I have seen a path walked repeatedly in platform land.
If you are fortunate enough to have a large spectrum of experiences running on top of your platform, you start to think about prioritization of the platform and you get caught.
Since you are a platform, it’s natural to focus on … you know… the platform! Isn’t it obvious that a platform is horizontal? Your levers are at that layer, and thus you should stick to it. Stay low. How low can you go?
But as experiences emerge that you hadn’t thought about in your wildest dreams, you start to wonder 🤔. You feel disconnected from the end users. There is a large gap, which is filled in by the experiences running on your platform, and you wish you had more influence.
I know, forget this horizontal jazz! It’s bloody hard to keep all of the plates spinning any way, and you have read enough Seth Godin to know to focus on your loyal die hard users…. it’s time to think vertical!
It feels good. A simple focus. Now….. which vertical do you pick? 🤔…. picking ONE is really hard, as there are several important verticals. You start to cross off a couple verticals that while interesting, aren’t the most aligned with the success of the platform and what you are great at enabling. It feels good to whittle it down a little, but then you get stuck.
You don’t want the future of your platform to just be a subset of these verticals. What do you do?
I’m sorry to say, that you need to do both. You need to think horizertically.
- You acknowledge what your platform is uniquely good at, and you focus on horizontal functionality that grows your distinctiveness
- You build out vertically in some key areas, working closer than ever with some key partners, using their needs and your joint experience to help prioritize some of the horizontal components
- This is the work. No partner will hand it to you on a platter, and it’s unfair to expect that from them. They are naturally silo’d. You can learn from them and map solutions that work at a platform level to support them.
You end up doing less horizontal work, pack more into the needs of some of the verticals, and you differentiate your platform to boot.