When Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017, the general public’s collective response was a combination of surprise and curiosity, as many consumers were left wondering how Amazon arrived at the decision to enter another entirely new industry. The question was not only a valid one, but its answer gives chief information officers a blueprint for helping their organizations find their next revenue driver -- while making their existing business processes more efficient. The key is the B2B ecosystem.
Put simply, Amazon analyzed patterns in user data generated by its entire global ecosystem of customers, partners, suppliers and third-party systems and determined that all the data across its ecosystem was telling Amazon that its customers want to buy groceries from them. Figuring out which supermarket to buy was the easy part, and soon, Amazon had created a brand-new revenue stream by analyzing and acting upon the data flowing across its ecosystem.
Of course, 99% of organizations don’t have Amazon’s resources, capital or ability to scale. However, every enterprise not only operates within ecosystems, but oversees their own ecosystem. Hidden inside that ecosystem is that enterprise’s next revenue driver, and opportunistic CIOs can find it by using data to identify business-impacting trends.
From a B2B perspective
While this Amazon example is consumer-focused, this ecosystem-centric approach is just as applicable in more traditional B2B scenarios relevant to IT leaders -- including using B2B technologies to manage partner relationships in new ways.
A typical B2B ecosystem consists of the enterprise itself and its partners, customers, suppliers, system integrators and various contractors and vendors. The ecosystem also includes all the B2B and B2C technologies used by the enterprise and its third parties, including ERP, CRM and HCM systems, and customer-facing applications.
Even if an enterprise is a fraction of the size of Amazon, its ecosystem is constantly collaborating across these same types of systems -- and crucially, producing data. It’s the patterns and trends associated with this data that are laced with the invaluable, business-altering insights CIOs crave.
Visibility across the ecosystem
The success of this ecosystem-centric approach to revenue generation hinges on an enterprise’s ability to gain “outside-in” visibility into the critical end-to-end business processes (like order-to-cash or plan-to-produce) taking place across the entire ecosystem. That visibility will enable the enterprise’s IT leaders to understand how critical trading-partner relationships are performing, and more importantly, how they can be improved.
By improving these trading-partner relationships, enterprises can connect with their partners (as well as customers, apps, devices, etc.) more quickly, integrate applications more seamlessly than before, and analyze and act upon data in real-time. Simply put, by leveraging their existing or new business relationships in new ways, enterprises can do more rapidly. This not only drives additional revenue, but it also creates value that helps expand the overall ecosystem.
It’s worth noting that the ecosystem-centric approach isn’t only about CIOs finding the efficiencies that leads to new revenue streams, it's also about finding those specific nooks and corners that represent a common set of problems that an enterprise’s business partners and customers have. When an enterprise can identify those problems, it can address them in meaningful, value-driven ways, thus being rewarded with a new (possibly substantive) source of revenue.
Ultimately, the greater visibility and speed gained by enterprises taking the ecosystem approach to business relationships and insights helps these enterprises, quite literally, follow the money flow to discover revenue-generating opportunities that might have been previously overlooked.
While it may sound implausible, CIOs -- no matter the size of their enterprise -- can replicate Amazon’s strategy for unearthing new revenue drivers. Rather than attempting to mimic Amazon’s scale, it’s simply a case of CIOs knowing where to look, what to look for, and following the many clues the ecosystem data is subtly leaving for you to find.
A former Gartner analyst and current director of market strategy for Cleo, Frank Kenney is widely credited as the creator of the term managed file transfer (MFT), and was the first to write about and discuss its modern architecture, platform, and use cases. Previously, Kenney served more than 10 years as a research director at Gartner, where he defined the MFT, B2B gateway, SOA governance, and cloud service brokerage markets. Before joining Cleo, he held leadership roles in product marketing, aligning vision and strategy with integration products, services, and messaging.