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A new matrix for building platform portfolios: how companies can sustain their leadership

Manuel Hensmans (School of Economics and Management, Université Libre de Bruxelles Faculté Solvay Brussels School, Bruxelles, Belgium)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 9 December 2019

Issue publication date: 26 May 2021

902

Abstract

Purpose

An essential corporate decision-making tool, the Boston Consulting Group's growth-share matrix, is due for an upgrade. The purpose of this paper is to upgrade this growth matrix for use by corporate managers in the current platform age. Designed in the conglomerate age of the 1960s and 1970s to help corporate managers make disciplined and systematic portfolio investment decisions, the matrix is ill-adapted to the platform age in which we now live. The most valuable companies in the world are now platform companies, and many companies are transitioning to a more platform-based corporate portfolio. In this paper, the author explains how corporate managers can build and execute a sustainable platform portfolio.

Design/methodology/approach

The author started with a thorough study of the contextual assumptions and theoretical background of the original Boston Consulting Group growth-share matrix (which the author has been teaching for the past decade). He contrasted these with the assumptions and theoretical background developed in the platform strategy literature. To test and refine the framework, the author presented and discussed its applicability at companies such as GSK and with local consultants. He then used five consecutive cohorts of master students [280 students (70 groups)] to test this framework on a total of 20 companies (both “born platform” and “product to platform” companies).

Findings

The platform ecosystem age requires a corporate decision-making matrix that discriminates between businesses on the basis of platform market growth and platform commercialization capability, rather than product market growth and market share. As in the original matrix, these businesses correspond to three different investment horizons (Figure 1): the continuous renewal of blockbuster business, the integration of emerging killer businesses and the experimentation with joint innovation businesses. This paper helps corporate managers build and execute a sustainable platform portfolio by means of a sequence of six decision-making steps and a clear organizational template for successful execution.

Originality/value

The portfolio matrix, decision-making sequence and organizational execution advice presented in this paper are fit for both “born platform” companies such as Google (Alphabet) and “product to platform” hybrids such as Lego. The paper illustrates this with practical examples for both types of companies.

Keywords

Citation

Hensmans, M. (2021), "A new matrix for building platform portfolios: how companies can sustain their leadership", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 159-167. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-08-2019-0162

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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