What is digital transformation?
To me digital transformation 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. Without doubt business ecosystems underpin digital transformation so more about those in a moment but don’t forget it will be your people that make the magic happen so you must factor human behaviour into your strategy.
Why do ecosystems underpin digital transformation?
Ecosystems underpin digital transformation and the reason they are so important to this strategy is 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.
It’s starting to sound like a lot of hard work for the software providers but there is a quid pro quo because in order to leverage the ecosystem customers must upload their data. In fact, these two players become symbiotic. To thrive they need each other. As the MIT Sloan report found businesses are four times more likely to succeed if they are future ready (i.e using an effective business ecosystem).
Not all ecosystems are born equal
Business ecosystems may underpin digital transformation but there is a wide range available. 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.
Remove barriers and encourage business-wide usage
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 and 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.
In order for business ecosystems to underpin digital transformation they must proliferate their tendrils throughout the end user customer’s business.
Not all data sets are born equal
So what kind of data will the ecosystem use to underpin digital transformation? 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 data sets 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.
According to Techcrunch, what’s unique about market networks is that they:
- Combine the main elements of both networks and marketplaces
- Use SaaS workflow software to focus action around longer-term projects, not just a quick transaction
- Promote the service provider as a differentiated individual, helping to build long-term relationships
Eledecks’ platform ticks those boxes. 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’
Business ecosystems underpin digital transformation because they are capable of causing the morphing of worlds and blurring the boundaries between customer and provider. The customer centric-ecosystem delivers a powershift so that ‘Business Partners’ become a cultural norm seen every day as part of the team. When you take your coveted place on the customer’s “dashboard of daily life,” you have the opportunity to do not only the obvious, 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 when they need them.
Sometimes these customers 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. Business ecosystems underpin digital transformation because they make the desirable possible, they make things quicker, better and cheaper.