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A Playbook for Winning the Ecosystem Game

Interconnected value chains, digital platforms, and multi-product ecosystems are all becoming increasingly common, raising the question of whether, when, and how firms should get involved.

Many firms naturally aspire to the leader or “orchestrator” of an ecosystem, but overrate their own skills, infrastructure, or ability to attract partners and customers. As a result, they wind up building “ego-systems” that fail to deliver value. It may be better to participate as a partner—possibly in several ecosystems at once, resulting in a balanced portfolio rather than an “all-in” bet.

The key to success with ecosystems is to know your own strengths, set clear goals, and understand how ecosystems can help you achieve them, based on the resources you own or can use. In this paper, we describe a new framework that helps firms consider which ecosystems to get involved in and how, taking into account all the costs, time, effort, and risks.

Our framework helps firms think both inside-out (how to use existing strengths and resources) and outside-in (how to serve customers’ desires and unmet needs). By doing so, they can build a genuine solution and avoid creating a product/service bundle that has limited or niche appeal.

Multi-actor ecosystems offer opportunities to leverage other firms’ resources to enhance bundles or reach new customer groups. To succeed in them, orchestrators and partners must craft a “double value proposition” that offers value to both customers and fellow participants.

As digital technology, deregulation, and sector convergence drive rapid and far- reaching changes in the business environment, our playbook will help firms make the right choices about where and how to play the ecosystem game.

Read the full paper here.

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