open menu

Business ecosystem design: Becoming more meaningful for the customer!

We are constantly working on how we can make the ecosystems better for our customers.
vor 2 years | from admin
Featured image

In the past, the cornerstones and directions of strategic decisions were developed in secret and communicated according to the company hierarchies. Prof. Leonhard Zintl (Board of Directors of Volksbank Mittweida) and the TeleskopEffekt GmbH team (100%ige subsidiary of Volksbank Mittweida) have been breaking new ground for a long time. As part of several business ecosystem design sprints and co-creation workshops, the interdisciplinary team has been working since January 2022 on new impulses for strategic options and value propositions for corporate customers that go beyond financial services. The focus here is on SME customers and entrepreneurs, with their personal and entrepreneurial needs. 

The starting signal for this business ecosystem design initiative was given in January 2022. Since then, the topic of the "SME ecosystem" has been rethought in several co-creation workshops with 12 participants and the respective management members of Volksbank Mittweida and TeleskopEffekt. Leonhard Zintl, one of the leading business ecosystem advisors from Switzerland, was on board for the initialization and kick-off. Dr. Michael Lewrick, bestselling author and expert in design thinking and business ecosystem design, accompanied the team from problem identification to solution finding. After the previous lockdowns and restrictions, all participants in the sprints were happy to be able to hold the workshops in physical space again.

Customer needs are changing and so is the affinity of entrepreneurs and SMEs in the region for digital and integrated offerings. Business ecosystems help customers to organize the daily tasks in their company better and more efficiently.

Katharina Trautschold

It was already clear at the kick-off meeting that the interdisciplinary team would have to adopt a new way of thinking over the next few weeks and leave their comfort zone. Even during the first warm-up, it became clear that it was not easy to respond to customers' needs. In this first exercise, however, the customers were not entrepreneurs, but raw eggs that had to land safely on the ground from a height of two meters. There was little material to prepare and the time limit of 5 minutes was extremely tight! Of the 10 potential "customers", however, only one raw egg survived. So it was clear from the warm-up that making customers happy is not easy and that a collaborative approach is needed to develop the best experiences, products and features for our SME customers in the future with limited resources.

After a brief introduction by Michael Lewrick on the approach to business ecosystem design, the team focused from the outset on the critical assumptions in the context of SMEs. Together, they also defined what success in this business ecosystem design sprint means for Volksbank and for potential customers. Additional personas were already created in the first workshop on the basis of customer observations and surveys. These fictitious representations of entrepreneurs outline the teams over the entire design cycle, not losing sight of the customer and their needs.  

It was important to us to place the customer and their current and future needs at the center of our strategic business ecosystem considerations

Prof. Leonhard Zintl 

In all sprints, reference was repeatedly made to the challenges, profit drivers and tasks to be fulfilled by the individual personas and SMEs and many other methods and tools from the design thinking and business ecosystem design toolbox were used. In the numerous brainstorming sessions and breakout sessions, strategic business ecosystem options were developed, tested and iteratively improved in parallel. Deep dives with potential customers and stakeholders enriched this process with different perspectives. 

We currently see many opportunities for business ecosystems to provide customers with a unique value proposition in niches or specific regions.

Dr. Julia Breßler

The current sprints are a special experience for all participants. Meaningful results are produced in a short space of time every two weeks. Agile working in iterations makes it possible to achieve rapid progress. In addition, the overarching collaboration with interdisciplinary teams is a major success factor that makes it possible to bring together different perspectives and achieve results quickly. 

The first new offerings for SMEs and entrepreneurs are expected at the end of 2022. Volksbank Mittweida is one of the first banks in the association that wants to become more meaningful for customers through a business ecosystem approach. However, other banks are already showing great interest in implementing similar initiatives in other regions in Germany. So it remains exciting to see where and how banks will change in this decade. 

TeleskopEffekt already has top-class partners around its innovation center Werkbank32. This unique network is a great starting point for the further development of the joint business ecosystem initiatives.

Dr. Benjamin Zeitler

What is business ecosystem design? 

The aim of ecosystems in the business world is to serve new and previously unknown customer needs with the help of various ecosystem participants. In most cases, individual companies are not able to fully meet these new needs and a large number of players are needed to jointly fulfill the value proposition for the customer. The underlying mindset, approach and methodology are based on the ideas of design thinking and systems thinking. 

Book recommendation: 

Lewrick, M. (2020) Business Ecosystem Design: A paradigm shift in the design of business models and growth, published by Vahlen Verlag Munich, ISBN 978-3800663361

Available from well-stocked bookshops and Amazon:

This article was written in cooperation with Michael Lewrick.