I started my career writing Expert System software in C – Yes, that long ago. By the time I joined the fray, the big migration from mainframes to PCs was a thing of the past and we entered the long, stable period where businesses and business software peacefully coevolved. 

The peace and quiet were only interrupted by an occasional “blue screen of death” that was hard to ignore. Businesses clamored, and software vendors incrementally sprouted new features.

To stay on top, businesses developed strategies and processes optimized to deal with the predictable rate of change. Meanwhile, business users and their customers remained captives in this packaged business software land, slow-dancing their way feature by feature to where they actually wanted to be.

Bring in the cloud

Only a short few years ago, the music changed to an entirely different tune. The bloated and expensive on-prem monoliths went extinct overnight and tech all of a sudden moved to the Cloud. SaaS became the new king, providing independent business functions at a fraction of the previous on-prem platform cost with almost zero upgrade pain. 

Simultaneously, use mobile business apps exploded. Our expectations as consumers have changed drastically, and naturally, we started carrying that same expectation over into our business interactions. 

Evolution of business software

What’s most striking about this particular step in the evolution of business software is not just the breakneck rate of change everyone is excited about. With the emergence of independent, specialized SaaS business solutions, we now, for the first time, have the ability to simultaneously move our businesses to endlessly scalable infrastructure and have the potential to affect all of the customer touchpoints at the same time! 

We are no longer confined to the traditional shapes of businesses the software platforms of the past afforded us. To paraphrase Jamus Driscoll, the CEO of Elastic Path Software, what we are witnessing is the great “unplatforming”. 

Change is hard

Now, not everyone is excited about this movement. In my role as a consulting Solution Strategist, primarily operating in the digital commerce domain, most of my clients are well-established B2B businesses. 

Most of these Fortune 500 companies have been steadily growing for decades and are sitting comfortably near the tops of their market segments. Designing and implementing sophisticated software systems is usually not their core competency, as their digital maturity is typically not that high. 

This new “cloud thing” makes some of my clients feel quite uncomfortable, even overwhelmed. They know they should make the move but have no clear idea where to begin, so they opt for the reactive approach – wait and see, cross that bridge when absolutely necessary. 

Picking your strategy

Granted, this unplatforming proposition is neither simple nor easy. The playing field is level, and I mean truly level. The barrier to entry into a new solution is now significantly lower than it was with the monoliths, which is encouraging.

Even small businesses can now craft a business ecosystem only enterprises could dream about just ten years ago. That’s not the problem. The problem seems to be deciding on the optimal unplatforming strategy

A client previously referred to this as “getting a huge box of generic Lego blocks.” With on-prem platforms, we had boxes of selected block sets. You could, for example, buy a set to build a Millennium Falcon, or you could buy a different set and build a Death Star with it. Now, the freedom from choice is gone, and you can build whatever you want. That’s what’s scary for some.

Taking hold of the future

As opposed to the replatforming, the transition from packaged, on-prem to cloud-based SaaS solutions is only partly about technology. The composable business solutions are not the essence, they are just the enabler. Embracing the “unplatforming” means taking primarily a business approach to leverage these available solutions to solve specific business problems, create innovative experiences, and truly differentiate from the competition. 

Now is finally the chance to grab hold of your business and restructure it so it becomes what it always wanted to be. 


So, don’t fear the great unplatforming – embrace it! Everything in this new environment is changing fast, but, as the old adage goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

As it was yesterday, to succeed in this new environment today, it’s essential to gain and retain firm control of the consumer experience. Be mindful and pay constant attention to your customers’ wants and needs, and the roadmap will take care of itself.

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