Business-to-business (B2B) platforms could create about $10 trillion in value worldwide by 2025. But the full value of these digital ecosystems hinges on policy and business changes, new research concludes.

Vast, interconnected ecosystems enabled by industrial B2B platforms will reshape the ways industries are defined, how ecosystem participants interact, and how value is created, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) Digital Transformation Initiative (DTI) and Accenture,

B2B Platforms Enable Digital Transformation

A digital platform brings together process, people, technology and information into a value network that provides consumers and businesses access to an extensive selection of products and services within and across multiple markets, Accenture said.

Because they enable multiple parties to engage in networked commerce, they “create a multiplier effect, quickly increasing demand for products and services and generating more value for various users along with the platform’s owner.”

These platforms enable digital transformation, increasing engagement by underpinning new user experiences across many channels.

B2B Platform Challenges

For all their possibilities, there are potential obstacles ahead. As Paul Daugherty, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Accenture, explained:

“Success depends on building new ecosystems, adapting critical capabilities to thrive in a platform-driven world, and working collaboratively with both business and policy-makers to create the platform economy.”

These issues are detailed in a new report, Unlocking B2B Platform Value. It stresses a need for balance between the societal concerns of individuals and governments and opportunities innovation and commercial growth.

The WEF released the report this month during meetings in San Francisco.

B2B Platforms Change Business Operations

Described as “the new marketplaces for businesses,” B2B platforms change the way companies cooperate and compete with one another. They also enable new ways of connecting buyers and sellers and creating new services.

“Built on a shared and interoperable infrastructure, fueled by data and characterized by multistakeholder interactions, platforms bring together people, processes, policies and networked technology to enable value exchanges throughout an ecosystem,” the report explains.

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B2B Platforms Create Value

These technology-enabled business models create value by facilitating exchanges and interactions in a number of novel ways, including by:

  • Creating as-a-Service models around existing assets
  • Delinking assets from ownership to increase value creation opportunities
  • Leveraging non-linear growth — a shift from traditional business models that relied on incremental growth.

“Some companies will use platforms to access significantly larger markets. Others will partner with specialists to deliver new as-a-service offerings based on their existing products. Companies will also be able to use platforms to share their underutilized assets — from data to property and vehicles – to cover costs and increase revenues,” the report explains.

Existing players in the platform arena extend from traditional industrial companies (GE, Siemens, Phillips) to digital native companies (Alibaba, Amazon, Google, WeChat) and start-ups that offer industry-specific platforms, data or technical capabilities.

b2b platform companies

B2B Platform Companies

2 B2B Platform Recommendations

The report concludes with two principal recommendations:

  1. Businesses must establish new organizational structures, skills, and cultures that enable them to shift from selling products to offering services. This includes changes that make it easier for companies to collaborate with partners and create data-based innovations.
  2. Policy-makers must harmonize legal and regulatory policies to enable platforms to operate across borders. These include labor policies, IP regulations and the storage, exchange, and use of data.

The report notes:

“To succeed, all stakeholders need to strengthen their commitment to collaboration and shift to an outcome-based mentality. A shared understanding of platform tensions and dynamics can serve to frame the challenges that must be collectively addressed. This understanding will enable the development of policy frameworks that are accountable, equitable, reliable and commercially sustainable.”

Title image by André Sanano

Noreen Seebacher is the content evangelist at Arke, where she researches, writes and continues her long career in news reporting as a brand journalist. Noreen lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her husband, her dog and four formerly homeless cats.