Competitive advantage

Top-performing companies leverage Third-Platform technologies

Dr. Christopher Holmes
11 June 2014

2 min read

Information Technology has entered a new era with the advent of “Third-Platform” technologies. The first platform was the era of mainframe and terminals, the second the era of LAN/ Internet and client/server. Now, in 2014, we have entered the Third Platform: the era of cloud computing, mobility, big data/analytics, and social business.

The impact of these converging technologies upon industries will be immense. From smart, intelligent manufacturing with guided decision making to instant, tailored offers pushed direct to the consumer, all industries will experience a revolution in how technology enables them to be more efficient, agile, innovative and customer- focused.

The Third Platform also is a disruptive force – enabling new business models, creating opportunities for new competitors, and allowing customers and consumers to engage in an entirely different way.


Industry-specific applications delivered via the Third Platform enable many of these changes. The manufacturing industry, for example, will benefit from applications to create 3D value chains that are demand oriented, data driven, and digitally executed. In government, “smart cities” applications will integrate the city, driving economic and public success.

Retailers will transition to an omni-channel model where the customer experience is personalized but consistent, whether shopping occurs in store, online or via a mobile device. Healthcare will shift to a consumer-centered model focused on improving customer engagement and patient outcomes.


All of the applications that enable these transitions will be supported by the four converging technologies of the Third Platform, although interest in and adoption of these new technologies varies across industries.

Cloud, for example, already well-established in retail, is now gaining greater interest and adoption among manufacturing organizations as they focus initially on cost savings and, more recently, on how cloud can support new business models such as improved supply chain collaboration.

Mobility has been widely adopted across all industries as organizations seek to mobilize enterprise applications, support increased connectivity and drive operational efficiencies, in addition to supporting new business models such as supply chain visibility in emerging countries.

The banking and retail sectors, meanwhile, have a greater focus on the use of big data and analytics, from which to sell more effectively to consumers by understanding specific behaviors and tailoring product/service offerings. Lastly, in social business, service organizations are leading the adoption of enterprise social networks.


IDC believes the Third-Platform era will last until 2020 and expects it to drive much of the increase in enterprise technology spending for this period. Coupled with this change in technology is the increased influence that business executives will have on technology decisions. This shift of spending power illustrates the business value that these technologies bring, but also the need for the technologies to be process-focused within organizations.

The challenge that many organizations are facing is how to access the skills needed to implement this change. As with all new technologies, organizations have no established skills base, meaning that they will have to invest in up-skilling existing employees and changing the skills base across IT teams.

One thing is certain: The need to plan how Third-Platform technologies will be used by your organization is critical. A business performance gap already exists between those companies that are innovating around Third-Platform technologies and those that are not. The next few years will be exciting as business processes get transformed through new engagement and business models enabled by Third-Platform technologies. ◆

Crawford del Prete explains the Third Platform

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