The Platform-Driven Business for a Software-Defined World

We see the emergence of blended assets — cyber-physical products — gaining prominence. Examples of these complex systems abound: cars, robots, automated warehouses, biometric border control, and checkout-free stores. Organizations face a conundrum in trying to accelerate their digital transformation while modernizing their foundational systems yet pioneering initiatives to pursue a new software-defined future. This is more than a stepwise evolution of hardware once composed only of mechanical and electrical parts. Cyber-physical systems fuse hardware, sensors, processors, software, and connectivity features into programmable and easily updated interfaces, offering new business value to seemingly similar devices. Yet personalized digital cockpits reinvent the driver experience, and they come to us via software-defined vehicles. Virtual power plants optimize green generation and local storage. Virtual hospitals provide remote patient care, and robotic surgeons are becoming more common in operating rooms. 

These cyber-physical assets connect and integrate an enterprise in a more significant way with its customers and suppliers. And deeper connections enable meaningful and continuous cross-industry collaboration.

Digital life cycle management (DLCM) presents an orchestration path for the end-to-end life cycles of these cyber-physical assets. DLCM is early in its evolution, but we are beginning to see some of its most critical elements: human-centric design, modern platform environments, and software engineering factories. These harness data flywheels that deliver intelligence, hardware, and software harmonization with data-driven design and development. 

Watch this video about the software-defined and data-powered future.

Companies embarking on DLCM can take their cues from the automotive industry where, for example, one German innovator is engineering a software platform for advanced features, hardware and software harmonization to provide a “system on a chip,” and a new tech hub in the United States. Instead of ordering cars (or planes or plant machinery) with pre-selected upgrades, drivers will simply turn on features at the point of need.

Digital life cycle management (DLCM) presents an orchestration path for the end-to-end life cycles of  cyber-physical assets. 

This will allow a truly bespoke driver experience for the customer but also substantial development, build, and upgrade efficiency for the carmaker, as future functionality gets delivered “over the air.” 

We believe every industry sector will use cyber-physical assets, many at scale in fleets. The next wave of adopters will take the path of the automotive, aerospace, and electronics industries, following the direction of the hyperscalers and other digitally intense businesses, which have de facto digital operating models. These enterprises will move toward becoming platform-driven businesses.

We’ve sponsored this Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report to examine how executives can embrace digital life cycle management to create new business value in our software-defined world. Engineering and talent will be essential considerations, as will the way humans — be they customers, employees, partners, or suppliers — engage with and advance digital products and services. Read on to learn more about this and how forging the right supplier partnerships will be crucial for success.


About the authors

Michael Corcoran is the global lead of Analytics and Engineering at DXC. In this role, he is responsible for setting and delivering a strategy that positions DXC as an engineering transformation and innovation partner for many of the world's most successful companies. Michael oversees the design, development, implementation and operation of software-defined and data-driven solutions to help organizations drive business growth and gain competitive advantage. Michael was previously DXC’s chief strategy officer, working closely with the senior leadership team to drive the company’s growth strategy and performance with a focus on DXC Global Business Services.  

Bill Murray is a senior researcher and advisor for DXC Leading Edge, conducting research programs on the metaverse, digital twins, platform businesses and ecosystems, and software-intensive organizations. He contributes to U.K. national efforts in deep technology and cyber-physical infrastructure and is a Zinc fellow. Before joining DXC, Bill was a founder of management consultancy Differentis and held senior roles in strategy and innovation at CSC. He also held strategy consulting roles at KPMG Nolan Norton and Accenture. Bill started his career as a high-energy impact engineer with Arup. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn and Twitter.