Ecosystems have been a talking point in business life since the 90s, meaning we’re not dealing with the freshest trends. But then digitalization happened, and business as we knew it was forever changed. Today, an increasing number of companies are using digital ecosystems to look for growth, new markets, and business opportunities.
A digital ecosystem refers to interdependent actors sharing digital platforms for mutual benefit. These actors can include companies, people, products, or services.
In ecosystems, an entity comprised of different actors produces a value that is greater than the sum produced by its parts. This enables customer value creation, which would otherwise be impossible to achieve. To put it simply: joining forces in an ecosystem pays off.
“A digital ecosystem refers to interdependent actors sharing digital platforms for mutual benefit.”
According to Gartner, already 79% of pioneering companies operate in digital ecosystems. When it comes to Finnish companies, however, only a handful have a strategy for such operations or have even started preparing for it. Missing the ecosystems train at this early stage can decrease sales or even suppress sales altogether.
How to embrace change and enable digital sales in ecosystems?
1. Learn about ecosystems thinking and the mechanisms and phenomena of the platform economy
Before working on your strategy, it’s a good idea to think about how the platform economy will affect your industry and what phenomena it has already created. Popular examples of platform economy actors who have embraced ecosystems thinking include Applen App Store, Uber, and Zalando, for instance. In addition to consumer business, B2B buyers have also taken their business online. Change is also seeping into the more traditional industries, such as the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries, with the Finnish Tamro, for example, paving the way for other actors. HBR has some interesting things to say about ecosystems, as does Professor Timo Vuori from Aalto University in his book Platform Strategy: Transform Your Business with AI, Platforms and Human Intelligence.
2. De-learning is key
Change always requires learning new things, but conscious de-learning skills are also becoming increasingly important. Organizations have already recognized the change required by digitalization and are generally well aware of new technologies. However, the increased knowledge hasn’t translated into action, and companies easily get stuck in old and established practices. This can become an obstacle on the organization’s way to success.
De-learning old conventions require not only acknowledgment of the situation but also determined change leadership concentrating on
- modeling the customer journey and identifying points that require change
- bringing in new insights through job rotation and recruitment
- leading the emotional climate – change can be scary, but this feeling can be turned into positive energy.
3. Get someone to help you on your journey to change
It’s often beneficial to push the change process by bringing in some insights from outside the company. Having a partner will allow you to use the experiences and best practices of earlier client projects and introduce you to a team of talents with an up-to-date skill set. While your company still needs to have the right mindset and a vision, having a partner will help to speed things along and avoid the most common pitfalls.
An excellent example of this is the lock and security innovator iLOQ. The company wanted to modernize its B2B sales through digitalization and ecosystem support. This objective was achieved by building a retailer portal, which provides tools for developing of employee competencies, customer support, marketing and branding, and the entire business. The release of the portal was the first step in the right direction of a long journey. Read more about iLOQ’s change journey.
Interested? Check out our video from the Data Driven Digital Sales Forum (in Finnish) virtual event and get inspired!
Learn how Tamro is paving the way for ecosystems thinking under the leadership of CEO Kai Kaasalainen. In another talk, Professor Timo Vuori will let you in on the latest academic research on the platform economy. Enjoy these and other expert presentations by watching the event recording.
- Gartner (2017). Seize the Digital Ecosystem Opportunity
- Mattila, Yrjölä, Hautamäki (2021). Digital transformation of business-to-business sales: what needs to be unlearned?
- McKinsey 2021. B2B sales: Omnichannel everywhere, every time
- Rusthollkarhu, Sami (2020). The capability approach to innovations: How AI can enhance the innovation potential of ecosystems