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"Digital platform": a foreign word for a large part of industry

10.02.2017

On February 9, the Bitkom trade group published a study under the heading "German companies ignore platform economy" that reveals a frightening ignorance in the leadership of German business. (Compare also Automotive IT from 9.2.) The chaff begins to separate from the wheat.

Bitkom logo503 Companies of all industries with a workforce of 20 or more were interviewed on behalf of the Biktom. More than six out of ten CEOs and board members (62 percent) said that they have never heard of the terms platform economy, platform markets or digital platforms. Only about one in three (36 per cent) knows at least one of the terms. In a corresponding survey a year ago, the popularity of digital platforms was at a similar level.

Depending on company size and industry, there are significant differences. While only 34 percent of the top managers of companies with 20 to 499 employees know the terms, it's a percentage of 52 in companies with 500 employees or more. And while the popularity is 41 percent in the industry, the number is significantly lower in trade (34 percent) and in service (32 percent). So, exactly in those economic areas, which are already widely embraced by digitalization, and where platforms such as Amazon or Ebay are already well established, the degree of recognition is even lower than in industry.

However, every second (51 percent) of those who are familiar with the concept of "platform economy" know relevant platforms for their own company. Particularly the  trade sees relevant platform providers (78 per cent). Among the service providers, it is only 43 percent, in the industry even 35 percent. Of these companies, which have identified relevant platforms for their own company, 82 percent say that they themselves offer goods or services. In turn, 71 percent buy goods or services there. 14 percent claim to operate their own platform.

Digital platforms are the marketplaces of the future. There is hardly any area of the economy in which platforms do not already exist. It is the natural access to connected products and services as they are given by the Internet of things. Especially small and medium-sized enterprises will need to position themselves there, since they are usually unable to set up their own platforms. Or they will have to network with one another in order to raise such platforms together. It is frightening that in these companies a profound ignorance is stubborn.

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