Salesforce. Apple. Facebook. Google. Alibaba. Linux. Digital platforms that spawn and enable ecosystems that, with proper and ever-evolving design, benefit a more broad and inclusive set of valuable participants. Technology – distributed, mobile, embedded - enables reach unprecedented, both physical and geographical, as well as in use case and impact. Development of such platforms – secure, while open, flexible and scalable – and catalysis of ecosystems of this scale require incumbents (intrapreneurs) and disruptors (entrepreneurs), as well as both collaborators and competitors. Success hinges on trust: belief in shared prosperity and the opportunity for growth inclusive of all participants. Ecosystems represent the collective eyes, ears, and opportunity for growth and expansion, with direct access inherently limited. Customers previously out of reach become active collaborators, crowdsourced ideas get implemented. Public and private sector team to deliver tackle the real global challenges.
Business and organization models have and must change. Lifetime value of a customer becomes paramount. Values-based leadership wins in the face of hyper mobility of all – customers, workers, partners. Gone are the days of ecosystems as channel - integrators, resellers, referral partners – in which one primary partner aligns exclusively its supporters along lines of commitment, often maintaining unilateral power over the network. Diversity of actors drives growth rather than undermines it – just as in nature. Think activation of assets versus control of assets. Think of both the market efficiencies realized in the on-demand economy and represented by companies like Uber, and - simultaneously - of the stakeholder returns and profitability of the German Mittelstand. No model is yet perfect: the former, as example, carries controversial impact to labor dynamics and wages, while the latter may be more siloed, but together, these elements of leadership begin to showcase the piece parts of evolved and more efficient business models.
According to the Interbrands Global Brand Report for 2015, four of the 5 top global brands lead with platform-based business model. The image below demonstrates the incredibly impressive reach of Salesforce’s achievements.
And the the blurring of the digital and physical world platforms are coming. Just contemplate for a moment the difference in the massive and vertically integrated GE of the mid 20th century versus the firm of today, in which GE Digital employees 25K people globally and seeks to connect and service the entire Industrial Internet with it’s Predix platform, which may in turn enable wholesale migration to product-as-a-service business models.
Ecosystems are not a new idea, but we can now envision platforms and enabled ecosystems in radically more interesting and dynamic ways than ever before. In the future, the ecosystem enables reach, innovation, efficiency, the circular closing of the market and product loops, and even the more inclusive and impactful economic opportunity at hand.