Posted 13th August 2021
You may be forgiven for thinking that digital ecosystems are just another fad. Yet as the way we live and work moves increasingly online, digital ecosystems are slowly becoming a model by which the biggest and best companies are running their operations. So, whether you’re wondering how to implement a digital ecosystem in your business or just want to understand how they work, we’ve compiled a complete guide to all things digital ecosystem.
In its most basic sense, an ecosystem is simply defined as “a complex network or interconnected system”. Of course, we have plenty of examples of ecosystems in nature. Our environment relies on a series of balanced and interconnected systems and networks, whether that’s in a mighty forest or a garden pond.
As the old saying goes, there is no better designer than nature; perhaps that’s why businesses across the globe are following the examples of the natural worlds and creating their own ecosystems; this time with digital technology.
“A digital ecosystem is a distributed, adaptive, open socio-technical system with properties of self-organisation, scalability and sustainability inspired from natural ecosystems.”
Most businesses will already use some form of digital technology as part of their day-to-day operations- but they can often be siloed, lacking integration and still reliant on manual intervention. Going one step further to consider how these technologies interact and promote collaboration where possible is essential; interoperability can make or break a digital ecosystem.
“Interoperability is the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.”
As more and more businesses embrace digital technology and digital ecosystems, a new discipline is slowly emerging. DEM or digital ecosystem management focuses on maximising the potential of a digital ecosystem, as well as growing a business by leveraging the ecosystem’s capabilities. It also could involve performing any necessary maintenance or upgrades, especially as new technology evolves.
Whilst developing a true digital ecosystem is no piece of cake, the benefits it brings to your business are certainly worth the effort. Increasing digitalisation is somewhat inevitable in a post-coronavirus world, with businesses adapting to the demands of both the market and their own employees; and your business can either lead the charge or end up playing catch up. Creating a digital ecosystem brings adaptability, scalability, and self-sustainability to your digital processes; all of which are essential to remaining competitive in the modern business world.
One of the biggest benefits of a digital ecosystem is the ability to automate previously manual processes. Using connectors to improve collaboration between your applications and software ultimately means you spend less time manually navigating between your digital workspaces, saving you time and reducing errors that can otherwise occur with human interventions.
Companies that implement a digital ecosystem are finding considerable cost savings. Improving workflow and business operations is often a major goal of any company. As the saying goes, time is money and every second your employees spend on tasks that could be automated, is time your business could be using more efficiently. Eliminating time-consuming and inefficient steps in your processes ultimately means your employees have more time to spend on higher-value activities that help grow your business.
Just like a natural ecosystem, a digital ecosystem leaves room for evolution and adaptation. It’s important to remember that business IT is constantly evolving. With this in mind, you should never consider your digital ecosystem to be a fixed entity but rather a starting point for future improvements and advancements. Developing your business IT into a fully functioning ecosystem will ultimately make it easier to implement future changes to your processes.
Creating a digital ecosystem not only benefits your employees but also your customers. Improving collaboration and integration helps to increase your workflow efficiency, allowing you to deliver a first-class customer experience. Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Winning new business is one thing; keeping it depends on the service and overall experience you can provide. With a digital ecosystem ensuring your operations run efficiently, you’re ensuring your business is bringing extra value to your customers, making interacting with your company as straightforward as possible.
It’s safe to say that Amazon has been working on its digital ecosystem since the earlier 2000s, a strategy that has helped them to grow into one of the biggest companies in the world, as well as propelling owner Jeff Bezos to billionaire status. With a digital ecosystem driving both the businesses vast operations and customer-facing platform, Amazon can successfully drive growth and profitability, as well as offering same-day delivery to millions of customers across the world.
Perhaps an example closer to home, most of us will have this digital ecosystem downloaded on our smartphones. Banking apps can integrate all services and applications into one centralised place, including money transfers, depositing cheques and managing cards, making it easier for banking customers to keep track of their finances.
Whilst it may seem like digital ecosystems are only meant for big companies and large enterprises, SMEs can also benefit from digital ecosystems. True, it’s easier to invest in your digital processes if you have access to more resources… but that doesn’t mean it can’t be adopted by smaller businesses. Looking at your digital processes as an interconnected system and fostering collaboration and integration between applications can bring many advantages, as well as helping you to drive digitalisation across your business.
With the right approach and technology, your SME business can benefit from the increased efficiency, easy scalability and self-sufficiency, powering cost savings and growth, as well as helping you stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. So, if you’re a small or medium company looking to improve the way you work, don’t be put off a digital ecosystem model just because of your size; digital ecosystems are scalable and specific to each business.
Developing a digital ecosystem that truly works for your business, employees, and customers requires an honest and self-reflective assessment of how your business currently operates. A digital ecosystem is all about using collaboration and interaction to create value for your company, whether that’s improving productivity and collaboration, reducing errors, or saving time and money on inefficient manual processes. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start from scratch with your technology; part of creating a digital ecosystem is optimising existing software and processes to achieve this effect.
Here’s our 5 top tips to help you build a digital ecosystem.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing your digital revolution is changing the attitudes of your people leaders and employees. People are naturally resistant to change, especially if they perceive no issues with the current processes. Yet if we all stuck to the old saying ‘If it isn’t broke don’t fix it’, we’d probably still be using typewriters. Ensuring employees know the benefits of changing your processes can help inspire confidence and engagement in your project, as can properly training staff on the new ways of working and any new technology you’re introducing.
If you’re just starting out on your journey towards a digital ecosystem, finding the right technology is an absolute must. Across the UK, every business is at a different level of digital maturity- some have firmly embraced digitalisation, whilst others are still relying on good old-fashioned pen and paper. If that describes your business, then switching from paper-based processes to digital documents is the first step you should take. Once that’s done, assessing the inefficiencies or gaps in your processes should help you to decide where to go from there.
Intermediaries such as APIs and connectors allow you to maximise the integration capabilities of your existing software solutions, as well as allowing for greater automation throughout your processes. Both of these intermediaries can go a long way to promote a coherent digital ecosystem in your business by allowing previously siloed applications to interact. Communication and integration are vital for any successful digital ecosystem; something which API integration can help you achieve.
One of the biggest benefits of creating a functional digital ecosystem is the ability to add greater automation into your processes, cutting out inefficient manual steps and saving your employees time. Whilst the right digital ecosystem can improve your business’s efficiency, an unhealthy ecosystem can have the opposite effect; this includes a system that still requires additional manual intervention to be functional. With your applications communicating and sharing information, adding simple automation to your processes becomes a lot easier.
As with most things in business, allowing data to guide decision-making is a smart strategy. Keeping your processes digital allows you to centralise data, ensuring your business can make better use of information gathered on processes, transactions, customers and so much more. Armed with this knowledge, you can better tailor the components of your digital ecosystem to the needs of both your employees and customers, ensuring you can constantly optimise and improve the way you work.
It’s never been more important that your business starts planning for its digital future. We also recognise that implementing digital processes can be a challenge for some businesses. That’s why we strive to make adopting digital technologies as easy, and accessible, as possible. Whatever your level of digital maturity, there’s something to suit everyone on the E-Sign platform. Whether you’re looking for another element to add to your digital ecosystem or are just starting out on your digital journey, our range of integrated solutions can help you achieve the efficiency and optimisation you’re looking for, including:
Our 100% secure and legally binding electronic signature can help your business embrace digital documents and move away from paper-based processes. Keeping your business documents digital is a big step towards achieving true digitalisation and moving one step closer to creating your own digital ecosystem.
Create, e-sign and send documents in just a few clicks, without having to print, scan and post hard copies to your clients. This not only saves you time by increasing operational efficiency but can also save your business money, eliminating spending on paper, printing ink, stationery supplies and postage costs- a truly win-win situation for your business.
For many businesses, verifying the identity of their clients is vital to remaining compliant with legislation- think Know Your Customer or Customer Due Diligence. This can often involve a whole different set of paperwork that your employees have to fill in. With the ability to enable an advanced ID checker, we’ve found a way to combine these two separate steps into one simplified transaction.
Indeed, before your clients can access your document, they’ll first have to provide some personal information and passport/driver’s licence details. This will be then screened against our global database to instantly verify the identity of your client, ensuring only the right people can view your documents.
Adding a payment gateway into the document management platform enables you to integrate two usually separate processes into one, for a streamlined, easier way to do business. After connecting your payment gateway to E-Sign’s document management platform, you can easily add a payment request via our Payment Tags. When your signer accesses and e-signs your document, they can also instantly transfer the payment, so you receive money straight into your chosen account.
This makes life easier for your clients, enabling them to pay for your goods and services straight away, without any additional hassle to themselves. Collecting payments instantly also brings many benefits for your business such as improved cash flow and better financial modelling.
For businesses looking to create a true digital ecosystem, we know what an important role APIs can play. That’s why we’ve added API integration capabilities into our platform. An API allows your applications to interact with one another, specifying how these platforms and workspaces can and should collaborate. APIs ultimately integrate a number of different application functions into one streamlined ecosystem, making your business processes more efficient and user-friendly for your employees.
This gives your team the freedom to tailor our electronic signature and document management platform to the exact needs of your business and any pre-existing software you use. With an API on your side, you can achieve the integration and collaboration you’re looking for.
With clients and businesses seeking maximum operational efficiency through streamlined workflows and joined up processes, platforms and applications are becoming increasingly conscious of this need for effective collaboration and are offering connectors to extend the integration capabilities of their tech. These built-in options act as an API, connecting platforms and applications with little to no effort; all the technical stuff is contained within the connector.
Offering an easier path to integration, connectors can play a vital role in developing your digital ecosystem, creating a wrapper around your existing software solutions and joining up isolated processes to create a truly agile ecosystem that lends itself to streamlined workflows and greater automation.
If so, why not start it with E-Sign? Our digital platform has everything you need to kickstart your digital transformation, as well as the integration capabilities to slot right into an existing system. Still not convinced? Try our electronic signature and platform for free with our 14-day free trial.
E-Sign is a leading provider of digital transaction management solutions, supplying professional services including Electronic Signatures, Web Forms, ID Checker, Verification Tools, Personalised Emails, API and Payment Processing to businesses of all sizes across the UK.
To find out more about our E-Sign solutions and how they could transform your business, get in touch with us today.