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Any business, large or small, needs customers for growth. And customers will engage with businesses that are reliable, evolving, and provide an enhanced digital experience. Access to information, ease of navigation, self-service and non-intrusive interactions – these are just some of the basic requirements that today’s digital customers want. And for businesses to achieve this, it needs a strong IT infrastructure and platform extensibility. But what is extensibility in business? And how can the extensibility of a platform benefit a business?
We’ll examine these prominent questions in this article – explain extensibility meaning, how an online platform can benefit businesses, and how with the right platform extensibility businesses can provide a personalised experience and tailored solutions aligned to their business needs and stage of growth.
What is extensibility of a platform?
Let’s start with the core concepts – What is extensibility in business and extensibility of a platform?
In basic terms, extensibility refers to the ability to stretch or expand. In computing and IT (software/ platform/hardware), it refers to building a foundation that is flexible and can be topped up with new features, functionalities and capabilities.
What is platform extensibility?
Extensibility of a platform therefore means to build a platform (or software) that can have new capabilities added to it without having to undergo major changes, i.e., retaining the source code configurations and integrating APIs/plugins to include new functionalities.
What is extensibility in business?
Business extensibility refers to the ability to add new features and capabilities to a platform/software/design that the business is currently using, to keep it relevant to market and customer needs. This does not involve major alterations and enables businesses to stay change-ready for growth when required.
For instance, when you start a new retail business, your website might have only card and net banking as permitted ways of making payments. However, in time, you may add additional APIs and payment gateway integrations to allow UPI payments and EMIs.
What is the benefit of online platform for business?
Could technology is the need of the hour for any business. An online platform gives both the business and its users to stay up-to-date and access the platform anywhere, anytime. Using a secure internal system, users can log in and access relevant sections.
It must be understood that for the benefits of extensibility to be completely effective, user access should be two-sided, i.e., the business and customer should have access to relevant functionalities.
Example of platform extensibility in business
The logistics sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in India with widespread logistics technology adoption. An extensible platform or software system is useful here, where based on business requirements new features can be added by API integration and minor coding. This will save time, increase customer engagement on the platform, capture and track data systematically, and enhance the entire logistics value chain.
For instance, as a logistics company imagine using an existing software that provides customers end-to-end visibility on their bookings, order status, shipment tracking etc. Platform extensibility will refer to adding new capabilities to this, such as, visual data models to calculate total cost savings. That is, instead of a text script explaining ‘You have shipped 7 times in June and saved ₹8,500 by using your 12% loyalty discount’ – a code can be written/ API plugin can be integrated to display this information in a graphical manner.
Additionally, it can compare behaviour over the last 3 months based on data and provide meaningful information to the customer to prompt next shipment booking.
What are the benefits of extensibility and how it helps businesses
A critical question at this point is – How can the extensibility of a platform benefit a business?
Here’s an example to explain this concept. Going back to our logistics business example, another case of extensibility systems would be to add a new capability for user generated content. For instance, adding the required plugins for customers to leave a review or testimonial on the platform/website. Or even, leaving a Google or Facebook review and using the right APIs to integrate and display it on the website platform.
This not only enables the business to save time and money, but leverage user generated content to add credibility to their logistics services.
Business benefits of extensibility systems
Extensibility of a platform there has several benefits. Listed below we take a look at some of them:
- Customisation: Extensibility of a platform allow businesses to be agile and deliver custom solutions as per business and customer needs, without having to build new solutions from scratch.
- Continuous innovation: The digital era calls for continuous innovation and improvement. Extensible systems are robust and built such that they can drive innovation. There are lesser risks involved as improvements and new developments are done on top of an existing base.
- Increase efficiency and excellence: Speed is critical in today’s dynamic business environment. And with extensible platforms it’s possible to introduce new features quickly, without having to wait for long. This naturally improves efficiency as more is achieved in less time and resources. E.g., Form auto filling functionality, where details once input into the system automatically reflects in other areas without having to enter details every time.
- Business growth: The use of technology should directly help businesses to grow. Extensibility systems make room for that. You can build capabilities that can track customer behaviour, campaign performance, and other metrics to identify new opportunities. With the right tools and web analytics, sales and marketing touchpoints, preferred customer contact medium (chat/email/phone), top selling products and more can easily be identified.
- Enhance customer experience: Extensibility facilitates personalisation. With a reliable platform it is convenient for customers to view information that they seek and is relevant to them. It also allows customers to seek support in specific areas, and self-serve when required. This enhances the overall browsing and interaction experience. It also enables to identify new opportunities for sales and marketing.
- Manage time and cost: Extensibility of a platform enables businesses to save development costs and manage time efficiently. Instead of buying new software, existing software can be used to build additional capabilities. Moreover, there’s low maintenance costs and lesser time required to take the product/features to market.
- Enable better decision making: There are many challenges that businesses face when going online – technology adoption tops the list. The shift from manual/analogue to digital can be complex both for the business and its customers. An extensible platform allows to bring change gradually. It allows for UI changes to be introduced subtly and collect data to enable businesses make smarter decision.
Must have features of extensibility in a platform
Now that we understand how can the extensibility of a platform benefit a business, let’s take a look at the key features that such platforms must have.
- Flexibility: To be able to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs
- Scalability: Scale operations economically by adding important features first, and secondary features in phases
- Compatibility: Must be compatible enough to integrate with other plugins and APIs and perform on all devices
- Security: Have mandatory security protocols implemented to safeguard data and build trust
- Adaptability: Be adaptable enough to evolve without complete rebuilding
Extensibility in business – What it means for the MSME sector
MSME digitisation and technology adoption has been steadily on the rise in India. Today there are several government schemes driving this initiative, and B2B marketplaces and platforms enabling small businesses in India to scale and grow.
The idea is no longer to keep to the old ways but understand and leverage new technologies for business growth.