Fiber for Breakfast Week 26: Designing and Working in the Business Ecosystem—Moving Beyond Traditional Business Models

Fiber for Breakfast Week 26: Designing and Working in the Business Ecosystem—Moving Beyond Traditional Business Models

September 24, 2020

Working together has become more important than ever. Whether it’s helping out friends and family during difficult times or joining forces to come up with creative business solutions, teamwork really can make the dream work.

More companies are realizing the need for focused partnership and alliances to create a “partner ecosystem,” where instead of trying to solve all solutions themselves, they turn to likeminded companies. For those in the tech space, cultivating these relationships is key to enabling future developments.

At a recent Fiber for Breakfast live video series, two experts discussed what the business ecosystem is, and why connectivity is pivotal to making those relationships work.

“The pandemic has shined a light on the way business is conducted,” said Daryl Sullivan, senior director of ecosystems, alliances and development at Hitachi Americas. “I believe pre-pandemic, no one could believe that businesses would operate remotely. I believe how we go to work will be different—there will be much more remote working and in order to have that, you will need to provide the tools to help them do business.”

What is a business ecosystem model? Instead of companies relying internally on creating solutions for their customers, this way of thinking encourages smart collaboration between other businesses—including competitors. Where one business ends, they can bring in another to meet customer needs. Theresa Caragol, founder and CEO of AchieveUnite—a company that focuses on partnerships and alliances among companies—said businesses that are part of these ecosystems benefit by enabling better overall customer experience through quality outcomes.

As the customer evolves, so too should the model. With influencers, social media, and the evolution of marketplaces, the direct company-to-customer process isn’t as black and white. She said customers are less interested in a singular product—they want outcomes.

“There is a world I can remember where companies like Microsoft had all the power and the customer did what someone told them to do,” she said. “That’s no longer the case. The power has shifted to the customer and the partners who serve the customer. Depending on where you are in the hierarchy, how do you enable the vendor, the partner and the customer in that ecosystem?”

Sullivan pointed to Smart Cities as an example. It’s one thing to simply lay fiber in the ground and set up a network. But to effectively use it, there are several key partners who need to advise on how it would work best. Business owners should ask themselves: Are there other companies that can come in and work with that network to maximize its output?

“It’s about seeking out other entities and owners and working out a way we can work together to the benefit of both them and us,” he said. “To me, that’s what the ecosystem is all about. It’s not competition.”

Caragol said the first step to developing an ecosystem is understand who the players are. Who would be a good partner in a specific space? What opportunities does this operator/vendor/entity/etc. offer? From there moving toward smart partnerships with those groups.

“Ask where you’re sitting in the ecosystem and who those constituents are that can be your partners in whatever you’re trying to accomplish,” she said. “It immediately then goes to what they’re interested in and how you can help them. You need to have a really strong group of individuals that are aligning their interests.”

While partnerships are great, Sullivan said it’s okay to reject relationships that aren’t the right fit. At Hitachi Americas, there are plenty of companies that want to join the ecosystem, but don’t fit because of timing, a misalignment of objectives, stability, or a number of other things. What’s important, though, is to be open-minded about partnerships and vet companies and what they bring to the table—even if they’re untraditional.

“We find our ecosystem in many different places,” he said. “Some of them are young people who’ve developed a technology in their mom’s basement. They’ve got something valuable but they aren’t sure how to take advantage of it.”

In today’s world where connectivity is more important than ever, Caragol said that’s especially true in business.

“The days of one-sided vendor relationships are gone,” she said. “Collaborate and figure out where your value elements are and bring them together. This is where the magic happens—that’s where competitive advantage happens.”

Join us for the next Fiber for Breakfast live video series on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 10 am ET. The topic: A View from the Hill. Note: This event is closed to the press.