To achieve the goals of our Digital Nation Action Plan, Digital Scotland will evolve into a sophisticated ‘Platform Ecosystem’, a digital marketplace akin to Uber or Airbnb but for professional services, technology solutions and startup venture incubation and acceleration.
The underlying technology components required for this are there now, and so to move it on to this second, main stage of growth the required step is to format these components into structured business processes.
How to design these business processes is best articulated through this article by Simone Cicero, an expert in Platform Ecosystems.
Citing his work with Professor Bill Fischer of the Haier Group, Simone describes a model for building an ‘Entrepreneurial, Ecosystem Enabling Organization‘, exactly what I have intended for Digital Scotland.
This is based on a central principle of ‘micro-enterprise’ (ME) organizations forming themselves into a larger whole, a Virtual Enterprise (VE). It’s been a popular concept in Europe for some years, such as the ALIVE project for example, which produced this report describing the legal templates for constituting such an ecosystem.
These VEs are achieved through members each playing a distinct role – Simone describes ‘User MEs’ and ‘Node MEs’, and ALIVE ‘Order Brokers’, ‘Order Managers’, ‘In- and Outsourcing Manager’, ‘Network Coach’ and ‘Auditor’. Common building blocks are established such as Shared Services for functions like HR, IT and Finance.
Haier created a blockchain based, smart contract application, that all the stakeholders in the ecosystem can use to participate (by bidding for contracts), enabling a distributed, self-organizing system vs a centralized model.
Obviously as a networking community we already all do what we can to help others in their entrepreneurial journeys, but this is mostly informal and ad-hoc. At the other end of spectrum are government programs, entirely formal and with that also very specific and fixed in their purpose.
The goal of these entrepreneurial ecosystems lies in between the two, providing some degree of organized structure but through loosely coupled and dynamic collaborations, the blend of the fluid adaptability of informal networking with the structures of formal programs and resources, that can be directed towards key outcomes:
- Foster collaborations that create new market innovations and leverage assets in new ways.
- Enable micro-enterprises to co-bid RFP opportunities that they are too small to pursue directly.
- Support entrepreneurs through an ‘Idea to Venture’ startup life-cycle.
It can be seen within a broader context of the evolution of work itself, such as is discussed in this MIT article, the shift from linear to network-centric employment.
In terms of the organizational governance to enable this another concept to be considered is ‘Platform Co-ops‘, where the members themselves own and regulate the network.
I believe Scotland can build the world’s most entrepreneurial nation, in a ‘rising tide floats all boats’ form, growing a digital economy where all are welcome and able to participate in a way that brings prosperity to all Scots, and these types of ecosystems are the catalyst to achieve this.