Traditional company-specific consumer platforms are evolving into digital ecosystems. Enterprise supply chains and partner ecosystems will likewise transform into digital supply networks. This means that enterprises must place high importance on reliability and on their ability to interoperate within ecosystems, lest "Yelp for the Enterprise" destroy their reputation.

The evolution of ratings in a consumer ecosystem

Harley Davidson’s website has a rating system that lets consumers rate its motorcycle parts. But to read the ratings, you first have to go to their website. In contrast, Yelp, Google, and others provide rating mechanisms better suited to the digital economy: they let consumers rate products across multiple vendors and, more importantly, rate the vendors themselves.

However, to be included in that rating system, you need to participate in the ecosystem. Today, because Harley Davidson is so dominant in its market, it can afford to rely on its own rating system. A newer competitor such as Indian Motorcycles, however, would benefit from partnering with other cruiser manufacturers—such as Victory, Star, Triumph, Honda, Yamaha, and even tiny Moto Guzzi—in an industry-wide rating system that would draw a large number of potential customers. And, if that were successful enough, Harley Davidson would have to join or watch its potential customer base decline.

It is easy to imagine such a consumer-based rating system evolving into a partner ecosystem with product comparisons, specifications, links to downloads, technical tips and how-to’s, discussion forums, and more—but for the enterprise. In such an ecosystem, would it make more business sense, for instance, for Moto Guzzi to license a particular engine component from Indian than to manufacture its own? How about licensing an application that provides exceptionally useful assembly-line analytics from Harley Davidson?

Linear supply chains transform into digital supply networks

Traditional industrial supply chains were linear, and in addition to the basic requirements of cost and availability, they also prized dependability and trust, both of which were nurtured by personal relationships.

As the digital economy grows increasingly global and dynamic, businesses will rely less on established relationships with linear supply chains and more on dynamic networks of suppliers:

As companies look to harness the power of DSNs, new technology is becoming available that enables companies to transform their operations to better manage holistic decision making through improved end-to-end connectivity and transparency, always-on agility and a focus on systemic “Intelligence Augmentation” to drive better decisions.

Stephen Laapper, Manufacturing Business Technology

Digital transformation is removing traditional barriers between industries. If an enterprise that specializes in large construction projects has a management system that can make it easier to optimize a pharmaceutical company’s projects, the cloud economy could make a crossover not only feasible, but profitable.

More than ever before, enterprises have to make build-versus-buy decisions, they have to select their partners more quickly, and they have to remain on the lookout for better partnerships. Conversely, they have to be better, more-agile partners themselves, so they become appealing to other enterprises in the ecosystem. This means that in addition to cost and capability, they have to place high importance on reliability and on their ability to interoperate within that ecosystem, lest "Yelp for the Enterprise" destroy their reputation.

For an example of this type of partner ecosystem, see John Fornehed’s blog, “Can the networked society and IOT make better wine?

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About the photograph

I took this picture of my 2002 Harley Davidson Softail Deuce in the winter of 2004, in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.


Digital Industrialization Cloud Infrastructure

Rick Ramsey

I started my high tech training as an avionics technician in the US Air Force. While studying Economics at UC Berkeley, I wrote reference manuals and developer guides for two artificial intelligence languages, ART and SYNTEL. At Sun Microsystems I wrote about hardware, software, and toolkits for developers and sysadmins, and published “All About Administering NIS+.” I served as information architect before joining BigAdmin, which morphed into the Systems Community at Oracle. I left Oracle in May of 2015, and now write for Ericsson.

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