Tr3DENT_Digital Ecosystem Curator Role

The emerging role of the digital ecosystem curator

By Kevin McCaffrey, CEO & Founder, Tr3Dent

It’s no secret that the future of business, what is commonly called the 4th Industrial Revolution, is centered around the successful development of platform-based business models and digital ecosystems.

What is a digital ecosystem?

A digital ecosystem, as defined by Gartner “is an interdependent group of enterprises, people and/or things that share standardized digital platforms for a mutually beneficial purpose (such as commercial gain, innovation or common interest).“

Gartner primary research has revealed that 79% of top-performing digital organizations participate in a digital ecosystem vs. 49% of average performers. Source:  Gartner’s 2017 CIO Agenda Report

Today’s digital ecosystems represent $4 trillion

In fact, as of today, 50% of the world’s top 30 brands and 70% of the world’s $1B unicorn start-ups achieved their success by building flexible digital platforms and leveraging complex digital ecosystems to grow their businesses.

These organizations, companies like Uber, AirBNB, Amazon, Alibaba and Google have achieved exponential growth by being expert at managing digital ecosystems.  In fact, collectively, the leading 170 digital ecosystem managers are worth more than $4 trillion dollars and continue to grow! Source:  Digital Ecosystem Management: The New Way to Grow, Bearing Point

So, who’s managing these ecosystems?  Or who should be?

Enter the role of the digital ecosystem curator.

From Merriam -Webster dictionary:

noun  cu·ra·tor \ˈkyu̇r-ˌā-tər, kyu̇-ˈrā-, ˈkyu̇r-ə-\

: one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially:  one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other places of exhibit

While the term curator has traditionally been used to describe the role of someone tasked with caring for a collection, often of art in a museum or animals in a zoo, it aptly describes the role of the individual(s) tasked with ensuring the successful delivery of value from a digital ecosystem.

The term curator is preferred to supervisor, manager or even director as it more accurately reflects the fact that someone tasked with ensuring that a digital ecosystem serves it purpose does not “own” or have direct financial influence or control over most of the participants and resources in the ecosystem.  This is like the role of a curator in a museum who is responsible for a collection that is only partially owned by the museum with most pieces on loan from other organizations or individuals.

What does a digital ecosystem curator do?

A digital ecosystem curator must have the right combination of skills and expertise to fulfill the following critical tasks.

#1.  Engage, build and manage partners

The curator of a digital ecosystem will absolutely have to be adept at engaging partners, companies, organization and individuals involved in the digital ecosystem.  Once engaged, the ecosystem curator must be skilled at structuring the right agreements and putting the right processes and communication in place to manage those partnerships.

Some of the keys to success in building and maintaining successful partnerships within a digital ecosystem include the following:

  1. Clearly defined roles. It’s critical that each participant in the digital ecosystem understand his role and the role of other participants. Therefore, the curator must be able to effectively represent and sponsor all roles.
  2. Well understood metrics. All participants in a digital ecosystem need to embrace the performance metrics by which they and the ecosystem overall will be assessed. It is the role of the ecosystem curator to ensure such metrics exist and are understood.
  3. Efficient interoperability. The use of Open APIs and industry standards for data, processes, and applications will ensure the longevity of the ecosystem and ease of both entry and exit by various partners.
  4. Common vision. There should be a very clear and shared vision for how the stakeholders in a digital ecosystem will come together to deliver value whether that value is commercial gain, innovation or a common interest.

#2.  Leverage data to succeed

In any digital ecosystem, there is a tremendous amount of data generated – both transactional and operational. Milton Keynes, one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, put together a “smart” initiative to help minimize negative impacts created by their unprecedented growth and engage citizens in the process of improving their quality of life.

Alan Fletcher, Chief Liaison Office of that initiative describes the role of the data curator as “exposing exactly the right things that people can make sense of and use.” The successful digital ecosystem curator must be able to do the following with massive amounts of data from a variety of internal and external sources:

  1. Organize. To make sense of the data generated in a digital ecosystem it must first be organized. Many times, the data will come from a huge variety of systems and applications and not everyone will utilize the same taxonomy or glossary of terms.  The digital ecosystem curator must assess which pieces of information and data need to be common, collected and stored.  A savvy digital ecosystem curator will strive for adoption and implementation of industry standards where available and will insist on the use of a consistent data architecture to enable organized and intelligent data.
  2. Analyze. Strong digital ecosystem curators will have exceptional analytic skills and experience analyzing or interpreting large data sets. A successful digital ecosystem curator will possess the analytics skills necessary to make sense of complex data sets and understand where the data is telling them something important and where it has the potential to provide input to performance improvements.
  3. Identify. In today’s economy, it’s not enough to simply analyze the data and isolate trends, predictors, and other performance indicators. The astute digital ecosystem curator will also have to identify where the data is illustrating an opportunity or issuing a warning that has a direct correlation to the business value or innovation created by the ecosystem. To take things a step further, an outstanding digital ecosystem curator may also be able to identify the additional business value to be generated or potential business models to be built.
  4. Articulate. Once identified, the next task the digital ecosystem curator faces is the task of articulating his or her findings to all the ecosystem stakeholders, which remember, can be from a huge variety of companies, organizations, geographies and industries. The digital ecosystem curator must be an exemplary communicator.
  5. Action. Let’s imagine our curator has organized her data, analyzed it, identified a tremendous opportunity and articulated it clearly to all stakeholders. She now has to action that opportunity.  She needs to inspire and lead the ecosystem and provide a clear path of execution for all stakeholders to follow.

#3.  Ensure continued focus on business value

The third thing a digital ecosystem curator must be able to do is arguably the most important as well. The curator must help all stakeholders maintain focus and continually prioritize the business value they are delivering. Inside any complex business model, it’s very easy for participants to get distracted by operational challenges, discrepancies in data, technology conflicts, cultural differences and more. The digital ecosystem curator will have the ability to help the entire ecosystem maintain their focus and work through challenges as they arise.

  1. Keep objectives in the foreground. It is the digital ecosystem curator’s role to keep the business objectives and desired outcomes at the forefront of any discussion among stakeholders. Every stakeholder should be continually reminded why the ecosystem has been created and who will benefit. Having constant reminders of the target and goals will help keep the team focused.
  2. Clear, concise, easily found strategy. The strategy, the “who, what, where, when, why” of the business model supported by the digital ecosystem, should be documented in a clear and easy to understand format and shared with all stakeholders.
  3. Measurable. The age-old adage “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” applies here as well. The digital ecosystem curator must identify the metrics that will be used to measure the performance of the service(s) delivered by the ecosystem and perhaps the performance of distinct stakeholders as well.

It is also important to note that the digital ecosystem curator will need to be intimately familiar with the business process employed by the digital service.  As an example, the curator of a smart city ecosystem might be an assistant city manager. The curator of a digital ecosystem established to provide a new B2B digital service might come from a senior role in operations, ERP or supply chain management.

Who will need a digital ecosystem curator?

It is our belief that anyone who designs, develops, markets or delivers digital services and relies on the success of a digital ecosystem to do so can benefit from hiring or appointing a digital ecosystem curator.

We’ve held several discussions on the topic with Peter A. Taglia, Digital Transformation Analyst from Software Strategy Services, LLC and he states, “Enterprises and DSPs exploring smart cities with smart vehicles, buildings, and utilities or any enterprise that offers a digital service could significantly progress their digital strategy by hiring an ecosystem curator who is expert in the concepts laid out in this article.”

Tools for the digital ecosystem curator

As the role of digital ecosystem curator evolves, so do the tools and techniques used to fulfill the role. Tr3Dent has introduced its Transformation Accelerator which provides the digital ecosystem curator with a highly collaborative platform he or she can use to create a single source of truth accessible by all stakeholders for any business model and its corresponding ecosystem.

Transformation Accelerator software can be accessed by users through Tr3Dent’s secure cloud or hosted on a private cloud. The platform can also be customized and re-branded for companies or organizations and used internally or externally.

The Transformation Accelerator platform has everything a digital ecosystem curator needs to communicate and collaborate with all stakeholders including the overarching business strategy, stakeholder roles and a clear view of the ecosystem. Having all these elements stored in a shared repository and easily accessible by all ensures there is a well understood and common vision.

This article includes discussion of just a few of the features and benefits of the Transformation Accelerator platform, a unique enterprise software program built to enable complex digital ecosystems and ensure stakeholder collaboration. Sign up to see a demo or start a 30-day trial here.

Do you have someone assigned to the role of digital ecosystem curator?  Do you have other skills or tasks you believe are important for the role?  Comment here or contact me directly at