Friday, 26 September 2014

Do you understand your Digital Ecosystem?

The Importance of the Digital Ecosystem

The Digital Ecosystem in the Balanced Value Impact Model (illustrated by Alice Maggs)
An ecosystem is a set of interdependent relationships among the resources, technologies, organisation hosting, creators and consumers. These must be mapped and described to clearly enunciate the ecosystem of the digital resource. Without understanding the digital ecosystem it is hard to contemplate the full capabilities of the digital resource and its relationship to the stakeholders.

In the Balanced Value Impact Model a digital resource is scoped against a set of parameters. These exist within an ecosystem - a set of interdependent relationships among the resources, technologies, organisation hosting, creators and consumers. The BVI Model provides an opportunity to map and describe the ecosystem of the digital resource.

Parameters that help scope what a digital resource is include:
  • There is a defined resource that is made up of a describable, cohesive set of primary and secondary materials, services, products and activities.
  • The resource is accessed primarily through a digital platform (web, mobile, or other means).
  • The nature of the content within the resource is digital in nature – either achieved through digitization or as born digital content.
  • There is a definable group of users that the resource is intended to reach by digital means.
  • The resource does not have to stand alone, it could be part of a wider set of activities, products, or services.
The BVI Model provides a framework with space to include a summary of the digital ecosystem. Within the Framework this is merely a reminder of key aspects of the ecosystem. Behind this must be a broader and deeper set of information to establish the baseline of the technology in question. Understanding the digital ecosystem is important strategic information that is vital to clear planning

Questions to be answered in establishing an ecosystem of the digital resource include:
  • What is the digital resource or service/product to be the focus of the assessment?
  • What does the digital resource do, how does it behave?
  • What does the digital resource explicitly not do?
  • Via what platforms (web, mobile, other) is the digital resource primarily experienced by the stakeholders?
  • What types and extent of content does it carry? What is the lifecycle of the content contained, is it ephemeral, dynamic, static, etc.?
  • What sort of underlying infrastructure and architectures is it operating within?
  • How does this digital resource relate to other digital resources or services? What dependencies and technical connections are required to make the resource function?
  • What are the minimum technical specifications required by the user to experience the digital resource as intended by its creators?
  • Who hosts the digital resource? Is the organisation/service that hosts the resource the same as that which created it?
  • Who are the expected users of the digital resource?
  • Does the user have to pay/subscribe or otherwise trade (personal information, advertising, etc) to gain access to the resource?
  • Are there any legal or legislative frameworks to be considered, including:
    • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR),
    • Digital Rights Management (DRM),
    • issues of managing personal data,
    • contractual constraints or obligations, and/or
    • legislative frameworks of differing geographic regions.
  • How is the digital resource intended to sustain itself and grow in the future?
In some cases this task will be very short and simple, but as the complexity of the ecosystem and its relationships to stakeholders grows, the task of describing it such that it aids decision making will grow more complex.

The significant challenge is posed: can a detailed understanding of the ecosystem in which a digital resource exists be described such that effective strategic intervention is measurable and capable of responding to changes in that ecosystem? In short, if we do not understand the jungle in which our resources exist are we not more prone to missing the luscious fruit in the canopy or the lurking unexpected predator or natural disaster?

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