Back to the list

Redefining IT Operating Models: Embracing Product- and Platform-Centric Approaches

In the swiftly changing digital environment of today, organizations are overhauling their IT operational frameworks to remain competitive. The conventional project-oriented approach to IT management is being replaced by cutting-edge strategies such as product- and platform-focused models. This shift is revolutionizing the way businesses create, deploy, and sustain technological solutions, yielding significant advantages for both business outcomes and customer contentment.

At the core of this transformation is a shift in mindset from viewing IT as a cost center to recognizing it as a strategic enabler of business value. Product- and platform-centric models align technology initiatives more closely with business objectives, fostering innovation, improving time-to-market, and enhancing overall operational efficiency. This article delves into the intricacies of these modern IT operating models, exploring their benefits, implementation strategies, and real-world impacts.

Understanding Product-Centric IT Operating Models

A product-centric IT operating model revolves around organizing teams and resources around specific products or services rather than individual projects. This approach treats each technology solution as a continuous, evolving entity with its own lifecycle, rather than a one-time deliverable. In this model, cross-functional teams are responsible for the entire product lifecycle, from conception to retirement.

One of the primary advantages of a product-centric approach is its ability to foster a deeper understanding of customer needs and market demands. By maintaining a consistent focus on a particular product or service, teams can develop specialized expertise and insights that drive continuous improvement and innovation. This approach also promotes greater accountability, as teams are responsible for the long-term success of their products rather than just meeting short-term project milestones.

Furthermore, a product-centric model enables organizations to respond more quickly to changing market conditions and customer feedback. The continuous nature of product development allows for regular updates and iterations, ensuring that technology solutions remain relevant and competitive over time. This agility is particularly crucial in industries where rapid technological advancements can quickly render outdated solutions obsolete.

Implementing a product-centric IT operating model requires a significant cultural shift within an organization. It necessitates breaking down traditional silos between IT and business units, encouraging collaboration and shared ownership of outcomes. This model often involves reorganizing teams around products or product families, which can be challenging but ultimately leads to more cohesive and efficient operations.

Organizations that have successfully adopted product-centric IT models have reported numerous benefits, including faster time-to-market for new features and improvements, increased customer satisfaction, and more efficient resource allocation. By aligning technology initiatives more closely with business goals, these companies have been able to deliver more value to their customers while simultaneously reducing waste and redundancy in their IT operations.

Exploring Platform-Centric IT Operating Models

While product-centric models focus on individual technology solutions, platform-centric approaches take a broader view, emphasizing the creation of shared technological foundations that can support multiple products or services. A platform-centric IT operating model involves developing and maintaining a set of common technologies, tools, and processes that can be leveraged across various business initiatives.

The core principle behind platform-centric models is to create a robust, scalable foundation that accelerates innovation and reduces redundancy. By providing a standardized set of capabilities and services, platforms enable different teams and business units to build and deploy solutions more quickly and efficiently. This approach is particularly beneficial for large organizations with diverse technology needs, as it promotes consistency and interoperability across different products and services.

One of the key advantages of a platform-centric model is its ability to drive economies of scale. As more products and services are built on the shared platform, the cost per unit of functionality decreases, leading to significant savings in development and maintenance costs. Additionally, platforms can enhance security and compliance by centralizing critical functions and ensuring consistent application of policies and standards across the organization.

Implementing a platform-centric IT operating model requires careful planning and a long-term perspective. Organizations must invest in building robust, flexible platforms that can accommodate a wide range of use cases and evolve over time. This often involves significant upfront costs and effort, but the long-term benefits can be substantial.

Successful platform-centric models often incorporate elements of internal marketplaces, where different teams can easily discover and leverage existing capabilities rather than reinventing the wheel. This approach not only improves efficiency but also fosters innovation by allowing teams to build upon each other's work.

Organizations that have embraced platform-centric IT models have reported improvements in developer productivity, reduced time-to-market for new products and features, and enhanced ability to scale their technology operations. These benefits have been particularly pronounced in industries such as financial services, telecommunications, and e-commerce, where the ability to rapidly deploy and scale new services is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.

Combining Product- and Platform-Centric Approaches

While product- and platform-centric models each offer distinct advantages, many organizations are finding success in combining elements of both approaches. This hybrid model allows companies to leverage the benefits of focused product development while also capitalizing on the efficiencies and scalability offered by shared platforms.In a combined approach, product teams maintain their focus on specific customer-facing solutions, but they build these products using capabilities and services provided by underlying platforms. This arrangement allows for rapid innovation at the product level while ensuring consistency and efficiency at the platform level. It also promotes a balance between decentralized decision-making for product-specific features and centralized governance for core capabilities.

Implementing a hybrid model requires careful orchestration to ensure that product and platform teams work in harmony. Organizations must establish clear interfaces and protocols for how product teams interact with and contribute to platforms. Additionally, there needs to be a well-defined process for determining which capabilities should be developed at the platform level versus the product level.

Companies that have successfully implemented hybrid product- and platform-centric models have reported benefits such as increased agility in responding to market demands, improved resource utilization, and enhanced ability to scale their technology operations. These organizations have been able to maintain the customer focus and innovation speed of product-centric approaches while also realizing the efficiency gains and consistency of platform-centric models.

Key Considerations for Transforming IT Operating Models

Transitioning to product- and platform-centric IT operating models is a complex undertaking that requires careful planning and execution. Organizations considering such a transformation should keep several key factors in mind:

Cultural Change

Perhaps the most significant challenge in adopting these new models is the cultural shift required. Traditional IT organizations often have deeply ingrained project-centric mindsets and ways of working. Overcoming these established patterns requires strong leadership, clear communication, and ongoing support for employees as they adapt to new roles and responsibilities.

Skill Development

Product- and platform-centric models often require different skill sets than traditional IT roles. Organizations may need to invest in training and development programs to help existing staff acquire new competencies. Additionally, they may need to recruit new talent with experience in product management, platform engineering, and other relevant disciplines.

Governance and Metrics

New operating models necessitate new approaches to governance and performance measurement. Traditional project-based metrics may no longer be relevant or sufficient. Organizations need to develop new key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the goals of product and platform teams, such as customer satisfaction, time-to-market, and platform adoption rates.

Funding Models

Transitioning from project-based budgeting to product- or platform-based funding can be challenging. Organizations need to develop new financial models that support continuous investment in products and platforms rather than discrete project allocations. This may involve changes to budgeting processes, financial reporting, and investment prioritization.

Technology Infrastructure

Implementing product- and platform-centric models often requires changes to the underlying technology infrastructure. Organizations may need to invest in new tools and technologies that support continuous delivery, microservices architectures, and other enabling capabilities.

Stakeholder Alignment

Successful transformation requires buy-in from various stakeholders across the organization, including business leaders, IT staff, and end-users. Engaging these groups early and often throughout the transformation process is crucial for ensuring alignment and support.

Case Studies: Real-World Transformations

While specific company names are avoided, examining real-world examples can provide valuable insights into the potential impacts of adopting product- and platform-centric IT operating models:

Financial Services Transformation

A large multinational bank embarked on a multi-year journey to transform its IT operations from a project-centric model to a product- and platform-centric approach. The bank organized its technology teams around key product areas such as consumer banking, corporate banking, and wealth management. Each product team was given end-to-end responsibility for their respective solutions, from development to ongoing support and enhancement.

Simultaneously, the bank invested in building a shared technology platform that provided common services such as security, data management, and API gateways. This platform enabled product teams to focus on customer-facing innovations while leveraging standardized backend capabilities. The results of this transformation were significant. The bank reported a 30% reduction in time-to-market for new features, a 25% improvement in customer satisfaction scores, and a 20% reduction in overall IT costs. Moreover, the new operating model enabled the bank to respond more quickly to regulatory changes and competitive pressures, strengthening its market position.

E-commerce Platform Evolution

A rapidly growing e-commerce company faced challenges scaling its technology operations to keep pace with business growth. Its project-based approach to IT led to silos, duplicated efforts, and increasing technical debt. To address these issues, the company adopted a platform-centric model, developing a core e-commerce platform that could support multiple brands and product lines. The platform provided standardized capabilities for order management, inventory tracking, customer data management, and analytics. Product teams for each brand or product category could then build upon this platform, customizing the user experience and adding unique features as needed.This transformation enabled the company to launch new brands and enter new markets much more quickly than before. Time-to-market for new e-commerce sites decreased from several months to just a few weeks.

Additionally, the shared platform improved data consistency and enabled more sophisticated cross-brand analytics, leading to better decision-making and improved customer experiences.The company also reported significant cost savings, as the platform approach reduced redundancy and allowed for more efficient resource allocation across different brands and product lines.

Telecommunications Innovation Hub

A leading telecommunications provider recognized the need to accelerate its digital transformation efforts to compete with more agile, digital-native competitors. The company established a digital innovation hub that adopted a product-centric operating model, focusing on developing new digital services and improving customer experiences. The innovation hub was organized into cross-functional product teams, each responsible for specific digital offerings such as self-service apps, IoT platforms, and digital content services. These teams were empowered to make decisions quickly and iterate rapidly based on customer feedback.To support these product teams, the company also invested in a shared digital platform that provided common capabilities such as identity management, billing integration, and analytics. This platform enabled the product teams to focus on innovation while ensuring consistency and scalability across different digital services.

The results of this transformation were impressive. The company was able to launch new digital services 50% faster than before, and customer adoption of these services increased significantly. Moreover, the product-centric approach led to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates among technology staff, as they felt more connected to the impact of their work.

These case studies illustrate the potential benefits of adopting product- and platform-centric IT operating models across different industries. While the specific approaches and outcomes may vary, common themes emerge, including improved agility, faster time-to-market, enhanced customer satisfaction, and more efficient resource utilization.

Challenges and Mitigation Strategies

While the benefits of product- and platform-centric IT operating models are compelling, organizations often face significant challenges during the transformation process. Understanding these challenges and developing effective mitigation strategies is crucial for success:

Resistance to Change

One of the most common obstacles is resistance from employees accustomed to traditional ways of working. To address this, organizations should invest in comprehensive change management programs that include clear communication of the vision and benefits, extensive training and support, and opportunities for employees to provide feedback and contribute to the transformation process.

Balancing Autonomy and Governance

Product-centric models often emphasize team autonomy, which can sometimes conflict with the need for organizational governance and standards. To strike the right balance, companies should establish clear guardrails and principles that guide decision-making while still allowing teams the flexibility to innovate. Regular forums for cross-team collaboration and alignment can also help ensure coherence across different products and platforms.

Technical Debt and Legacy Systems

Many organizations struggle with existing technical debt and legacy systems that can impede the adoption of new operating models. Addressing this challenge often requires a phased approach, gradually modernizing systems and processes while maintaining business continuity. Organizations may need to allocate dedicated resources to manage and reduce technical debt as part of their transformation efforts.

Funding and Resource Allocation

Transitioning from project-based budgeting to product- or platform-based funding models can be complex. Organizations should consider implementing new financial planning and analysis tools that support continuous funding models. They may also need to educate finance teams and business leaders on the benefits of this approach and develop new metrics for measuring return on investment.

Skill Gaps

The shift to product- and platform-centric models often requires new skills that may not be readily available within the organization. To address this, companies should invest in upskilling programs for existing employees while also strategically hiring new talent with relevant experience. Partnering with educational institutions or technology vendors to develop tailored training programs can also be effective.

Maintaining Business Continuity

Transforming IT operating models while continuing to support ongoing business operations can be challenging. Organizations should consider establishing separate innovation hubs or digital units that can adopt new models more quickly, gradually expanding these approaches to the broader organization as they prove successful.

Scaling Success

While initial pilots of new operating models may show promise, scaling these approaches across large, complex organizations can be daunting. To mitigate this challenge, companies should develop a clear roadmap for scaling, identifying dependencies and potential bottlenecks early on. Regular assessment and adjustment of the transformation strategy based on lessons learned is also crucial.

By anticipating these challenges and developing proactive mitigation strategies, organizations can increase their chances of successfully transforming their IT operating models and realizing the full benefits of product- and platform-centric approaches.

The Future of IT Operating Models

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, IT operating models will need to adapt to new realities and opportunities. Several emerging trends are likely to shape the future of product- and platform-centric approaches:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Integration

AI and ML technologies are becoming increasingly central to many products and platforms. Future IT operating models will likely incorporate these technologies more deeply, potentially leading to the development of AI-powered products and self-optimizing platforms.


As customers come to expect more personalized experiences, product teams may need to focus on developing highly customizable solutions that can adapt to individual user preferences and behaviors. This trend could lead to the emergence of more sophisticated product architectures and data management strategies.

Edge Computing and Distributed Platforms

With the growth of IoT and edge computing, platform-centric models may need to evolve to support more distributed architectures. This could involve developing edge-native platforms that can operate effectively in diverse environments with varying connectivity and resource constraints.

Sustainability Focus

As organizations increasingly prioritize sustainability, IT operating models may need to incorporate environmental considerations more explicitly. This could involve developing products and platforms with energy efficiency in mind or creating dedicated sustainability-focused product teams.

Ecosystem Integration

Future IT operating models might increasingly focus on integration within extensive ecosystems and partner networks. This shift could result in the creation of more open platforms and standardized interfaces, enhancing collaboration beyond organizational boundaries.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

As the pace of technological change accelerates, IT operating models will need to become more adaptable and learning-oriented. This may involve incorporating more robust feedback loops, experimenting with new organizational structures, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

Quantum Computing Readiness

As quantum computing technologies advance, organizations might have to adapt their IT operating models to integrate these advancements. This may include creating platforms ready for quantum computing and training teams to handle quantum algorithms and applications.

These emerging trends underscore the need for organizations to remain flexible and forward-thinking in their approach to IT operating models. By staying attuned to technological advancements and evolving market demands, companies can position themselves to capitalize on new opportunities and maintain their competitive edge.

Conclusion: Embracing the Future of IT Operations

The shift towards product- and platform-centric IT operating models marks a significant transformation in the way organizations design, develop, and sustain their technological solutions. This change transcends mere adjustments in organizational structure or processes; it is a profound redefinition of IT's contribution to business value.Embracing product-centric models enables organizations to better align their technology efforts with business goals, yielding solutions that are more pertinent and effective.

A continuous emphasis on particular products or services allows teams to cultivate specialized expertise and swiftly adapt to evolving market demands and customer preferences.Conversely, platform-centric strategies provide opportunities for substantial economies of scale and enhanced uniformity across varied technology environments. Platforms, by offering a common base of capabilities and services, can spur innovation and minimize duplication, thus allowing organizations to function with greater efficiency and efficacy.

The synergy of product- and platform-centric models presents a robust method that harmonizes the drive for targeted innovation with the advantages of standardization and scalability. This dual approach empowers organizations to stay nimble at the product level while capitalizing on the shared platform's efficiencies.Nonetheless, transitioning IT operating models comes with its set of hurdles.

Organizations must steer through cultural shifts, acquire new competencies, revamp governance and funding structures, and surmount technical obstacles. Achieving success demands meticulous planning, decisive leadership, and a dedication to continuous learning and adjustment.In spite of these challenges, the rewards of adopting product- and platform-centric IT operating models are considerable. Organizations that navigate this shift effectively can anticipate enhancements in agility, speed of innovation, customer contentment, and operational efficiency.