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Ecosystems 2.0 – XI

The Knowledge as a Service conceptual ecosystem. It is leveraging on the IEEE volunteers base as the control point and re-enforces it providing access, interfaces, that third parties and market can use to increase and extract value. Notice in particular the two crucial elements at the core of the ecosystem: the Cognitive Digital Twin and the IEEE Knowledge Engine. Yellow lines connect to the individual space, blue lines to the enterprise/business space, red lines are tools under the control of the individual preserving privacy and green lines are examples of value added services. Purple lines reinforce and leverage the IEEE control point.

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.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.