanted to accomplish would require writing software. These days there is almost always a “build” or “buy” decision to be made as there are commerce vendors, payments vendors, marketplace software vendors, and the list goes on and on.
What are some of the successful strategies and techniques businesses are employing that you are tracking in your work studying the industry?
Successful businesses are exploiting the opportunity that comes with the disruption inherent in the Covid period. There have been disruptions to:
- Consumer spending patterns
- Consumer travel patterns
- Supply chains
- All forms of retail
- Office work
Successful companies have designed products and services to help their customers respond to this disruption and manage the return to “normal”.
Successful companies are also building seamless experiences for their customers. Especially in this environment, customers are looking for complete solutions, not pieces that they can knit together. In normal times, it is hard to pull disparate systems together, in this world, it is darn near impossible.
What are some areas that you and your customers are watching that you think are likely to present ongoing risk as the global economy adapts in the coming months?
Obviously, supply chains continue to be disrupted, and those companies that respond first are going to gain market share. The same is true in many businesses that are reopening. Old relationships between consumers and retailers, and between buyers and suppliers have been disrupted and are up for grabs for the first time in many years.
Take a simple example, relationships between customers and their gyms were considered pretty sticky. Not any more. There are going to be a lot of consumers re-joining gyms and considering new ones, though some are never re-joining and will be using only their Pelotons. There is less of this disruption in B2B, but plenty of supplier relationships were still disrupted and plenty of buyers are looking for more resilient solutions to their needs. More relationships will change in the next 12 months than in the last five years!
How would you say that COVID impacted your practice and your ability to serve your customers?
I’ve been serving my customers remotely for a while, so it was not a huge impact on my business, but obviously in-person meetings were out of the question. Board meetings which are always conducted in-person became virtual and that was a loss for everyone involved. Like everyone else, I became a captive to the video conference. I experienced the same challenges such as no two consecutive conferences ever using the same technology and my default settings on each service (e.g, video on or off and microphone on or off) being different. That was fun!
If you could offer one piece of advice to B2B Technology leaders in the next 12 months, what would it be?
If you want to know what it was like to be in Florence during the Renaissance, it was probably like being in B2B software right now. Demand is strong, a supply of new innovations is steady and capital is flowing freely to start-ups. B2B tech leaders should take advantage of the opportunities. But as old as I am I have to remind people that this party will end-- so save some dry powder.
Thanks for joining us today Bob and for sharing your insights with us. We also thank you for being a valued member of our SkillSetz Community.