The Orchestration Role in Any Business Ecosystem Design

This visual has held my attention for a reasonable time. It deals, in my mind, with orchestration well for reflecting the managing of a business ecosystem and how to organize the partners and parts within this.

Although its original intention was a digital orchestration, it tells the story for any orchestration of platforms or working within ecosystems that a business needs to manage.

Here the model is a singular operating model, but applying this to a collaborative environment, it has most of the essential components that need true orchestrating.

There is a growing body of work about “orchestration” and its need in the business world. Orchestration has become synonymous with managing or dealing with (specifically) external partners, where the need is to learn to cooperate to produce something different and original, usually in a platform and some form of ecosystem arrangement.

I am continually reading about scale, modular structures, governance, the advantage of asset-light business models where the possibilities of speed and breadth of open innovation need to “kick-in.” Orchestration can take on a lot, but we do need to define the role a little more, in my opinion.

I often wonder if all this orchestration through ecosystem design does achieve that radical breakthrough or have simply become just another solution or coordinating mechanism and a convenient “tag” to attach to it to consider?

The orchestrator needs to shape our operating environment

As business becomes more unpredictable, we do need to attempt to shape or reshape our operating environment. We are more in need of alignment than ever. As we lock into collaborations, we need to understand the required partners’ roles, what their activities (skills, solutions, technologies., etc.) will bring to bring additional value on top of what one organization might have.

The growing difference, actually one of the hardest things to do, is for the organization attempting to orchestrate to let go. What does it give up in control or value to enable a greater sharing of the improved importance of building this ecosystem of design? Does it achieve a faster scaling, a more flexible, adaptive environment that partnering offers? Mostly it does the very opposite. It needs building governance, for protecting positions, to manage intellectual property, for accommodating different organizational operating systems or viewpoints of “their” narrow value objectives. Orchestration needs to accomplish these and much more.

So many organizations have built out their internal capabilities for handling the launch, scale, and design of their view of “going to market” it becomes such a tough challenge to understand and accommodate many different approaches or processes. As we still lack a common understanding of innovation, its operations, structures, and the number of dedicated resources and where these fit within the one organization, how can we align these?

Orchestration needs to pull everything together.

Each time I view that visual above, I can imagine the first practice of a set of musicians all coming together for the first time and producing a cacophony that has no harmony. The job of the conductor is to break this down and build the parts into a collective whole. That, for me, is the orchestration role in any business ecosystem or managing within a platform.

The whole needs a clear orchestrating of behaviors and discipline. Each musician knows his instrument or, hopefully, so and needs to understand and interpret the score. It is for the conductor to give his rendition on the way it should come together and be managed. A great conductor can unite and provide the strategic direction and interpretation and guide the parts of the orchestrator or business partners to bring what they have as individuals into a collective harmony. That takes hard work and everyone’s commitment and identification of what they want to achieve.

In business, we call this orchestrating network behavior. In search of the optimum balancing levels of autonomy with bridging these individual skills. To get to this point, the orchestrator needs high levels of trust and mutual understanding to be powerfully prevalent. The result is to form tighter structures and keep as much of the individual, perhaps unstructured aspects, to give individual freedom and creative opportunity. It is often exploring open interpretation turns a musical piece from being average or satisfactory into a brilliant rendition. In orchestrating an ecosystem of partners, you are looking for individual expression and collective awareness.

So, the orchestrator needs to pull out the network effect, to seek out creative spaces, those individual moments, but then pull them together in a co-creative way. It is the linking and communicating of these that produce the combined sound or difference that gives a profoundly different innovation outcome.

For me, the role of the orchestrator, like a musical conductor is essential today.

The need to lead, they need to exercise control, project trust, and engagement with all the parts. They need to have their clear interpretation (vision) in their minds and project that out in the way they “expect” the ecosystem of partners to perform and link.

They do need, in a business world, an emerging understanding of the Go-to-market positioning; they need to clarify the engagement process, what needs to be brought into play (operations), and lever all the necessary parts of the organizations to extract the best that lies within.

The orchestrator needs to enhance performance from the different collaborators within an ecosystem. The role has distinctive competencies that, when comparing it to a conductor, a business orchestrator requires. In my view, this is excellently described in Wikipedias description of Conducting

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as “the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture.”[1] The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and “shape” the phrasing where appropriate.”

“Conductors act as guides to the orchestras or choirs they conduct. They choose the works to be performed and study their scores, to which they may make certain adjustments (such as in tempo, articulation, phrasing, repetitions of sections), work out their interpretation, and relay their vision to the performers.”

“Conducting requires an understanding of the elements of musical expression (tempo, dynamics, articulation) and the ability to communicate them effectively to an ensemble.”

I see the Orchestrator, managing within ecosystems having many of these attributes.

The gesture means so much more in business collaborations. It is the leadership and behavioral design that is Transmitted” as the essentials of the ecosystem. It is the interpretation by being the primary party. They provide the tempo, they build the dynamics and they are the ones that do articulate the vision, mission, and objectives.  They do need to have a clear understanding of what the ecosystem is attempting to do; the orchestrator needs to lead in the design and interpretation of the vision. There is so much in the dynamics of ecosystems that do need managing the beat and tempo.

Being the orchestrator of any ecosystem design in business requires a clear understanding of all the parts. To ask anyone to step up and conduct is not an option; it is a disaster. The person who can genuinely orchestrate brings out the real underlying value of the parts to produce the innovation performance needed. The power of the ecosystem is in its orchestration and design.

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