Rising Demand for Platform Professionals

Who is looking and for what type of roles?

CVS Health recently announced a search for VP, Platform Product, Enterprise Digital.  According to the announcement, the person selected for this position will play “a vital leadership role to drive sustained growth and financial value for the CVS Health enterprise by staying abreast of disruptive market trends, technologies, partners and competitors.” This role reports directly to the Chief Digital Officer and holds responsibility for the prioritization and delivery in support of the company’s business strategy and value proposition.  Further, the role will be accountable for the end-to-end development and management of key platforms including Minute Clinic, Aetna, Retail, Specialty, Pharmacy, and Health Hubs. 

The CVS search is one of dozens of platform professional roles posted every month.  As more companies have recognized the need to make digital technologies and platform business models a key part of their strategies, the number of postings for platform-related talent has expanded. 

Because platform roles are viewed as strategic, the global pandemic has done relatively little to dampen demand.  In addition, some areas of the platform economy have seen explosive growth, such has video conferencing, ecommerce marketplaces, and personal shopping/delivery benefiting companies like Zoom, Instacart, and Esty. These dynamics have contributed to driving demand for platform professionals despite the overall weakness of the economy.

Who is looking?

The search for platform talent can be found across three different types of companies. 

One group is made up of what we might call replenishers.  These are existing platforms that are seeking talent to fuel continued growth or fill roles that have gone vacant for one reason or another.  As might be expected, the world’s largest platforms, such as Google, Amazon and Alibaba, are active in recruiting platform talent with hundreds of platform positions posted annually.  These companies have grown significantly over the past ten years and now have a large base of employees that they must continue to renew to counter natural attrition as well as growth.

Builders make up another category.  This group is made up of startups who are building out their platform talent.  These are typically startup companies that have lean operations are seeking to bring on additional individuals with platform skills or they may have reached the stage where positive network effects are driving growth and they require additional platform talent to scale operations.

A third group is made up of incumbents.  Traditional companies, increasingly looking to platform strategies to find new growth and fend off competition, are an increasing presence in platform talent markets.  Since these are often are large complex organizations with entrenched organizational structures and business processes, the platform function is often part of digital transformation and therefore run from or linked to the organization’s transformation office. In other cases, platform initiatives are set up as separate business initiatives or as part of innovation initiatives. 

Platform capabilities

Taking stock of platform positions worldwide reveals a range of platform talent roles.  Five roles stand out: 

Platform strategist- This role seeks individuals who can develop business recommendations that will have a material impact on the top and bottom line and help chart the company’s long-term platform strategy.  They must be able to prioritize business benefits, develop product, and broader ecosystem roadmaps.  They are typically expected to lead cross-functional teams that consist of a business unit and functional team members and engage product managers and product owners to ensure the platform strategy is prioritized for both delivery and consumption. 

Platform product manager-  This role typically involves multiple responsibilities. Platform product managers are expected to develop and manage the product road map including building a proof-of-concept, testing direct and cross-platform engagement. They also look for the ability to build strategic roadmaps with a sophisticated understanding of interdependencies between evolving technology changes, market demands, partner motivations, and regulatory challenges.  These positions typically require strong technical skills concerning how to build and operate digital systems (cloud, APIs, advanced data analytics and high-volume datasets).  They also require an understanding of platform economics and, for more senior positions, experience running platforms at scale.

Ecosystem Manager- This role comes with a variety of different titles: Director, Global Community and Developer Relations Lead; Partnerships Growth Manager; Director, Community Engagement; Developer Relations and Alliance Director, Global Platform Partnerships.  While they come with different labels, they seek to fill the growing demand for leaders who can build and manage third-party software developer ecosystems.  The ecosystem manager helps develop a voice and social strategy, find and engage new partners, and participate in customer and partner discussions.  These are external value creation functions central to the operations and growth of a platform.  

Platform data manager-  Information and data are at the heart of all platform strategies.  Platform success increasingly hinges on leveraging advanced technologies, such as data platform, data mining, machine learning, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence as well as deep experience in cloud computing and various data storage systems.  These roles require the ability to drive requirements and strategy for data collection, processing, retrieval and redistribution. They are a key contributor to help drive the strategy for centralized software platforms needed for processing, managing, and serving data to the entire company and integrations with ecosystem partners. 

Platform privacy & compliance- The regulatory landscape around platforms is growing more complex and demanding.  As a result, platforms increasingly need in-house expertise who can monitor the regulatory landscape, develop compliance governance policies and procedures solution, options and select the most appropriate solution for the company’s data management and governance.  Positions around platform regulation are largely focused on developing internal policies and procedures related to data privacy, information security and governance, risk and compliance activities and required experience in privacy, security, or compliance principles or relevant technologies.  Candidates are expected to have experience with privacy principles and relative technologies, particularly related to sensitive data handling, retention, user data protection, and anonymization. They are expected to work with internal and external stakeholders to ensure that compliance is built into the core architecture and functionality of the platform.

What can we take away from this overview?  First, several different types of companies are in the market for platform professionals—Replenishers, Builders and Incumbents like CVS.  Second, platform professional span a range of managerial roles.  Some are technical.  Others involve more community and external ecosystem building skills.  

As we will explore in subsequent newsletters, the need for platform professionals is forcing greater attention among senior executive teams.  Finding talent with the right digital acumen and experience is already a challenge. Finding talent with these capabilities plus a sophisticated understanding of platform operations is an even taller order. 

On the flip side, the growing demand is opening new career opportunities.  In many ways, it is a good time to be a platform professional. 


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