On the use of platforms for product–service solutions

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to identify and describe factors influencing the use of platforms for product–service solutions. Briefly put, product–service solutions are combinations of products and services integrated and customised to address customers’ overall needs. However, because customisation can be costly and time-consuming, following a platform approach can enable companies to meet customers’ individual needs while taking advantage of economies of scale effects at the same time. Compiling five papers, this thesis proposes factors that are influencing the development and applicability of such a platform approach. Drawing from research on product–service solutions and on platform and modular approaches, the thesis seeks to answer three research questions addressing: (1) arguments in favour of using platforms for product–service solutions, (2) how a platform approach influence key aspects of the solutions development, and (3) how a platform approach influence key aspects of the organisational structure. To answer those questions, the research for the thesis adopted a case-study approach. Following a pre-study on Alpha and Beta—an access solutions provider and a healthcare ICT solutions provider, respectively—the lion’s share of data concerns the firm Gamma, operating in the transportation industry. Within the scope of that company, two solutions development projects—the ECOS and COBO projects—were also studied in-depth. As revealed in the case studies, the use of platforms for product–service solutions is influenced by the objectives of the solution business, the solution itself and the organisational architecture, as well as variation in customers’ needs. Further, the thesis outlines three development-focused efforts undertaken in providing product–service solutions based on a platform approach: (1) developing and utilising standardised assets (i.e. a platform), (2) the customising efforts concerned with the configuration of solutions, and (3) personalising activities referring to adaption of the delivery of solutions. Leveraging usage and technology knowledge as shared assets, the thesis identifies two approaches to developing a platform: establishing the platform first or taking a point of departure within an individual solution. Despite arguments in favour of using a platform approach for product–service solutions, implementing such an approach typically presents obstacles. Challenges are likely to arise in an organisation due to the misalignment of the solution architecture with the organisational architecture. After all, the solution architecture encompasses products and services that are inseparable from the development phase forward. However, if products and services are separated organisationally, then the organisational architecture can direct product and service development into different structures, which can cause major challenges in managing the integration needed to provide a seamless solution.