Skip to main content

Sharing Economy - A Rant


Thunderstorm; Photo by Marc Wieland on Unsplash
In the past weeks I have been to some events. Their main topic has been ‘digital transformation’, which is a term that currently gets used all over the place. The good news is that people mostly seem to have understood that digital transformation most of all is a business transformation, with IT being an enabler, not a driver.
However, and that’s the bad news, one term popped up everywhere like a bad charm.

Sharing Economy

And the usual suspect companies are cited as the trailblazers of this sharing economy:
·    Airbnb is apparently the biggest hotel chain. But it does now own a single hotel, rather than a bed
·    Uber, the biggest taxi corporation. It does not own a single taxi
I even heard Amazon and Alibaba being mentioned in this context.
And then there are plenty more companies that one could mention, like TaskRabbit, Lyft, Zaarly, you name them.
There are few terms that make me flinch like this one, maybe ‘democratization of <take your pick of technology>.
Why?
Because the term does not describe the concept behind the model. Instead it creates a cozy feeling of perhaps doing something good by sharing one’s possessions with someone else.
 The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb share as ‘have a portion of (something) with another or others’.
Sharing in its original context is about jointly using or enjoying something, in a wider sense it is about giving someone else access to something. In any case it has some altruistic touch to it.
What the above mentioned companies are about is, positively speaking, helping me to give access to something that I have, be it a room somewhere else or a cab ride, or my skills. They are platforms, or market places; and the economy that they are defining is a platform economy.
And mostly, they are not doing it from an outside-in view but from an inside-out view. Uber does not care whether the drivers that offer their services via the Uber platform are well off or not. Uber certainly does not want the drivers as employees, but looks at them as independent contractors.
Airbnb has long ago ceased to be a place where people gave access to their place, just because they do not need it for some time. Instead, it is a place where renters seek to generate revenues, often as a business model. I did it, too. For the record: I also paid taxes on the revenues.
Admittedly, using these companies customers can often get what they need cheaper, and regularly with a better customer experience than traditional service providers offer.
However, apart from curiosity, the main driver for their adoption stays the price on the demand side, and the promise of (easy) revenue on the supply side.
How do they achieve this? By outsourcing cost of providing the actual service while charging for providing access to it.
Which again shows that these companies are not about sharing but about being the man in the middle.
They are offering a platform.
And platforms are about controlling products and services that get commoditized – or about commoditizing them. This commoditization may be of business applications, of taxi rides, overnight stays, of a carpenter’s services.
Platforms are about dominance, dominance in the own eco system as well as across them.
Don’t get me wrong. Platforms and platform businesses are not vile per se.
Good platforms are mandatory for businesses to be able to provide customer- and employee engagements that are geared towards delivering great experiences.
But a platform business is about the platform and is not equal to sharing economy. And the business that those trailblazers are involved in is about the platform, and nothing else.
We all should keep this in mind.

Comments

Last Year's Top 5 Popular Posts

SAP CRM for S/4HANA - News from the Customer Frontier

It has been a little more than half a year now that I didn’t update on what is going on with SAP CRM and S/4HANA (which I will refer to as S/4 from now on; SAP it is time for you to change the unwieldy name to something more manageable). What Happened – So FarAs you are well aware SAP is working on integrating a simplified version of SAP CRM into S4. The original roadmap offered a first customer release of an integrated product in early 2018, based on the September 2017 release of S4. The integration was planned as an add-on to S4. The initial scope of this CRM add on for S/4 was supposed to cover what is referred to as ‘core service’ functionality. This initial release shall be followed by ‘core sales’ functionality later in 2018. 2019 then is supposed to be dedicated to another round-off release covering further sales and service functionality, including loyalty management and migration tools. Roadmap and statements also so far have been fairly fuzzy about the strategic distinction b…

SAP CRM into S/4HANA - Did SAP Hit Bulls Eye?

After having talked with Volker Hildebrand about the future of SAP CRM and whether or not there will be a CRM component in S/4HANA at CRM evolution 2017 I now had the chance to follow up with some folks back at SAP in Walldorf. A little RecapVolker told me that, unsurprisingly, SAP is working actively on adding CRM functionality into S/4HANA. In fact, they are merging SAP CRM into it. This is in my eyes meanwhile also the preferred of the two possible options; the other one would be marrying SAP Hybris C4C into S/4HANA. This is the approach which I originally preferred as it would lead to a cleaner code base. I changed my mind, putting customer friendliness reasons over technological cleanliness. The main advantages of merging SAP CRM into S4/HANA over SAP Hybris C4C are that this approach a)Opens a future roadmap for current SAP CRM customers that stretches beyond 2025. These customers else are at risk of defecting. b)Provides the continued chance for customers to run their SAP instance…

Clari - Nipping at Salesforce's Heels?

Nimble Mobile CRM 3.0 - A Quantum Leap?

CPQ delivered in Customer Experience fashion