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Business Ecosystem Modeling and Visualization

Last modified Oct 7, 2018

Undoubtedly, companies increasingly recognize the relevance of their complex business environment in which they develop, produce and distribute their services and products. This environment is often referred to as business ecosystem. Addressing the associated challenges and opportunities is a reality for most companies (Peltoniemi and Vuori 2004). The growing relevance of business ecosystems substantiates through the perceived shift of the competitive environment from single companies and their supply chains towards ecosystems competing against each other (Bosch 2016).

Thereby, a business ecosystem extends the classic supply chain, consisting of suppliers and customer, by also including other entities within the business environment of the enterprise. We define business ecosystems as the holistic environment of a company covering current and potential future business partners, customers, suppliers, competitors, regulatory institutions, and innovative start-ups. It exhibits a high dynamic as continuously entities enter and leave the ecosystem. Peltoniemi and Vuori (2004) provide a comprehensive definition of business ecosystems. Analogously to the metaphor of a biological ecosystem, which served as a basis for the initial definition of business ecosystems (Moore 1997), the economic success of an enterprise can therefore depend on the health and ability to evolve their business ecosystem. The role of the enterprise within its ecosystem can range from a keystone to a niche player, with varying level of influence on the overall health of the ecosystem (Iansiti and Levien 2004).

Due to the influence on the economic success of the enterprise and the dynamic characteristics, enterprises increasingly realize the need to analyse their business ecosystem continuously, in order to identify and address changes within their ecosystem (Basole et al. 2016), adapt own business activities accordingly and to “learn what makes the environment tick” (Porter 1979).

Visualizations of business ecosystems have proven to support decision makers in their ecosystem related tasks (Basole et al. 2016; Huhtamaki and Rubens 2016, Evans and Basole 2016). Visualizing data can help to derive value from ecosystem data, e.g., in order to spot anomalies, identify keystone and niche players of the ecosystem, or recognize change patterns and trends (Vartak et al. 2016).

At our chair, we are developing a web-based application that will help companies to model and visualize their business ecosystem centrally and collaboratively by incorporating crowd-sourced data. To this end, we are currently recording the challenges, requirements and the current state of practice, in particular from the perspective of the employees who are active in this area. At the same time, we have already developed a prototype that exemplifies the ecosystem of our research project LLCM 

We conducted an online survey in 2017 to determine the state-of-the-practice in enterprises in analyzing enterprises' business ecosystems. You can find the questionnaire here.

In a next step, we will evaluate the visualizations used and their interactive features for the fulfilment of ecosystem-specific questions.

If you are interested in a collaboration in this research project, please contact Anne Faber (


Peltoniemi M., and Vuori, E. 2004. “Business ecosystem as the new approach to complex adaptive business environments,” Proceedings of eBusiness Research Forum, pp 267–281. 
Bosch, J. 2016 “Speed, Data, and Ecosystems: The Future of Software Engineering,” IEEE Software (33:1), January, pp 82–88. 
Moore, J. F. 1996. The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. New York: HarperBusiness. 
Iansiti, M., and Levien, R. 2004. “Strategy as Ecology,” Harvard Business Review (82:3)
 Basole, R. C., Huhtamäki, J., Still, K., and Russell, M. G. 2016. “Visual decision support for business ecosystem analysis,” Expert Systems with Applications, (65), pp 271–282. 
Porter, M. 1979. “How competitive forces shape strategy,” Harvard Business Review, March, pp 102–117. 
Huhtamaki, J., and Rubens, N. 2016. “Exploring innovation ecosystems as networks: Four european cases,” Proceedings of the Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, March, pp 4505–4514 
Evans, P. C., and Basole, R. C. 2016. “Revealing the API ecosystem and enterprise strategy via visual analytics,” Communications of the ACM (59:2), pp 26–28.
Vartak, M., Huang, S., Siddiqui, T., Madden, S., and Parameswaran, A. 2017. “Towards Visualization Recommendation Systems,” ACM SIGMOD Record (45:4), May, pp 34–39.