When people talk about business ecosystems, or digital ecosystems, they’re often doing so in a very abstract sort of way. Simply put, your ecosystem consists of all the businesses you directly or indirectly partner with, as well as anyone else fundamentally impacted by your product. This is, of course, a huge concept and difficult to wrap one’s head – but it can be rendered in more concrete ways through the creation of ecosystem maps.
While definitely a time consuming process, creating one or more ecosystem maps can be genuinely invaluable as a strategic tool. They’ll reveal links between entities within your ecosystem you hadn’t considered, suggest new marketing and outreach possibilities, and potentially even help you disrupt your competition.
What Is An Ecosystem Map?
You’ve undoubtedly seen a crime drama where the detectives have a big board with pictures of the bad guys on it, and a mess of strings pinned into place connecting various people together. This is basically what an ecosystem map looks like. It includes all of the entities within your ecosystem, along with lines illustrating what direct connections exist.
These can be done physically, on a board, but generally business ecosystems are complex enough that you’ll want to use software. Either flowchart or “mind map” apps can be repurposed for this.
Color-coding everything is also a very good idea. These colors would obviously be anything you want. For example: blue is for suppliers, green denotes sales partners, and yellow any known major end users. The lines could also be color coded based on your needs, such as showing the flow of products and\or money. Tags and other descriptors can also be added, as needed.
At the end of the process, you should have a clear visualization of every major entity connected to your business, and how they all connect between themselves.
Making Use Of Your Ecosystem Maps
Beyond merely being useful to have a concrete visual overview of your entire business network, there are numerous ways to leverage this map to your advantage.
1. Know where to focus
Is there a particular entity on the map that has a LOT of lines connected to it? This is a key intersection – a major player – and they should be a focus for your strategy. They should also be defended against any potential incursions from competing businesses. If a competitor noticed how important that partner is to your network, they might try to steal it.
2. Map your competitors
Once you’ve made a map for your own ecosystem, why stop there? Start drawing on public resources to construct a similar map for your biggest competitor(s). Then start looking for their key intersections, and thinking about how you can disrupt them.
In particular, look for points of intersection between your two operations. Perhaps you share some of the same suppliers, for example. This is knowledge that can be leveraged to your advantage.
3. Find better marketing targets
When your ecosystem map reaches all the way down to the consumer level, that can make it much easier to take a “go to” approach to marketing and outreach. You’ll see the pipeline down to your customers, as well as the way(s) they’re going about making purchases. This helps in creating laser-focused campaigns.
You could even go a step further, and start mapping out connections between customer outlets, to better understand how customers are drawn in.
4. Leverage existing connections
Finally, don’t be afraid to let the map expand, as you discover more connections between businesses. Look at some of the suppliers or outlets on the fringe. Who are they connected to? What other businesses do they work with? You could easily discover a potential new partner through these secondary connections, and be able to make use of your existing partnership to make it happen.
Ecosystems Are Complicated. FUSE Simplifies Them.
FUSE is a revolutionary new platform designed to enable easier creation of user-accessible ecosystems, which can be utilized by people at every level within the organization. Your own execs, your suppliers, sales partners, tech support outlets, even end users can all come together to connect and grow your company.