ERP suppliers need swarm intelligence in an ecosystem
In the dynamic competitive arena of the future, global markets will no longer prosper with fixed and slow-moving networking structures. Companies that design and deliver digital services will no longer be able to go it alone! In an ecosystem, ERP project suppliers will need swarm intelligence to help them survive global competition.
A supplier is an entity that --- consciously or not – decides whether a customer creating digital services can benefit from the potential of ecosystems and ecosystem thinking. In a business ecosystem, it is essential for suppliers in particular to form a swarm, flock or hive.
When I talk about flocks, I mean clusters that form around common points of interest based on suppliers’ expertise and their autonomous choices. In the context of digital business, suppliers’ shared interests should center on the competitiveness of their customers’ digital business or even the success of an ongoing project. Ensuring customer success is what compels these entities to form a swarm.
Swarm intelligence means collective conduct in which an individual or interaction between individuals forms intelligent behaviors. Examples of swarm intelligence systems in nature include ant colonies, beehives and the behavior of birds, crickets, fish and many mammals in flocks and herds. In an ERP suppliers’ ecosystem, a swarm is formed while driving a project to completion. Want it or not. And who wouldn’t want it?
ERP project suppliers benefit from strength in numbers
Flocks, swarms or hives have the power of numbers and can survive lengthy and demanding journeys better together than alone. And what can be more challenging than a digital project? A flock of suppliers will also survive “enemy attacks” better – in other words, they will survive in competition. The change required is largely dependent on suppliers’ transparency, courage and daring. In the future, it will no longer be possible to beat the competition by way of just a few lengthy projects with well-known partners. An ERP project supplier is not alone in an ecosystem and its partners may also be selected by its customers.
It’s useful for swarm members to know each other and for some kind of hierarchy to exist so that they can avoid different kinds of conflict. Occasionally, from a supplier’s perspective, its position in the hierarchy may not always be the preferred one. But we can’t all be at the top of the food chain at the same time. On the other hand, all business players, whether customer or supplier will be able to operate simultaneously in several different ecosystems and hives. So we should also accept that our positions and functions in them may vary.
We should also remember that no system can form or exist without sufficient mass. Once the mass is large enough, an individual supplier can base its entire revenue on a small fraction of a massive aggregate. In a large enough ecosystem, you can be quite successful even if your position is essentially the same as a small bird on the back of a hippopotamus or a small fish gliding in the wake of a whale.
Swarm intelligence or not?
It is said that in the future, value chains will fragment – it will require the efforts of several players to ensure their formation, realization of their true benefits and achievement of their objectives. In defining value chains and paths, organizations will not be allowed to restrict activity. We must truly dare to be and see ourselves as part of an ecosystem. So get involved!
Group skills as well as an ERP suppliers’ work in an ecosystem will define collective expertise and how it is exploited. Unlike animal swarms, it is good for human hives in business to have different suppliers, different types of representatives and varied capabilities. It is a requirement for the existence of an intelligent flock. Players in an ecosystem must specialize. In addition, we cannot assume that the hive is automatically intelligent, rather it is important to remember that the formation of flocks can also lead to absurdity.
Hive thinking must become a widely- desired and accepted form of cooperation to facilitate ecosystems as well as the new forms of cooperation and exploitation of potential that they offer. Those who are able to transform will remain competitive.
Aino-Maija Vaskelainen currently works in the world of quality assurance. In 2004, she accidently got lost working with ERP systems and has worn the ERP brand ever since. She has worked on two major ERP projects with two stock-listed Finnish companies, as well as other development projects that came in their wake. She is still inspired and excited by the subject. Aino-Maija is always ready to share her past experiences as well as her subsequent insights about how things could have been done differently.