In previous chronicles, we have touched upon both digital value chains, and digital plattforms platforms , as well as the difference between them. A third and closely related concept is digital ecosystems, which we intend to delve into today.

So, what is a digital ecosystem?

Martin Friis
Martin Friis

Work package manager

Digitala Stambanan Production

In brief, we could explain it by saying that it is a dynamic network of actors and technologies that collaborate and interact digitally to create value and enable innovation.

Magnus Mörstam
Magnus Mörstam

Work package manager

Digitala Stambanan Production

A digital ecosystem requires one or more digital platforms as a technical foundation or infrastructure that facilitates interaction, transactions, and/or the exchange of information between users and actors. This can be a website, an app, a cloud platform, or a software platform. A digital platform typically offers various functions, tools, and services that users can benefit from.

A digital ecosystem is a broader concept that not only includes the digital platform but also all the actors involved in the interaction and collaboration on the platform. A digital ecosystem may consist of companies, organizations, users, and other stakeholders who interact and exchange value using the digital platform as a hub.

In other words, we can say that the digital platform is the technology or tool used to enable interaction and transactions, while the digital ecosystem is a broader concept that also encompasses the actors and interactions occurring on that platform.

To provide an example: Facebook can be regarded as a digital platform where users can create accounts, share posts, comment, and interact with each other. However, the digital ecosystem for Facebook also includes companies advertising on the platform, developers building apps for Facebook, users sharing content, and so forth.

In the previous chronicle, we described the difference between digital value chains and digital platforms. We explained digital value chains as the overall process of creating and delivering products or services by digitally integrating various activities and actors. This means that a company can collaborate with its suppliers to ensure a smooth supply chain and high-quality input materials. It can also involve interacting with customers to understand their needs, delivering value through products or services, and managing post-sales activities such as support and feedback. Despite multiple actors being involved, the focus is still on optimizing and coordinating interactions to deliver value to customers, and this can occur within the framework of a single organization.

On the other hand, a digital ecosystem extends beyond a single organization’s value chain and includes multiple independent actors and platforms. It is a dynamic structure where different actors collaborate and create value through exchange, cooperation, and interaction. A digital ecosystem may include several companies, organizations, users, technology providers, and other stakeholders who collaborate and exchange value through a central platform or network. It is a broader perspective that is not limited to the operations of a single organization, and where multiple parties can benefit from the collaboration and synergies that arise within the ecosystem.

It is important for companies to understand the significance of digital ecosystems for several reasons:

  1. Business Opportunities: By understanding digital ecosystems, companies can identify and capitalize on new business opportunities. By participating in existing digital ecosystems or building their own, companies can reach a broader audience, expand their customer base, and create new revenue streams through collaboration, partnerships, and integration with other actors within the ecosystem.
  2. Access to Resources and Expertise: Being part of a digital ecosystem grants companies access to a broader pool of resources and expertise. This may include access to technology, data, infrastructure, knowledge, and skills available through collaborations and partnerships with other actors within the ecosystem. This can help companies streamline their operations and drive innovation.
  3. Innovation and Faster Market Entry: Digital ecosystems foster innovation by enabling collaboration and the exchange of ideas among different actors. By being part of an ecosystem, companies can benefit from innovative solutions and quickly adapt to changing market conditions. It can also help accelerate the market entry of new products and services by leveraging existing infrastructure and customer base within the ecosystem.
  4. Competitive Advantages and Differentiation: By understanding and actively participating in digital ecosystems, companies can create competitive advantages and differentiate themselves from their competitors. By offering unique solutions and creating synergies with other actors within the ecosystem, companies can create value propositions that are difficult to replicate. This can help strengthen their position in the market and build long-term competitiveness.
  5. Customer-Centric Strategy and Customer Experience: Being part of a digital ecosystem allows companies to improve the customer experience and provide added value to their customers. By collaborating with other actors within the ecosystem, companies can offer integrated solutions, customized offerings, and create a seamless experience for their customers. This can increase customer loyalty and differentiate the company from its competitors

By actively participating in and benefiting from digital ecosystems, companies can strengthen their competitiveness and position themselves well in the digital era. It’s about understanding their role and position in a larger context. What can we contribute? What do we have that could be valuable to others? While it’s easy for us to write, it may be more challenging for a company to practically implement. For those interested, we recommend a methodology for mapping ecosystems developed by, among others, Fredrik Svahn at the University of Gothenburg (GU).

In general, we propose the following steps to gain a deeper understanding of the various actors, their relationships, value flows, and the overall dynamics of an ecosystem:

  1. Identify Actors: First and foremost, you need to identify the different actors involved in the digital ecosystem. This can include companies, organizations, users, suppliers, and other relevant stakeholders.
  2. Analyze Actors’ Roles and Relationships: The next step is to analyze and understand the roles and relationships of actors within the ecosystem. This involves identifying who collaborates, competes, or influences each other, as well as the type of value exchange and interaction that occurs between them.
  3. Map Platforms and Technologies: Identify the various digital platforms and technologies used within the ecosystem. This can include central platforms that act as the hub for interaction and collaboration between actors. It may also include technologies used to enable data exchange, communication, and collaboration.
  4. Evaluate Value Flows: Analyze and evaluate value flows within the ecosystem. This involves understanding how value is created, transferred, and exchanged between different actors. It can be through products, services, data exchange, partnerships, or other forms of value-creating activities.
  5. Assess Ecosystem Dynamics and Sustainability: Evaluate the dynamics and sustainability of the ecosystem by looking at factors such as growth, competition, collaboration, innovation, and survival. This involves analyzing how actors influence each other and how the ecosystem can adapt to changes and evolve over time.
  6. Analyze External Factors: Consider external factors that may affect the ecosystem, such as regulations, technology trends, market changes, or consumer behaviors. This can provide a comprehensive picture of the ecosystem’s environment and the challenges and opportunities that may impact its success

This can help identify opportunities, challenges, and strategies to take advantage of or participate in the ecosystem successfully.

Good luck!

Digitala Stambanan strengthens the Swedish industry through digitalization of value chains. The project is a collaborative project financed by Vinnova and participating companies. The work is now underway in two tracks through the strategic innovation programs PiiA (Processindustriell IT & Automation), which drives the Digitala Stambanan IndTech project, and Produktion2030, which runs the Digitala Stambanan Produktion project.