Thursday, January 22, 2015

Instances - the result of processes on a platform

I’m trying out a new word: Instances. Instances are the results of processes that take place on platforms: Unique solutions that fit a particular context. This is how healthcare, mobility, education or even physical stuff like furniture will be offered tomorrow.

Industrial age was about mass production – everyone got the same basic functionality, and that was a great improvement. Then came more choice and customization. To compete in the market place, companies would try to make products and service that matched the individual customer’s life style. The next step to create value for customers is contextualization; offering users the right set of services and products at the right time and place.

This requires a great deal of flexibility. We’re different, we move around, our situations and needs change – and so do the solutions that are right for our context.
As customers we want to choose from the global menu, but we want a configuration that is uniquely customized for this moment.
In principle, the solution we want is an instance – one possible combination of a large number of elements.

This is natural in the digital world. Make a Google search and what comes up on your screen depends on who you are, where you are, what you’ve done previously, the mails you’ve sent etc. Based on this very detailed information you will receive one instance of a search. If you send the same query at other times, from other locations, you may get a different result. Likewise with services like Facebook or Amazon. They have hundreds of millions of users, yet every person sees a different version.

In the physical world we will also see solutions as instances. For mobility our needs change: Are you in a hurry, are you travelling with others, do you have luggage, is it raining, what types of transportation are available… Ideally, we want a combination, which takes all of this into account to offer the best solution at the least cost.
Likewise for healthcare or education. We change, and the companies that can adapt along with us, can deliver more value, and will be the most attractive.

Physical objects will become instances too. 3D printing and other flexible manufacturing will make it cost-efficient to modify every object to fit the user’s context and wishes. Objects that are based on a digital description are fluid. They can be remixed and reconfigured, and in a sense, the object is really a set of potential designs – one of which the user chooses to instantiate by printing it.
In a circular economy, where all resources are re-used, all objects would basically be instances of raw materials, assembled momentarily for a particular purpose. It’s natural.

Instances will typically not be created by one company. Rather, they will be co-created by a much wider set of stakeholders than most of the solutions we use today. In many cases, a significant part of the value may be contributed by communities or users them selves.

Instances are the results of processes that take place on platforms. The hardware, the service, the data, knowledge and content which is combined in an instance will shift, but the platform, where all of the components are assembled, is likely to be constant. The individual parts may be commodities, but the added value for users emerges as the platform matches providers and needs, orchestrating the interactions and qualifying them with increasingly detailed data.
This makes the platform a central and powerful player in a more connected and collaboratory economy.

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