The nature of competition in business is changing. What has historically consisted of company-to-company rivalry has evolved into a struggle between competing ecosystems to gain supremacy. Business ecosystems consist of two or more partner companies who agree to combine their assets, capabilities, markets, and talent pools to create and deliver new value.
Last week, I sat down with Tiffani Bova, Global Growth Evangelist for Salesforce, to indulge in a conversation around the growth of ecosystems in business and where to start in developing an ecosystem strategy.
Tiffani is a long-time pioneer of the ecosystem model, with her background as a sales, marketing, and customer service executive in the technology industry. She has been recognized as one of the first to develop a robust go-to-market model for cloud-based solutions and indirect channel strategies.
Tiffani shared what she’s learned from the technology ecosystems that she’s worked in for decades and how to apply those insights to the ecosystems that are advancing everywhere—in education, healthcare, media, hiring, and more.
A basis for forming successful ecosystems
Partner-to-partner collaboration can be complicated, and it becomes even more complex when additional members are added to an alliance. Ecosystem decisions are often clouded by leaders who are afraid to give up control or distractions from well-known, “shiny” partnerships. How can you decide where to start, with whom to align, and whether or not the ecosystem model is right for your business? Tiffani explains that the beginning of a successful ecosystem starts with the customer.
To guide your choices in ecosystem partnerships, first, admit that you can’t do it all. In Tiffani’s experience, the scale you can achieve through an ecosystem of partners far outweighs anything you can accomplish alone—if you start with your fundamental customer needs. To decide if you should be part of an ecosystem, and to determine the partners who would best complement your needs, ask:
- What do our customers want?
- How do they like to buy?
- Which capabilities can we deliver today?
- What are we unable to do alone?
- Can we fill those gaps using alliances?
Don’t be fooled into thinking you already know what your customers prefer. You will need to go on what Tiffani calls a “listening tour” to uncover the truth by speaking with real-life customers face-to-face. Once you have a picture of what your customers desire, you can honestly address any gaps and, if necessary, select the right partners to fill them.
My conversation with Tiffani is a preview of the upcoming “Competition in the Age of Ecosystems” event, hosted by Thinkers50, Haier, the Outthinker Strategy Network, and the Business Ecosystem Alliance. Join us March 23 and 24 for a two-day virtual event exploring the new realities of ecosystem-based competition.