It was great to have the opportunity to join Jez Back and David Organ  on #TheCloudShow recently to take a closer look at ecosystems which are being tipped as the key to digital transformation for organisations who need to increase profits while keeping customers happy.  It got me thinking that a quick blog on this subject may be of interest to our partners and customers who use our ecosystem.

This blog turned out to be a bit longer than expected, more of a hitchhikers guide to digital ecosystems.

Starting with an introduction from the show: “Digital transformation is in full swing in the technology sector. But decision makers are now being challenged to go further and create digital and technology ecosystems that encompass customers, employees, developers, suppliers, and even extended networks of related businesses.” episode 4 of #TheCloudShow @DisruptiveLIVE Streamed live on 5 Mar 2018– Ep 4

What is digital transformation?

To me it means the realisation of an agile business strategy that focuses on putting ‘digital’ at the heart of everything you do in order to achieve business improvement to the extent that you have the potential to beat the hell out the competition. Of course it’s people that make it happen so you must factor human behaviour into your strategy.

Does digital transformation need an ecosystem?

The reason that ecosystems are so important to this strategy is that they are future-ready. They provide a shared digital platform which breaks down silos to transform traditional offline operations, networking, marketing and delivery models so they are better and faster and ultimately more convenient.

It also enables users to personalise, not just the experience but also the environment where they exist and co-exist with others in order to go about their business. But there is a quid pro quo because in order to leverage the ecosystem customers must upload their data.

When you play out your digital business strategy in the right type of ecosystem you have a future-ready business which can amass large datasets and that ticks another couple of boxes.

The MIT Sloan report found that future-ready businesses are four times more likely to succeed.

Not all ecosystems are born equal

Some are places occasionally visited by customers (provider-centric) and others are where customers strike their tent (customer-centric).

The customer-centric ecosystem has a lot of time and cost saving tools to offer and they are all potentially relevant to the customer’s daily routine and therefore it offers the most value. However, it needs to be smart and allow customers to start small in terms of interaction on the platform, because busy customers don’t want to be presented with a big bang scenario that requires time consuming slog to set up their account and roll it out to their organisation. That just seems too daunting.

The question we are asked most often by new customers is ‘how long will it take to upload my personnel records?’ Today’s digital explorer will also expect visually pleasing, intuitive user interfaces that help them travel at the speed of light to the things they need.  We may be in the midst of digital evolution but the traditional marketing promise ‘it will save time and money’ is still as powerful as it ever was.

This may all sound obvious to you if you are a business customer, but as Contently’s Tech Editor, Dillon Baker demonstrates ‘marketing executives’ and customers are not seeing eye to eye’ so it’s easy to lose the plot and start imposing your ideas on your customers. Don’t misinterpret the message:

“The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backwards somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.” Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

We must make sure there are no barriers to dipping a toe in the water, customers can hop on and hop off Eledecks platform so we have time to gently reveal the value on offer. At first they may be tempted to access some bite sized content or manage a ring fenced risk but they are possibly, at this point, the only person in their organisation visiting the ecosystem. They haven’t made a commitment yet.

This is an example of a provider-centric ecosystem, where the customer is visiting the provider’s world. They may visit the site once a year when buying a holiday or renewing car insurance but they share only snippets of baseline data with you, the sort gleaned for a single purpose and related to a small slice of the user’s life. So even if you have large numbers of these clients the value of the data for the purposes of scalable digital transformation of your business are limited.

Not all datasets are born equal

Data contains information and it’s received wisdom that information is power and can be monetised. But it’s a mistake to think that all data is valuable just because it is available in large quantities and has a general relevance to your business. The question is ‘does it reveal information which will be useful to your digital strategy?’

“Success of digital innovators and ascent of Amazon will be the catalyst and turning point for accepting the fact that enterprise data doesn’t belong to silos and the data is a commodity of immense value, but only if the data is available as a “whole”, in an “original/pure” form, which can help in constructing an holistic picture rather than short term trends or BI reports showing baseline information.” Sarab S Mann

These unstructured datasets are like snail trails that provide a map of the customer’s life and we can use analytics to understand their behaviour and predict which products and services they need and want at the exact moment they need or want them.

So if the Holy Grail lies in lakes of unstructured customer data, those seeking it definitely need to operate in a customer-centric ecosystem because that is where the lakes form while customers engage with the digital tools, systems and choices you provide to help run their lives more efficiently and effectively. That’s what happens when Apple and Amazon locate data hungry gizmos like Apple Homepod and Alexa into the nucleus of the family in houses across the globe.

When Eledecks customers start using our platform to manage compliance they necessarily invite us into their world and this helps them take down the data silos that held them back in their own businesses. By placing their data in an environment where it can be shared across their company they too start to experience and benefit from digital transformation.

Market networks have the multiplier effect 

Eledecks’ ecosystem necessarily includes many service providers who offer the compliance services our business customers need. This is where our model has a lot in common with the Market Network model because it is designed and built to enable provider networks to proliferate by using social media concepts.  Our providers are encouraged to build profiles, post content and do business with each other as long as it creates value for the business customer.

For example a law firm can invite a payroll provider to become a recommended partner visible to its customers from the law firm’s dashboard. That payroll provider’s services are now available to any of the law firm’s clients within the ecosystem’s marketplace. When transactions take place Eledecks system manages the revenue shares.

In a quid pro quo, the payroll provider can invite their customers to use the law firm’s services. They may recommend more than one law firm because it is in their interests to provide customers with choice if they can differentiate them for reasons of subject expertise, location, price and so forth.

Welcome to the ‘Dashboard of Daily Life’

This morphing of worlds blurs the boundaries between customer and provider and Business Partner status becomes a cultural norm in the customer centric-ecosystem. When your team takes its coveted place on the customer’s “dashboard of daily life,” you have the opportunity to do not only what you came to do, but also to expand your role beyond what was possible in the pre-digital economy as you work alongside your customers throughout the year interpreting their behaviour and innovating the solutions they need.

Sometimes they will ask you for help and other times you will  proactively suggest solutions.

In exchange for helping them manage their compliance faster, better and with less hassle, our customers tolerate push communications and data analysis. They are willing to pay by recurring monthly subscription and welcome our partners’ into what is fast becoming their online compliance offices. The cycle is complete.