We’ve written many posts about the importance of partnerships and partner programs, and specifically how your various partnerships – whether they’re strategic tech alliances, relationships with influencers, or agreements with VARs and resellers – affect the health of your ecosystem as a whole.
Today, however, I want to ask a slightly broader question: How do stakeholders affect an ecosystem? To answer that question, we’ll first take a look at who the main stakeholders are in a business ecosystem or digital platform. Then we’ll look at how each stakeholder impacts your ecosystem, and what you can do to ensure that your ecosystem thrives as a result.
When it comes to digital platforms, there are four main groups of stakeholders.
To answer the question, ‘How do stakeholders affect an ecosystem?’, we first need to understand who the main stakeholders are in an ecosystem or digital platform:
· Customers and end-users
· Employees within your organization involved in delivering the experience to both your end users and partners
· Company administrators and executives who fund and oversee the ecosystem and platform
· Ecosystem partners
Let’s take a look at how each of these stakeholder groups affects your ecosystem and what you can do to increase the positive impact of each.
Customers and end users
In his article, Why the ‘experience of things’ lies at the heart of digital transformation, analyst David Smith says that the experiences of your customers and end users are intrinsically linked to that of your employees, suppliers, partners, and ecosystem as a whole. If your customer experience is lacking, your entire ecosystem will suffer as a result.
Of course, the idea makes sense. After all, without your customers, you’d have no business or ecosystem at all. As such, they hold an immense amount of sway over your entire ecosystem. Part of ensuring that your ecosystem is a thriving one is ensuring that your customers are having a positive and transformational ‘ecosystem experience’.
“The ecosystem experience speaks to those interconnected and interlocking relationships that include but go beyond specific workflows, integrated tech platforms, and open APIs to drive innovative and shared seamless experiences,” says Smith. “The ecosystem experience is how multiple companies, brands, or partners collaborate to unlock greater experiences.”
The key take-away here is that customers and end users want to have a smooth, integrated experience across all channels, tools, and apps. To provide this kind of transformative experience, ecosystem leaders need to collaborate with partners to find new ways to provide frictionless customer experiences and flexible, highly-integrated customer journeys.
Delivering exceptional customer and partner experiences is only possible when the employees within your organization are highly motivated, well supported, and 100% capable of achieving those goals. That’s why your employees (especially those on the partnerships, sales, and development teams) count as important stakeholders that impact the success of your ecosystem.
Of course, training and upskilling are absolutely essential parts of enabling your employees to drive your ecosystem. But it should come as no surprise that getting the best out of your employees also requires providing them with a positive, transformational experience in much the same way that you focus on providing your customers and partners with great experiences.
Smith elaborates: “When it comes to employees, organizations have to transform digital workplace experiences for people with unified technology solutions that actually get down into the flow of how they work.” Think partner ecosystem platforms and tools and systems that enable seamless collaboration, instant data sharing, and clear communication.
It’s not just about thorough training and the right software, however. Smith adds that employee well-being needs to be considered and employees need to be seen as complete human beings deserving of balance and empathy.
Company administrators and executives
Buy-in from the C-suite is essential if your ecosystem is to receive the support and funding that it needs to grow and thrive. Future-minded SaaS companies are realizing that adopting a partner-centric mindset – from the very top brass all the way down to each employee on the ground – is necessary to truly benefit from the myriad opportunities offered by leveraging your wider ecosystem.
“(Benefiting from) Digital ecosystems that connect organizations along their value chains requires a strategic approach and dedicated governance,” says Deloitte. The same whitepaper adds that a thriving ecosystem “design requires strong shareholder support and an agile management at the same time.” In addition, that strategy needs to be implemented in an environment of trust, in order to discourage conflict and competition within your ecosystem and instead encourage co-operation and co-innovation.
Of course, no discussion of ecosystem stakeholders would be complete without a look at your ecosystem partners themselves. It’s prudent to remember that your customers and end-users tend to see your partners as brand ambassadors because they’re often in charge of delivering your product or service and frequently have more of a relationship with your end-users than you do. Decisions around who to partner with should never be taken lightly.
As the value of ecosystems becomes more and more obvious, partners, VARs, influencers, and resellers have become aware of how much power they hold. In fact, according to Accenture, 77% of partners surveyed say they have more choices of providers compared to three years ago. Providing a positive experience for your partners, and making your ecosystem as attractive to new recruits as possible, is absolutely essential to orchestrating a successful ecosystem. (Get ahead of the curve by preparing yourself to answer questions your potential partners will ask when choosing their tech partner.)
One powerful way to attract new partners is to quantify the opportunity available to your ecosystem. For example, according to IDC, “the ecosystem that supports HubSpot customers with add-on products and services is more than five times bigger than HubSpot today and is expected to be more than six times bigger by 2024”.
I hope that answers the question ‘How do stakeholders affect an ecosystem?’ and provides insight into how best to support and maintain your ecosystem via your stakeholders.