In the natural world, scientists use the term “ecosystem” to describe the way living organisms interact with non-living components. The living organisms include plants, animals, and microbes. The non-living components include soil, water, and air. A good ecosystem is all about achieving a balance between what each organism needs to thrive and these non-living components. In the business world, “ecosystem” can describe processes, strategies, and applications that work in unison with each other, to achieve the same sense of balance that exists in nature.
When talking about a “digital ecosystem” or “application ecosystem,” the reference is to the concept of interrelated components that function as a system. This interrelationship enables a company to complete all the processes and functions of the business without having to leave that ecosystem. In the same way that pandas at a zoo do not have to leave their habitat in search of food, the digital ecosystem enables a business to remain sustainable as that business grows.
Is your company’s application ecosystem working to your advantage?
In a perfect scenario, an automated and integrated system enables software and systems to talk to each other and facilitate the processing of data and workflow.
The Application Digital Ecosystem
While a process-based ecosystem is not considered “integrated” from an application level, it can be a good place to start for a company just beginning the process of establishing an ecosystem. It allows the company to define the process flow for tasks and workflows. At some point, however, the company will want to move those processes from manual to automated, which will then be handled via applications.
The basis for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is an integrated architecture tying the systems and software together, which would be a digital ecosystem. Fortunately, even small businesses can automate and integrate processes on a smaller scale, without going into a full-fledged ERP system. This can be accomplished by establishing a digital workflow system that incorporates the various aspects of a business, thereby ensuring that all processes and workflows are covered.
Bringing It to the Business World
Anyone accessing a properly configured digital ecosystem has a full view of how things are processed. This would include task completions, what resource (staff) has accomplished the task, and where the task is at in the overall process. When using an integrated application ecosystem, the company will no longer have to manually processes tasks like billing, banking, invoicing, and fulfillment. The reason for this is that the properly configured digital ecosystem would be sending the necessary data from one application to the next application.
A cloud-based and scalable approach to application integration can be a vital asset for businesses of all sizes, allowing companies to grow and scale, and reducing administration costs to win back time for profit-generating activities.
It is likely that a company is already using applications on a daily basis. If so, the next step is to look at integration. What business processes can be brought together into one ecosystem? Integration is a matter of defining how applications can communicate with each other.
Next Steps Toward the Digital Ecosystem
Full integration of business applications and processes is easier said than done. However, readily-available cloud-based solutions will usually support a means to interface with one another, or through a common unifier, thus enabling enterprises of all sizes to achieve integration in a cost-effective manner.
Here are a few resources that can help better understand the process and tools in building digital ecosystems and integrating these within a business:
- Leveraging Cloud-Based Platforms
- Using apps for lead-generation and conversion optimization
- Social Integration in Your Digital Ecosystem
- Mashable: Leveraging Business Intelligence in the gaming industry
The idea is to shift the process from a manual to an integrated application process. This integration allows for the communication across and between business applications such as project management systems, human resources systems, financial systems, and proprietary business applications, to name a few examples. Through this integrated process, the objective is to push the data where it needs to go, at any given point in the process.
When thinking of digital ecosystems, the key is to realize that it is a system, in and of itself, and one that can be improved over time. By understanding it from an overview perspective, it helps to design the best system for the business. This is often called a “bird’s eye” view. Systems, like life, experience a continuous process improvement as they move forward. In the same way, what may start out as very manual process, may evolve into something that is more automated. This results in a more efficient way to do business.
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Deborah Anderson loves Los Angeles and is a technology guru. Her experience as a CTO in the Los Angeles financial industry has helped to hone her business strategy expertise. Pursuing her doctorate in psychology also completes this picture. You can keep up with her Los Angeles love @LuvLosAngeles. Connect with her directly on Google+.