25 Jun

Open Platform Design Flowchart Tool

english, deutsch

/* english */

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 we stumbled upon the work of Simone Cicero. Simone is a strategist and writes about open source hardware. While reading some of his stuff we 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.

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.

As we were trying to work with Simones Canvas we had some difficulties. Some of the concepts weren’t very clear to us. And so we gave up and started, inspired by Simones great general idea, to develope a new and simpler tool – the Open Platform Design Flowchart. It has a lot more didactic qualities. You can find it below with some descriptions. This page and post is a mirror of another one. The Open Platform Design Flowchart will probably be developed further and eventually new versions can be found here.

Take a look and start working with it. But we encourage you to test Simones canvas also, maybe it works great for you!

The Flowchart has already been tested successfully. People told 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.

UPDATE: One more thing to introduce the product-as-a-platform approach. This is an (not-lectured) excerpt from our chapter for the book „Building Open Source Hardware“ on business about the subject:

The PRODUCT AS A PLATFORM approach is something very interesting for open source. An open source product is much more likely become a platform than a closed one. Open design files give people a lot more possibilities to interact with your product. More possible roles for them appear. Especially when others can find interesting ways to make a living with your product for example by developing and providing add ons or services for it this means that your product will grow as a platform. Many professionals are using Arduino for consulting or professional prototyping. The more stakeholders there are the more powerful and useful can the product become and the more stable the platform will probably be. So getting copied by others is not necessarily a bad thing. Just design your business model for this. And here you can also see, why a non-commercial license is probably not a good idea for your project. Not giving others the possibility to make a living out of your product would reduce the number of stakeholders and limit the potential growth of your platform. Of course, not every product is fit for the product as a platform approach.


This is a picture of the tool. Find a presentation on top of the post.

Explanation: 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:

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 */

Wir haben ein Werkzeug entwickelt, um offene Produkte als Plattformen zu verstehen und strategisch auszuplanen. Das Werkzeug heißt „Open Platform Design Flowchart“ und ist Teil unseres Open Source Hardware & Open Design Business Model Beratungs-/Planungssets. Es liegt aktuell nur auf Englisch vor. Wir werden es jedoch einsetzen und dabei weiterentwickeln und eine neue und bessere Version erstellen. Sobald diese fertig ist, soll es auch eine deutsche Übersetzung geben. Bis dahin gibt es deutsche Auskünfte darüber oder Workshops damit über unseren Kontakt.

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