What is a technology platform?
Since the advent of computer technology, business applications have provided organisations with the tools to overcome common business challenges. Over decades, applications have radically changed, while the following has remained consistent: business apps are more often purchased based on functionality rather than the underlying technology. But what’s become clear is that legacy applications that lack the support of a robust technology platform often create unanticipated problems. When it comes to your business-critical applications, the underlying technology platform is now more critical than ever.
Technology platform definition
A technology platform is the foundation for building and running business applications. The platform allows users to run their applications smoothly without worrying about the technology that supports them. At the same time, it allows technical staff to rapidly extend, enhance, or upgrade application software, increasing the speed of business.
A modern technology platform typically includes analytics, database and data management, tools for application development and extension, integration, and intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). These foundational components – or building blocks – help to drive innovation and business growth.
In fact, IDC believes that CIOs who are tasked with fostering faster innovation throughout the organisation must take an architectural mindset and focus on providing a technology platform that unifies the many applications and technologies within a typical business landscape.
Technology platforms have been around for decades, but the rapid shift towards the cloud and intelligent technologies have elevated their importance. Modern cloud technology platforms consist of many software components assembled and optimised by the platform provider and serve as the foundation for all modern business systems.
Benefits of a modern platform
A modern technology platform is the key driver that allows business to scale, integrate, and extend their business applications – critical elements when it comes to business transformation.
Here are some of the common benefits of a modern technology platform:
- Supports scaling with business growth
- Provides data management
- Supports workload management
- Connects and accelerates development through internal and third-party integration
- Provides a modern user interface (UI) and user experience (UX)
- Meets the needs of mobile workers
- Supports new, specialised applications, such as logistics and tax cloud services
- Provides standard productivity tools such as alerts, KPIs, workflows, drill down, and self-service reporting
- Secures business data
A modern technology platform provides benefits beyond traditional application support. Today’s technology platform is critical in digital transformation, providing functionality that improves processes and drives business value for customers. Digital transformation may look different for every organisation, but it will always affect all areas of a company – introducing critical changes to the way business units operate.
Modern digital transformation demands a technology stack that can meet the ever-changing business landscape. Below are some new, essential capabilities to help facilitate innovation:
- Artificial intelligence technologies, such as machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA), and IoT
- Advanced analytics for improved decision-making
- Simplified component building blocks for lower development and maintenance costs
- Faster application development through the use of low-code and no-code tools for both pro and citizen developers
- A personalised experience for today’s modern workforce
- Modernized databases for both transactional and analytical workloads
- Out-of-the-box integration between popular applications like ERP, CRM, HRM, and procurement systems from many different and varied vendors
“The time to accelerate innovation and evolve to a unified technology platform is now. By automating workflows, connecting experiences, enabling holistic data integration across all business processes, and extending capabilities – you’ll be able to move beyond data volume to the most critical currency for businesses today — data value.”
- Sally Eaves, CTO and Global Strategy Advisor
When do you need a cloud technology platform?
There are many reasons why a company will decide that they need a better, cloud-based technology platform. The following are five of the frequently cited reasons people make the switch:
- They need to futureproof. When new business functionality and technology breaks into the marketplace, legacy technology stacks cannot support it. With a cloud platform, companies can adopt what they need, when they need it – to stay on the cutting edge.
- They are expecting enterprise volume and/or Big Data growth. A fast-growing company expects a significant increase in transaction volume and the growth of Big Data, making moving to a scalable cloud platform a wise overall business decision.
- They want to lower the total cost of ownership. Old technology, both hardware and software, requires a great deal of maintenance and very skilled technical people that may or may not be available or cost-effective. With a cloud platform, the vendor often takes care of the maintenance for you, freeing up cost and your staff to work on the growth of your business.
- They want to take advantage of cloud capabilities. As a result of new and expanding capabilities, there is now significant momentum behind cloud computing deployment. One of the big attractions is a modern cloud technology platform with elasticity, high performance, security, and privacy.
- They want to ensure a secure, compliant cloud solution. Security concerns rank top in many surveys involving cloud adoption and ensuring data, integration, and all access points are secure is key to strengthening against hackers – also to maintaining compliance with local laws and enabling sophisticated access security for employees, customers, and partners.
Technology platform components
The modern technology platform has many different possible components. These components can be anything from products designed for specific functionality to individual platforms that can stand alone or be part of an integrated package. These components or layers are vital for a modern, cloud-based technology platform.
The top layer of the platform defines the way people in and outside the company work with the system. User interaction is an essential layer because it is the initial point of interaction, and it determines how productive a user will be in accomplishing tasks. It also impacts how they feel about the system and work.
The user interaction is made up of two parts: the user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX). The UI is the visual and manual way the user interacts with a system or machine. For example, a business application includes the layout of the screen, colours, icons, shortcuts, and more. It also includes mobile, mouse, voice, or gestures input.
On the other hand, the UX is a user’s personal experience when using a system. The design’s degree of intuitiveness and user-friendliness will significantly impact the user’s productivity. Thanks to easy-to-use consumer applications and familiarity with social media, today’s business users demand simplified and highly personalised experiences to meet their unique requirements.
Data insights have become a driving reason to move to modern ERP on a modern tech platform. Businesses today need to have accurate, real-time information at decision-makers’ fingertips. Unfortunately, companies found that the information they were getting from their legacy systems was out-of-date and incorrect. Today, more than ever, companies require self-service reporting and analytics that make it easy for individuals to query the system for specific, up-to-the-minute data across multiple databases and rapidly turn data into insights to help make better decisions. Technology platforms provide this vital layer of information.
The application layer provides functionality for performing business tasks. Applications can span the enterprise – for example through ERP or CRM – or address a narrower scope, such as departmental accounts payable. At a glance, software providers behind the applications may look similar, but the application development platforms can be radically different underneath. It is this difference that significantly impacts how the system performs and is updated. Modern technology platforms efficiently respond to cross-enterprise business process changes and allow users to modify functionality using low-code or no-code development methods.
Today, applications are increasingly being transformed by artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies help automate and enhance routine tasks, so staff members are free to focus on more challenging work. In addition to productivity improvements, organisations benefit from better insights and predictive analysis.
No matter how well a business’s ERP system or applications are developed, they need the capability to integrate with other systems, especially from other vendors’ CRM, HR, and procurement systems. The integration may be simple, such as an extension of the core functionality with third-party features and functions or industry-specific add-ons designed to work seamlessly with the primary system. In other cases, the work could be more complicated, involving integration with another ERP or CRM application or a customer’s proprietary systems. The ease of the initial integration and maintenance depends on the application programming interfaces (APIs). API platforms in modern technology stacks provide the framework for simple, scalable, and secure access to other cloud or on-premise systems.
Data storage and management have always been critical components of a technology platform. Legacy ERP systems worked well in the past but cannot keep up with the current explosion of Big Data. In-memory databases provide the speed that is required, but until recently, they have been expensive. However, thanks to new technological advancements, the cost of in-memory databases has lowered and they have become a more viable alternative for large systems.
The need for better security is another crucial consideration for modern data management, as the technology platform controls valuable data assets, user access, governance, metadata management, and more.
This final layer must support all deployment options – including cloud, on-premise, hybrid, and edge computing. Cloud platforms are now the most popular choice for new ERP functionality. Not only do they require minimal hardware management by the customer, much of the deployment of applications is run in secure, virtual instances for the customer, including data backup and additional resources when required. The beauty of modern cloud managed services is the cloud vendor provides the management and deployment of the hardware and software resources to provide their customers with common services for programmes and databases.
Technology stack: Bringing it all together
In the old best-of-breed generation, the enterprise would select each component (or platform) based on its features and functions. They would then design and build integrations between the components to maintain each of those interfaces whenever a change was made.
However, today’s enterprise can utilise a modern technology stack with world-class components that work together on one integrated platform. This leaves the responsibility of designing, developing, and maintaining the integration up to the technology platform provider.
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