I recently asked ChatGPT to define “technology ecosystem.” The AI-powered content creation tool came back with the following:
"A technology ecosystem refers to an interconnected network of organizations, individuals and technologies that work together to create a specific technology market or industry. It encompasses all of the elements and components required to bring a technology product to market, including suppliers, distributors, customers, government regulations and other stakeholders. The technology ecosystem is constantly evolving and changing as new technologies emerge and disrupt existing markets."
Not bad, given that many of us, even with decades of experience in the tech industry, struggle with a clear definition of this concept.
My perspective, though arguably less cerebral than that provided above, is perhaps best illustrated by a race car driver. As business owners, chief revenue officers, or sales or marketing leaders, we are always thinking about our ideal customer profile (ICP). Not a bad thing … but we are doing ourselves, and our companies, an injustice if we stop there.
Let's look through that ICP lens for a moment, and "open the aperture" to see what influences exist around the customer profile. When the driver is speeding around the track, there is not much else to see. But that changes dramatically when the driver pulls into the pitstop.
Suddenly, the driver (your customer) is swarmed by a dozen or so crew members, all with a specific task toward one common goal—to get that driver back out on the track in a matter of seconds. When we view the ICP from a broader perspective, we see each of these crew members is working in a carefully orchestrated dance to support the driver.
What does this have to do with a technology ecosystem? Everything. Those crew members represent the various entities influencing your customer. Asking these simple questions of your customer helps bring into focus the ecosystem that surrounds them:
- What (else) do they buy? (Assuming they are already buying from you or your competitor)
- How do they buy?
- When do they buy?
- Why do they buy?
- Who influences their buying decision?
When you understand who else is influencing your customer, you have a more complete view of how they get their job done and how you fit into the larger picture. By understanding all of the influencers impacting your customer, you can increase your value to that customer, as well as unlock various other routes to market.
What do I mean by other routes to market?
Let’s step away from the race car analogy and focus on a real-life example. One of my clients is an independent software vendor that developed a Salesforce add-on that provides a unique solution to the age-old question: How can a sales team get more out of their pipeline – aka, close more deals?
When we looked at our ICP (in this case, sales managers), we quickly realized that there are various other influencers impacting our customer. These influencers took the shape of Salesforce consultants (comprised of more than 170,000 certified professionals), sales methodology experts and coaches, and other complementary sales software solutions. Each of these represents a new route to market via referral partnerships or strategic alliances, and a viable way to form strong relationships with other entities that are also targeting our ICP. Make sense?
Back to ChatGPT, defining a technology ecosystem as "an interconnected network of organizations, individuals and technologies," we can see that you, whether you are a SaaS leader, distribution partner or managed services provider, are but one component impacting your customer. Doesn’t it make sense to have a clear view of who else is impacting your customer? Especially given the fact that the "technology ecosystem is constantly evolving and changing as new technologies emerge and disrupt existing markets", ChatGPT warns.
Greg Plum is a director at ecosystem advisory firm PartnerReady and a member of CompTIA’s North American Community executive council.