Digital Ecosystems: Taking Syndication to the Cloud & Beyond

Customers often consider the terms “ecosystem” and “syndication” interchangeable, since they see both as a way for content to flow. Actually, the two are quite different in scope and it’s important to understand the key elements and differences between these concepts.

A digital ecosystem typically sits on a network platform enabling companies to connect to one another seamlessly to exchange knowledge, data, or transactions. Syndication, on the other hand, is simply a feature enabling the “pushing” of knowledge (specifically content) from one organization to another. In short, a digital ecosystem is a platform and syndication is a feature.  An ecosystem may include syndication as a feature; however, the mere presence of syndication as a feature on a platform does not automatically make it an ecosystem platform.

There are five key differences between digital ecosystems and syndication:

  • Digital ecosystems are cloud ready and elastic: Ecosystems on TIDWIT can be launched in a matter of minutes and can be architected to match the structure of complex partnerships. In many ways, digital ecosystems are the next frontier of the cloud driving an organization’s systems outside its walls. Pure syndication, on the other hand, is typically bound to the system in which it is housed within the organization (an LMS, for example). Therefore, it can not be as easily architected to meet specific needs or complex partnership interconnectivity requirements.
  • Digital ecosystems are content-agnostic: Ecosystems focus on interconnectivity and are implicitly agnostic when it comes to content or data types.  For example, TIDWIT ecosystems allow the exchange of nearly any type of content or data, from something as simple as a .pdf to complex libraries and learning paths with SCORM standards and assessments for testing. Pure syndication is often limited to the content type supported by the underlying system. For example, YouTube syndication (using RSS) only allows the syndication of videos.
  • Digital ecosystems collect, store, and analyze activity: Digital ecosystems not only allow for the flow of knowledge and data, they also serve as a repository of metrics for all the activity occurring through the ecosystem. Importantly, this enables ecosystem-wide reporting, comparisons and benchmarking that lead to line of sight for partner incentive programs. Systems that simply have syndication generally provide very basic visibility to data without in-depth insights.
  • Digital ecosystems protect identity: The implicit architecture of digital ecosystems allows organizations to fully control and run their ecosystem. This ensures full protection of the identity of the admins and users per privacy guidelines. Syndication per se does not provide this type of protection, but rather pulls one organization’s users into the syndicator’s system (even with SSO), which causes compliance headaches.
  • Digital ecosystems on a network can grow virally: An ecosystem network provides interconnectivity between different organizations allowing for many-to-many, multi-directional, and multi-tier connectivity. The digital ecosystem network acts as the underlying platform providing standardized viral growth with honest brokerage, protecting each organization’s intellectual property, and their user/partner base. Syndication on the other hand is a direct one-to-one connection, which is unidirectional, and single tier. This means that, while digital ecosystems can provide quick and automated growth, pure syndication tools require hard wiring and manual one-to-one integration.

Syndication may be seen as an early precursor of digital ecosystems. Digital ecosystems take basic syndication to the cutting edge of the cloud by providing powerful features such as elasticity, network interconnectivity, open content exchange, compliance and identity protection, multi-tiering, reporting, and line of sight—all powerful drivers for long term business success.

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