Ecosystems 1.0 … just happened. Most of the time they are seeded by a successful product and by interfaces (communications) third parties can leverage to add value. The seeding company over time will increase the interfaces thus stimulating more and more players to step in and participate, thus expanding the ecosystem. At a certain point the ecosystem becomes so effective and valued by the market that the seeding company will be locked-in and will start designing new products/services to fit in that framework. So it is product and interfaces, these latter being formed by data and APIs.
Ecosystems 2.0 … by design. Having understood the value of ecosystems companies are now looking into them as a strategic way to reach the market and positioning themselves on the market. Differently from the 1.0 version Ecosystems 2.0 stems from control points (instead of products) and open data architecture supported by platforms that are also providing the interfaces to third parties. In a way it is obvious than if a company designs an ecosystem it will do so starting from the places where the company has control on. Companies do business in value chains and each one can have a specific competitive advantage by controlling part of it, like Ferrero that controls the supply chain for Nutella!
The control point is crucial in the creation of these new ecosystems as well explained in the McKinsey’s paper. You can read the paper to find a few examples of Ecosystems 2.0 in the making, in the banking and manufacturing sectors. What is interesting in these examples is that these sectors would not seem fitting for an ecosystem model, being so much entrenched into the value chain model.
In the Digital Reality Initiative of the IEEE FDC we have been looking into this aspect quite a bit, of course with reference to the IEEE value proposition.
IEEE through its Xplore repository with few million articles has a clear advantage over other content providers (in the technical area). However, the Internet, the web, is making that content easily available directly to anybody through other sources, disintermediating the incumbent (in this case the IEEE). Considering the set of article as data and the Xplore as the interface is not working in terms of ecosystem. It does work in terms of value chain, you want an article and you pay to access it. Of course this nice model crumbles once the market can get the same article for free on the web (doesn’t it look like the music sector crises?).
Is there an IEEE control point that could be exploited, and if so, how?
As a matter of fact there is! The real value of IEEE is not in the content, rather in the way the content is aggregated, through independent peer-review and in the community of volunteers that produce that content. This is the real value and IEEE has a very strong control point in
- the peer-review, being a fairly complex process that has been tuned over decades and involves so many reviewers that any other companies would find difficult to replicate, and
- the volunteer community that is broad and diverse, difficult to create out of the blue (it took decades to IEEE to create such a community).
The key, from a business point, is how to leverage this control point turning it into an ecosystem 2.0 seed.