Interview With Phil Simon: Mobility, Business and “The Age Of The Platform”

Phil Simon

Meet, Phil Simon the author of four management books. His fourth, The Age of the Platform, is his most ambitious yet. A recognized technology expert, he consults companies on how to optimize their use of technology. His contributions have been featured on The Globe and Mail, the American Express Open Forum, ComputerWorld, Technorati, ZDNet,,, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites.

WashingtonExec recently has the opportunity to speak with Simon about his knowledge of mobility and the “age of the platform.”

WashingtonExec: How would you define the term “mobility” in a modern-day sense?

Phil Simon: To me, mobility is an entirely new era of computing. It’s the successor to the PC-era. It’s about taking your apps, data, and even life with you. It’s about a state of hyperconnectivity, buoyed in large part by ubiquitous social networks and broadband connections. Mobility blurs the delineation between work and leisure.

And mobility will keep evolving. The semantic web, augmented reality, and other technologies are morphing as we speak. Stay tuned. We’re nowhere near the end of this journey. In fact, we’re only in the first or second inning.

WashingtonExec: Why do you believe we’ve entered the Age of the Platform?

Phil Simon: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have done nothing less than usher in a new era of doing business. While writing and doing research for The Age of the Platform, it became evident to me that the platform wasn’t just some different take on technology. It was an entirely new business model being embraced by thousands of organizations in many industries and of all sizes. It’s not just about four companies.

WashingtonExec: Why is the modern-day platform such an important new business model?

Phil Simon: Many reasons. First, the speed of technological change is orders of magnitude faster than years past. Social networks have allowed products, services, apps, and content to travel around the world in seconds. Partnerships, communities, and relationships can consummate in days via mutual self-interest, aided in large part by the proliferation of APIs and SDKs.

More than the usual suspects, however, the platforms of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are mostly consumer-oriented. Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, and IBM are still important companies but they tend to focus on businesses. Few trends have been more important in the last decade than the Consumerization of IT. To be sure, B2B is still important but, in my view, consumers are driving a new technology revolution—and four companies are at the forefront of it.

WashingtonExec: What are the best ways to start monetizing a website and begin generating revenue from a social media platform?

Phil Simon: Well, first off you have to realize that monetization is likely to be indirect. That is, not too many people are going to pay to follow you on Twitter or receive your Facebook updates.

Next, Google your own company and what comes up? If the result is nothing or a Yelp page, then it’s time to finally create a proper website. Astonishingly, nearly half of all small businesses lack a website. If you don’t have one, get one. A website (and a good one at that) is table stakes these days. A LinkedIn profile or Facebook fan page is not enough.

Ask yourself some hard questions. Would you buy something off of your website? You should be using social media platforms as planks in your own. Ultimately, you’re more than likely trying to bring people back to your site. If the site is not very compelling, confuses people, or doesn’t render quickly, people are going to abandon you—and not come back.

Finally, keep your expectations realistic. Amazon is in part so valuable because it contains a trove of accurate and comprehensive data on its customers. Ditto Facebook and Apple. Consumes by and large trust these companies with their data; that’s why they provide it. Don’t expect people to provide such information, including credit card numbers, to a site about which they have never hear.

WashingtonExec: How can mobile applications enhance and productivity?

Phil Simon: Many ways. Not every mobile app is Angry Birds! There are scores of low-cost apps that allow people to be productive while away from their PCs. Checking email and responding with quick messages is so 1999. These days, you can work on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations while away from your desk. While I certainly would not want to write a blog post on my iPhone, I could do that on a proper tablet.

Also, speech-to-text apps like Dragon allow you to circumvent the “keyboard” altogether. I could keep going, but ask yourself—and others—before you do something “the old way” if there’s a new, better, more efficient way. Odds are that you’re not the first person to ask that question.

WashingtonExec: What is the most important advice you have ever received?

Phil Simon: Wow, that’s a tough one. It’s a tie. As a writer, Neil Peart said, “Get down; don’t get it right.” As an entrepreneur, Seth Godin once told me, “Don’t wait to be chosen. Choose yourself.”


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