The 3 Roles of the Ecosystem Strategy Map

Written by Julian Kawohl and Denis Krechting

June 5, 2020

The Ecosystem Strategy Map is our central tool to help business leaders intuitively navigate ecosystems with proper strategy and design. At its core, the Ecosystem Strategy Map consists of two dimensions: 10 Life Areas and 3 Roles. In our last article, we explained the 10 Life Areas that describe areas of human needs. This article is about the 3 Roles that describe the positions for companies within ecosystems. In the next article, we will show how to use the Ecosystem Strategy Map for your business growth.

Three roles within ecosystems

Compared to standalone companies, ecosystems and their participants can leverage greater efficiency through “the power of the many”. To realize this advantage, companies must understand their current position and future positioning options to participate in and/or build ecosystems. Using the Ecosystem-to-Human (E2H) perspective, ecosystem players can be categorized into three possible roles for companies depending on their relationship with the final customer: Orchestrators, Realizers, and Enablers.

Ecosystemizer 3 roles E2H
The 3 Roles in the context of Ecosystem-to-Human (E2H): Companies can hold three roles within ecosystems depending on their relationship with the final customer (human).

Orchestrators have direct contact with the final customer/end-user and take over the management of the customer interface. These companies pursue the goal of identifying the needs and requirements of the final customer and match them with companies that provide the right products and services. 

Realizers are the providers of actual products and services for the final customer/end-user.

Enablers act as supporters of Realizers, Orchestrators, or other Enablers, but don’t have direct contact with the final customer/end-user. The majority of companies are Enablers, as they are the foundational backbone of the economy. Suppliers in the classical value chain (i.e. producers/providers of raw materials, components, machines/infrastructure, or software) are part of this role.  

Companies can take on several roles at the same time with different offerings. For example, while Google is an Orchestrator with its video platform YouTube, it is also a Realizer with its translation service Google Translate, and an Enabler with Google Suite providing companies with cloud storage and office software.

The 3 Roles in detail

Orchestrator

Ecosystem Strategy Map Orchestrator Role

Realizer

Ecosystem Strategy Map Realizer Role

Enabler

Ecosystem Strategy Map Enabler Role

There are many different types of Enablers – characterized by their excellence in supporting other companies and hence, are a crucial part of any ecosystem. To better differentiate them and make it easier to identify potential partners, we categorize them into seven sub-groups that make up the Enabler-Stack:

  1. Resource companies
  2. Component manufacturer
  3. B2B software provider
  4. Manufacturing and engineering
  5. Infrastructure provider
  6. B2B service provider
  7. B2B platform provider

(We will soon publish more detailed descriptions about the Enabler-Stack.)

Conclusion

The 3 Roles, as the second dimension of the Ecosystem Strategy Map, make it easier to understand a company’s relationship with the final customer/end-user and partner companies in the whole ecosystem. 

In the next article, we will show you how to use the Ecosystem Strategy Map to grow your business and promote focused ecosystem discussions that help practitioners like you define the right ecosystem strategy.


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