What is a digital platform? (Definition and examples)

Updated 6 March 2023

A strong digital platform facilitates the development of digital services. Digital platforms may vary for each business, but they essentially provide the necessary tools to enhance and expedite a development process. Understanding digital platforms and how they work can help you use one effectively in your development projects. In this article, we answer ‘What is a digital platform?', list its features, define the digital service landscape and provide examples of digital platforms for reference.

What is a digital platform?

The answer to 'What is a digital platform?' is that it's a development tool many companies use to produce software products. Also known as a PaaS, or platform as a service, a digital platform comprises the people, processes and tools that enable a team to rapidly develop software or digital services. A digital platform is an enduring product that can evolve through team and customer feedback, and it accelerates the successful delivery of digital services to a customer.

With a strong digital platform, a team can more easily plan, develop, iterate and deploy new digital services at scale. Digital platforms can also scale as projects or requirements become larger. Digital platforms can be as simple as a few developers and tools or as complex as a network of developers, project managers and multiple digital development tools. The size and complexity of a digital platform depend largely on the requirements of a company or project and the development budget.

Related: What is software development? A comprehensive guide

Characteristics of a digital platform

To better understand what a digital platform is and what its function entails, consider these primary aspects:


A digital platform is often the foundation of many of the tools a company produces. It guides project development, and having a dedicated digital platform can allow a team to build and deploy digital services with high-quality components. A digital platform can fulfil many of a company's development needs by providing a framework for infrastructure and software development. Digital platforms aren't their own projects with deadlines and requirements, but rather ever-evolving, specific tools whose abilities and requirements can change with each new project.

Internal use

Digital platforms are typically for internal use only and have specific features that address an organisation's unique internal processes. A digital platform isn't a commodity, meaning organisations typically don't sell digital platforms to customers. Digital platforms instead satisfy specific development needs for the team.

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Digital platforms are typically bespoke and built for specific needs, projects or customers. This means that each digital platform has unique tools to help it accomplish its primary goals and may not be easily transferrable to other projects. This might mean that each project requires its own digital platform. You can use the basic components of one platform to create another, but ultimately each platform is different, depending on project or customer needs. Digital platforms can empower development teams to solve specific business problems by removing organisational complexity.

Bi-directional feedback

The value of a digital platform directly correlates with its ability to solve problems or meet the needs of its users. A digital platform's success often depends on bi-directional feedback from both developers and users. Bi-directional feedback is necessary to ensure that both parties understand each other's needs and limitations. Feedback allows the platform to improve over time so that it can better serve the needs of its users in the future without too many adjustments.

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Digital service landscape example

A digital service landscape is all of the tools, platforms or methods by which a company services its customers. This often includes a company's internal digital platforms, which provide specific services and developmental tools to solve problems. To better understand how a digital platform can fit into a digital service landscape, it helps to look at examples

Example: The following is a summary of ExGon's digital service landscape. The company is focusing on building both a navigation domain and a finance domain for its application and website. The components include:

Navigation domain

The navigation domain for development consists of four separate services:

  • cataloguing

  • categorising

  • navigation

  • web search

ExGon uses its digital platform to create these features with the following steps:

  1. They create a service. The team develops the necessary service capability, such as a search feature on a website.

  2. They determine service capabilities. The team uses its digital platform to help define the capabilities of each service to fulfil its function.

  3. They run services. The digital platform helps the development team create test runs for each service capability to ensure it functions as expected.

Financial domain

ExGon's website also allows users to purchase retail items directly from its inventory. This requires an internal financial domain using the digital platform. This domain consists of the following:

  • fraud services

  • payment services

  • promotional services

  • voucher services

Using the same process as the navigation domain, the team's developers create a financial domain of services for the website. The digital platform facilitates this process by providing the components already used to build the previous domain.

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Benefits of using a digital platform

Using a digital platform can offer a business many benefits, including:

Accelerating time to market

With an established digital platform, companies can accelerate their time to market, or how long it takes for a development project to progress from conception to final delivery in the market. Since a development platform establishes standard processes for certain tasks and helps define the tools, people and systems necessary for development, teams can spend less time on the planning phase of each project and instead focus on rapid, high-quality development. The faster a team's time to market, the more deliverables they can create within a specific timeframe, such as a quarter or year.

Related: What does a systems developer do? (With salary info)

Reducing development costs

Faster, more consistent development can also help reduce the costs of the process. When teams have an established development system, they can begin projects sooner, create more iterations for approval and minimise the number of errors or bugs that exist in the final deliverable. This can help save a company money, which can make more funds available for improving the tools and systems the team uses for development.

Increasing innovation

Dedicated digital platforms can also help increase a development team's innovation in each project. They're free to explore different or unique methods for developing each project, which can result in new, improved methodology. Innovation can be beneficial for a company because it helps make it more competitive in its market, can attract more talent to the business and may increase the confidence of the consumers who buy the company's products or services. Innovation can also help change standards in development and improve efficiency.

Creating more revenue

Any process that helps a company increase the efficiency of its production and reduces the time it takes for products to reach the market increases its revenue. For example, if a company is developing bookkeeping software for a new client, a faster, high-quality deliverable can result in more sales, referrals and a boost in the customer's confidence. They might return to that company for future projects since they have established trust in the ability of its development process to deliver high-quality products quicker than its competitors.

Developing team cohesion

Another benefit of a dedicated digital platform for each project is that it can develop and support better team cohesion. A team that works well together can develop higher-quality software or applications and reach deadlines more consistently. With a digital platform, the team can communicate necessary changes and guidelines, establish rules for development and adhere to more specific requirements. This also helps reduce the workload for project managers.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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