The Open Platform Design Flowchart – Mapping out your OS-Project as a Platform


Update: There is a new iteration of the tool with Videos and Texts available here. 


The posting is a about a tool that helps you to rethink and redesign your product or project as a platform – while going open source. And find your business model.

Some weeks ago i stumbled upon the work of Simone Cicero. Simone is a strategist and writes about open source hardware. While reading some of his stuff i really builded a connection to the point of view, that open things are often likely to be seen and developed as a platform. This is of course very important when it comes to business models. So there was definitely something to add to the open source hardware business model matrix. I worked my way through Simones work and ended up with creating a little tool i like to share here.

The Tool is now part of the „Business Models for Open Source Hardware & Open Design“ page. Please study it there. But i also mirrored the current description here, because everything will develope and change probably soon. So this is my archive for vs 0.2

Open Platform Design Flowchart

Some products or projects are likely with opening up to become a platform. Diving into the product-like-a-platform approach opens up new perspectives and allows you to develope suiting strategies and a business model. The product-like-a-platform point of view occured to me very clear for the first time while reading some of the great articles of the italian open source strategist Simone Cicero.

In his article „why choose to be open source in the hardware industry“ Simone writes: „…creating an open source platform for hardware innovation can appear difficult on one hand (people tend to think “they will copy me” and tend to think it as a bad thing).“ Exactly. To get copied is not necessarily a bad thing: Just design your business or platform around this, make copying a productive part. Everybody who copies wordpress makes wordpress grow and is good for its business.

Simone developed a Platform Design Toolkit with the Platform Design Canvas in its center. Simones Canvas is a fork/derivative of the very successful Business Model Generation Canvas of Alex Osterwalder. Osterwalders Canvas is good for sketching out linear businesses, Simones fork aims to help with platform designing.

I really like this idea and i tried to work with the canvas but did not get very far. I think, one of the reasons for this was that i don’t know the original tool well enough and already have trouble with understanding some terms there. And with the transformation to a new tool the fuzziness increased for me. So i had to give up and started, inspired by Simones general idea, to develope a new, simpler and for me more suiting tool – the Open Platform Design Flowchart. You can find it below. Take a look and start working with it. But i encourage you to test Simones canvas also, maybe that one workes better for you.

The Chart


Above you find the tool and a presentation of it. I tested the tool surprisingly successfull in a workshop with 34 people from 22 countries at Ecovillage 7 Linden supported by Leslie and Rakesh (a blogpost about it here from Leslie). People said to us, that during the thinking-process the tool guides through, they had profound insights into openness and its possibilities and that they gained new fresh perspectives on their projects. I will develope the tool further and will be happy about your feedback.

How to use

For now i think (or hope), the tool is mostly self-explanatory but here is a small introduction:

The Chart is divided into 6 columns. In every column you fill in some information building upon the informations of the columns before. By going rounds through the chart you find and complete your story(ies) and platform strategies. The columns are:

Open Platform Design Flowchart vs 0.2 _

1. I DO & I HAVE (ASSETS): What is it i do/is the business? What do i offer? What assets do i have?

Comment: List what you do and with what. Example: a cafe, a kitchen and some cooking skills.

2. ROLES (PEOPLE): What roles are offered/appear? What can people do with it? Who are the stakeholders? Who are the peers, users interacting?

Comment: Every business offers roles for other people. When you are building tables you are offering people the roles of customers/buyers of your table and others to be resellers of your table.

3. OPEN UP: What do i open up (what assets)? Give away? Make accessible?

Comment: This is the key part of the chart. What do you open up/make accessible? When you are selling tables you of course make tables accessible. But this column encourages you, to open up more of your assets for example the CAD-files for your table, which is one of your assets.

After you filled in something here you go back to column two. Because in most cases opening up new things goes along with new possible roles you offer to people. When you open up the building-plans of a table other developers and producers become a possible part also teachers, that might use the files in thier classes.

4. TRANSACTIONS / EXCHANGES: What is exchanged?

Comment: Identify what gets exchanged between you and the roles or between people in general concerning your platform. This asks for material things (like tables, money, building plans) and immaterial things (like values, abbilities/skills, attention).

5. SUPPORT & PARTICIPATE (INFRASTRUCTURE): How to support the exchanging? Where to be a part of it. Using wich channels?

Comment: Exchanging needs channels, an infrastructure where it can happen and gets supported. Skills get exchanged in workshops, tables on warehouses/markets etc. Look also up to the roles. What do they need? Make yourself aware of the channels. But focus here mostly on those channels, you like to provide or use yourself.

6. INCOME: Where does the money come from? What do you extract from the exchanges?

Look at the channels and transactions, where is your income? Providing channels very often gives possibilites for income, for extracting some of the exchanged things. Channels are often harder to duplicate than building plans for example. To find your answer here you can also use the bottom part the open source hardware business model matrix below. Be aware: your income is not necessarily limited to money.

After you are done with colum six you can start the whole process over. Is something missing in the first column now, maybe you want to add some of the channels as assets? Repeat as long as it takes till you have all your storylines clear. Hopefully you found a scenario in which your product is a platform and economically working.

. . .

/* deutsch */

Open Source erlaubt eine neue Sicht auf viele Produkte und Projekte. Oft lassen sie sich durch Offenheit in eine Platform umwandeln, ein reicheres und komplexeres Ökosystem um sie herum entsteht bzw. kann entstehen. Diese Möglichkeit ist natürlich von Bedeutung für jedes Geschäftsmodell. Bei meiner Lektüre von Texten des italienischen Autors und Beraters Simone Cicero ist mir diese Idee sehr viel klarer geworden. Als Folge daraus habe ich ein kleines Werkzeug entwickelt, mit dem man Projekte und Produkte als Platform neu denken kann. Das Werkzeug ist bereits in einem Workshop erfolgreich getestet und verbessert worden. Die aktuelle und veröffentlichte Version ist 0.2. Sie findet sich eingebettet und beschrieben auf der „Business Modelle für Open Source Hardware und Open Design Seite.

Leider liegt sie aktuell nur in englischer Sprache vor wie auch die Beschreibung. Entschuldigung. In letzter Zeit werde ich zusehends nachlässig mit der Anfertigung deutscher Übersetzungen. Ich frage mich, lebe ich hier in Berlin und in meiner Community in einer Blase? Englisch ist überall Verkehrssprache. Ich weiß aber, dass es nicht überall in Deutschland der Fall ist und englische Texte den Einstieg für viele erschweren. Ist das so? Über Feedback würde ich mich freuen.

Ich verspreche auf jeden Fall, dass es vom Werkzeug eine Übersetzung geben wird, sobald es noch etwas weiterentwickelt ist. Wer nicht warten mag oder helfen will, einfach melden per Mail.