Understanding ecosystems in service design

Summary: Ecosystems exist around any business or solution. Uncovering and understanding ecosystems can increase the value-add returned to your business and experience strategy. Today, a holistic approach to design and strategy is required, considering the interconnectedness of different ecosystems that influence the overall customer experience. The “Triple Ecosystem” concept encompasses the interplay between three critical elements: Business Ecosystems, Service Ecosystems, and User Ecosystems. The point of ecosystem mapping is to dig into these hidden relationships to help you gain a more holistic view of your ecosystem opportunities.

Understanding the Triple Ecosystem: Business, Service, and User Ecosystems

First, ecosystems are typically used to describe the business ecosystem complete with “ecosystem entities”, flows, and relationships. For example, a vendor, an infrastructure resource, or a supplier, all feedback to your company with products, services, information, or potentially untapped knowledge. Exploring your ecosystem gives you a bigger-picture view of interdependencies and opportunities to connect or prioritize entities that may not be apparent. For example, Scania’s CEO stated that in trying to accelerate sustainability, they discovered unexpected alliances in their ecosystem. As a result, they were able to leverage and scale their sustainability transition more quickly. Scania looked (for the first time) at their customer’s customers and across other industries eg logistics, responsible sourcing, and connectivity 5G. Discovering these resources anew helped them accelerate with less pain and ‘reinventing the wheel’.

Second, a business ecosystem can contain players like suppliers, channels, and partners. However, there are two more ecosystems that we look for in Service Design to understand a systems thinking view more thoroughly: Users and the Service itself. The user ecosystem can contain other influencers or secondary users beyond the primary ‘target users’. User ecosystems reveal influencers that are not immediately apparent.

Third, the service ecosystem shows us how customer needs, and interactions flow across touchpoints and channels within that service. Finally, to address sustainability, we ought to understand all our ecosystems within the planetary ecosystem, which would give us 3+1 ecosystems to understand.

types of ecosystems in service design- planetary, service, users, business

Let’s expand the definition of the Triple Ecosystem concept, starting with the + 1 (the Planetary ecosystem)…

Planetary Ecosystems

In a business context, this refers to the resources available (usually through your business ecosystem) that respect planetary boundaries. In other words, sustainability goals and targets must align with product or service strategy decisions. The key to understanding your planetary ecosystem opportunities and obligations is to shed light on which resources are renewable, regenerative, and harm-reducing to planetary stress (as defined by UN Sustainable Develop Goals).

Business Ecosystems

Remember that a Business Ecosystem is at the core of every product or service. Business ecosystems cover the network of organizations, stakeholders, and partners collaborating to deliver value to the end customer. A well-developed business ecosystem can be a powerful catalyst for innovation, growth, and sustainability.

Service Ecosystems

Service Ecosystems in Service Design focus on the interactions and relationships generated between customers or employees through channels and touchpoints. The flow of value that occurs (or should occur) in a service is the focus of uncovering the service ecosystem. According to Jessie Grimes, “Like customer journey maps and service blueprints, a service ecosystem is a chronological view of a service experience, but it only concerns itself with phases rather than the precise order of events within them. Within the phases, the user’s needs are identified, alongside the service interactions and the touchpoints on which they take place”.

User Ecosystems

User Ecosystems refer to the broader network of users within a product or service, including primary users and secondary and tertiary users. These users play different roles but collectively impact the success of the offering. Understanding their influences and relationships is crucial for a well-rounded user experience.

In today’s business environments, mapping your Triple Ecosystems is vital to surfacing hidden entities that accelerate or add value to your UX. By surfacing the intricate relationships between these elements, you can improve collaboration between systems, services, and users.

Learn How to Conduct an Ecosystem Mapping…

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