Dreamforce and Digital Ecosystems

I had the good fortune to attend Dreamforce 2015 and it taught me a lot about Digital Ecosystems.  Dreamforce is the global Salesforce conference in San Francisco.  It was an amazing event attended by well over 150,000 people, with 1,600 seminars, appearances by the CEO of Microsoft, Stevie Wonder, Goldie Hawn and culminating in Dreamfest; featuring The Killers, Foo Fighters and lots to eat and drink.

The Digital Rollercoaster

Dreamforce took me on a journey; as I gained a clearer perspective on the next generation of information technology solutions, that is and will ever more quickly computerise the corporate enterprise and the SME.  While I marvelled at the possibilities of the technology, I returned to the UK with an even stronger awareness of the magnitude of this change.  I also had a deep sense of feeling that this movement to digital, (of which the giant Salesforce is only a small part), is going to have a massive, mind-blowing, emotional and jarring impact.  The changes driving this will shape business practices, culture, jobs, working practices and the identities of organisations in all sectors.  Also, Society as a whole and the day to day life of each of us.

I find the possibilities of digital to be incredibly exciting, but I have to admit to finding the extent of the future social and cultural impact, daunting.  It is going to require a huge mindset shift to enable the technology to be developed and integrated into day to day life.  As digital as we know it; SaaS, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) massively grows in the next ten years, we’re all in for a roller coaster of a ride.

By its very nature, the full impact of digital is difficult to visualise.  This is due to its virtual, rather than physical form.  It is however, where digital pervades the physical and where the two worlds collide, that digital ecosystems are formed. These are the building blocks of the digital enterprise, organisation or business.

According to Professor Mark Skilton, of Warwick Business School, digitisation changes the physical space, time, content, meaning, use of information, into a new kind of virtual space and the key to this is the understanding and definition of effective digital architectures and infrastructures and the act of architecting digital solutions is at the centre of the digital journey.

Even the most unobservant person can’t help noticing the massive impact digital is having on both vertical and horizontal value chains.  Disruption is being see in almost every sector.  For example: in the film media industry; many of the large film studios not only produce and distribute films but also operate their own cinemas.  The publishing industry has experienced horizontal integration.  Publishers have moved into academic, business and fiction as well as the production of e-books, webinars, podcasts and audio-books, that are accessed via their own marketplace portals, or through reseller portals and in on-line trading marketplaces, such as Amazon.

The Impact of Digital Ecosystems

Digital developments are quickly consolidating and being overtaken by the formation of Digital Ecosystems.  New business models and monetisation strategies are evolving, because of the increasing integration of technologies, such as broadband, cloud, software and platform as service offerings, mobile devices, AI and the IoT.  This growth has resulted in the emergence of technological ecosystems which, according to Professor Skilton, are a collection of value activities that may connect to many vertical and horizontal markets, customers, and providers that represent the members of the enterprise eco-systems. The value network represents the enterprise value system for creating and sharing, and creating co-benefits through its constituency of members that it connects with in its ecosystem.

As digital eco-systems quickly form and evolve, there has and will continue to be a proliferation of new monetisation strategies and methods.  The extent of which will depend on whether the ecosystem has an incremental or disruptive, step change impact – and the likelihood is that it will have.

Connected Car

The connected or digital car is a great example of an evolving digital ecosystem; where car manufacturers are attempting to automate the whole lifecycle of the car.  This includes concept creation and design, development, manufacture, distribution and sale.  It also includes the customer’s driving experience, its operation within Smart City ecosystems and even the car’s monitoring, maintenance and replacement.

The really fascinating thing is that the supply chain has responded and we are increasingly seeing capabilities such as:

  • driver assistance and in car display technologies concerned with performance and safety;
  • parking assist and driverless technologies;
  • in-car infotainment systems connecting the driver to the outside world and delivering relevant content and entertainment to each of the passengers, as well as links to mobile devices and applications, such as Assist-Mi (which offers comprehensive assistance to disabled users on the go, empowering them to greater independence when accessing everyday goods and services);
  • remote diagnostics, automatic spare part ordering, automated maintenance scheduling and reporting of vehicle health and performance;
  • marketing and sales which is using on-line self-design and ordering, as well as virtual reality to create the fully bespoke car.

The list of potential digital solutions continues to grow and as the digital, connected automotive ecosystems develop, so will the driving and car owning experience continue to improve.

What has all of this to do with Foo Fighters and Stevie Wonder?

While we usually think of Foo Fighters and Stevie Wonder as the superstars they no doubt are, but had they not learned to evolve and make the most of the continually developing Digital Music Ecosystems (on which they and their listeners depend), they would not have maintained their superstar status. They have learned co-presence and interdependency with their ecosystems.

What does this mean for us all?  Our challenge

I suggest the key challenge for all of us, (no matter what sector, size, scale or complexity of our organisation), is that we must be aware of and know the Digital Ecosystems of which we are a part.

They key is to understand how our digital enterprise enables experiences to generate co-benefits and worth, as defined by monetary, or other social value for all parties.  This is challenging and crucial, if we are to successfully monetise, grow and sustain our increasingly digital businesses.


About the Blogger

Simon Ormston is a Director of Apptitudaa Product Development Partner (PDP) of Salesforce.  Apptituda works with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to design, build and take to market applications which deliver value to the digital business ecosystems of its customers.


Key References 

Mark Skilton (2015), Building The Digital Enterprise, Palgrave MacMillan

Siemer and Associates (2013), Digital Music Report

Steve Barraclough (2015), Anite, (October 15) http://www.automotive-eetimes.com/content/testing-connected-car


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *