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IT Background on Platform Technologies for Decision-Makers in Manufacturing

What digital platform does my business need?

Are your investments in digitalization delivering what you wanted? In the manufacturing industry, a great deal depends on how you design the digital platform that is supposed to give you true end2end processes. To make informed decisions, you have to understand the key aspects of the relevant Technologies.

Digital platforms are a core component of digitalization in manufacturing:

  • Major business objectives can only be achieved by successfully exploiting this technology.
  • Many investment decisions are connected with these issues or exert an influence on them.

Even so, a representative survey of German industry managers and directors by the IT association Bitkom again found that management often lacks sufficient background on this IT topic. According to the survey, only one-half of managers has an approximate idea of what is meant by terms like “platform economics” and “digital platforms”. One in four says they have never heard of these phrases.

No doubt these numbers would appear less dramatic if only the manufacturing industry had been surveyed. Nevertheless, we can be sure that Bitkom would have discovered knowledge gaps here as well.

This is because managers don’t usually consider it their task to become experts on current IT topics. Rather, management sets targets and a clear set of expectations, and on this basis mandates the relevant teams to find and implement the best solution.

But one can’t rely on this traditional division of responsibilities much longer. Today, decision-makers are faced with the same situation as almost all other professionals: To be successful at their jobs, it helps to get acquainted with the key IT components of digitalization.

A process engineer benefits from a basic understanding of software development and machine learning. A managing director or board member profits from knowledge of the IT solutions that support core business processes – and that includes digital platforms.

Below, we have compiled a series of questions and answers that offer a basic outline of the topic. Our experts would be pleased to assist you in gaining a deeper understanding of aspects that are particularly relevant to your enterprise.


Platform economics, digital platform; digital backbone, digital continuity – what do these terms mean and howare they related?  

We have spent the past few years in fast-forward mode, and that has brought about a fundamental change: From a “linear, resource-heavy, producer-driven industrial model to the demand-driven, multi-sided platform model” (World Economic Forum).


Learn on, understand more - Further content on digital platforms

  • Issue paper "B2B platforms - Made in Germany", BDI (June 2020)
  • MIT Blogpost (October 2019): The authors develop a readable view of management issues, based on a diverging definition of the digital platform (operational platform versus digital platform)
  • Great panel discussion at the DLD Conference which investigates complex questions regarding digital platforms in view of their topic: “AI-Powered Manufacturing“ (January 2020)
  • Scientific article on “Digital Platform Ecosystems”: For all those who want to take a very close look at the aspect of definitions and demarcations (November 2019)


Next article in our series: How to integrate platforms


"New Normal" in manufacturing: CENIT experts report