Principles for Platform Design

Sep 11, 2021

India is at the cusp of a paradigm shift in the ways digital solutions are being deployed. We are witnessing the shift to “Era 3.0 – Platformisation”.

Era 1.0 – Computerisation - Computers being set up in for data entry and operations

Era 2.0 – Digitization – End to end services for recording, organising and retrieving information

Era 3.0 – Platformisation - Multiple systems scattered over geographies and deployed for various distinct purposes interacting to enable cross utilisation of services & information

While building a platform is fairly easy its is important that the platform design is created keeping in mind scalability, effective and efficient delivery.

How does one ensure a robust platform design???

Be open and inter-operable: Use and/ or build open standards, licenses, databases, APIs, etc. and promote inter-operability. It helps realize inter-platform efficiencies, promotes competitive behaviour and guards against potential lack due to evolving ecosystem.

For Example: An e-commerce platform must ensure easy integration of 3PL service providers. This helps in scalability, managing costs and easy switch. 

Incorporate modular architecture: Platforms must be built on modular architecture as it helps in saving valuable time that would otherwise be wasted in reinventing the wheel for every separate build.

For Example: A healthtech platform must builds its discovery, scheduling and video consultation as separate stacks, thus in future if any offering is to be discontinued/ temporarily suspended/ upgraded the same can be effected in silos without having to disturb the other offerings of the platform

Be scalable: Use elastic design, cloud computing, etc. to enable the platform to adapt to an increase in the number of data, transactions, users and other players and to operate at population scale.

For Example: An Edtech platform providing courses must ensure the systems are scalable on demand. In year 1, the platform may have 50 courses, while in year 2, 500 and by year 3,5000 courses. Thus, the platform should be scalable to handle the increasing content.

If in the year 1 the platform is designed to take upto 5000 courses, the cost would be exorbitant, and returns on the same would be low on the contrary if the platform is not scalable to that extent, then it would require to be upgraded frequently thus leading to high cost. Herein, on demand scalability is the key.

Adopt an agile, data-driven development method: Instead of spending upfront resources to build a solution incorporating all value-added features, parts of which may be obsolete by roll-out, build incrementally by developing MVPs to which additional features are added as the understanding of user behaviour improves and/ or new use cases emerge.

Regularly review data about the performance of the system and leverage analytics to identify new features and capabilities that can improve its user-centricity and effectiveness.

For Example: A platform aiming to provide data & transaction advisory for the unlisted global company waits to get the data of global companies and the licenses to enable transactions would take years before the launch. 

Data of domestic companies followed by addition of global companies followed by other features in line with the user behaviour will enable timely go-to market and adaption of platform and offerings based on the user demand. 

Ensure inclusiveness: Incorporate user-friendly UI/UX design, omni-channel (e.g. web, mobile), availability of content on the platform in vernacular spoken in the country (except only Hindi and English).

For example: EdTech delivering content through. Inclusiveness would cover potential target audience without access to smartphones as well. 

Ensure security and privacy: Apply 'Secure/ Privacy by design' principles, for e.g. E2E encryption, data purpose specifications, collection limitations and user consent frameworks, etc. to ensure individual choice & privacy. Along with the choice to revoke access at any point in time, users should have control over how their data is used by the platform. 

Given the increasing enforcement of various laws globally on data protection and privacy, the same should be a forming part of the platform DNA. 

For Example: Governments requiring the social media platforms to share their records of message, created a challenge even for the global leaders.

Conclusion: The platform is not just a website/app its an estate for the new business. Adaptability for efficient utilisation must be incorporated right at the initial design. If one carefully notices each one of the above is linked to another, having one but not the other leads to low delivery from the former as well. Over the next 5 years, platforms are expected to contribute to over $700 Billion in India alone. Thus, while designing the technology stack for a platform the above must be given due importance.

Author(s) :
Karan Gupta