Service ecosystems will shape future of industry

Posted on 1 Oct 2013 by The Manufacturer

A new study from the Cambridge Service Alliance urges businesses to develop better understanding of the interconnected ecosystem their company operates in or risk failure in the future.

The Cambridge Service Alliance says that manufacturers, and firms in other sectors could learn a lot from leading city management and infrastructure organisations in order to understand their own ecosystems better.

Read the Collaborate to Innovate report in full.

The Cambridge Service Alliance, which supports research into the development and implementation of complex service systems in commercial enterprises, also holds up Apple and Google as advanced ecosystem manipulators.

The ability of these two technology organisations to co-ordinate efforts to achieve a common purpose has enabled them to achieve “unprecedented levels of specialisation, scale and agility” says the Alliance.

The research, titled Collaborate to Innovate, shows that ecosystems are generally poorly understood by businesses however. Professor Andy Neely, director of the Cambridge Service Alliance, said: “The fact is that many executives would struggle to describe the full complexity of the ecosystem they inhabit or the players within it.

“But by understanding those ecosystems and their role in them, companies can create an advantage – they can generate new opportunities and seize others that might otherwise have eluded them.”

The Cambridge Service Alliance report, released this week as part of the group’s annual Service Week event series, used city ecosystems to demonstrate the complexity of ecosystems and the benefits that can be extracted when best practice ecosystem management is applied.

Vienna, London and Chicago were chosen as the research subjects.

The team discovered that these complex ecosystems can be broken down into four broad segments: resource providers, problem solvers, constructors and architects.

The new report highlights the roles of these four types of ecosystem players and moots ways in which these roles can be replicated or understood in a business context.

To exploit its position in an ecosystem the Cambridge Service Alliance recommends:


  • Identify who the players are and what their business models are.
  • Identify the goal that unites all the players.
  • Examine the business models of all the players and build the ecosystem business model.
  • Identify the ecosystem roles, such as who brings the resources, who solves the problems and who manages the process.
  • Determine what the rules of the ecosystem are and examine the relationships.
  • Establish how the money flows and where the power lies.
  • Identify the gaps and how to tackle them. This includes deciding whether you can provide a better solution to your part of the challenge, or to another part of the challenge, and establishing whether the solution is properly integrated. 

Professor Ivanka Visnjic Kastalli, who led the research project, said: “Companies are looking for fresh ideas on how to innovate their business models.

“Studying how their ecosystems function can give them access to a set of radically different and potentially disruptive ideas. The problem is companies know little about how to analyse the ecosystems in which they operate.”