Ecosystem Maps

Ever wondered how the intricate web of connections in a complex system can be comprehended at a glance? The answer lies in the power of ecosystem maps, dynamic tools that provide a holistic view of the entire system at hand. They help us visualize and understand complex systems, highlighting relationships and dependencies between various entities and actors.

Demystifying Ecosystem Maps

Think of an ecosystem map as a spider’s web. Each thread represents an actor or component, all contributing to the customer experience. The complex interdependencies and relationships within the ecosystem are unraveled through an approach known as systems thinking. An ecosystem map provides a visual representation of these connections, which helps identify pain points and areas for improvement in the customer experience.

But how do you construct this map?

Understanding Ecosystem Mapping

Creating an ecosystem map resembles the process of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece represents an entity – people, organizations, ideas – and the process involves identifying and categorizing connections between these pieces to uncover potential opportunities for action and impact. This process is distinct from journey mapping or experience mapping.

While the latter focuses on specific interactions and experiences of users with a product or service, ecosystem mapping zooms out to offer a holistic view of the entire ecosystem.

The Importance of Ecosystem Maps

What makes a complete ecosystem map so vital? Imagine you’re a chess player. You’re not just focused on your next move, but you’re also considering how all the pieces on the board interact and what potential moves could be made. Similarly, ecosystem maps help us identify key leverage points, enhance user experiences, and drive innovation in various industries by providing a comprehensive view of the system.

Types of Ecosystem Maps

Illustration of tailored ecosystem maps for specific industries

Similar to the variety in chess games, ecosystem maps also come in various types, each tailored to a specific industry or discipline. Some common types of ecosystem maps include:

  • Service Design Ecosystem Maps, which focus on the service design context

  • UX Ecosystem Maps, which concentrate on the user experience

  • Business Ecosystem Maps, which provide an overview of a business’s ecosystem.

Service Design Ecosystem Maps

For service design, ecosystem maps act like a compass, navigating us through a complex web of interactions. They outline the people, organizations, products, and services a user may interact with, illustrating the relationships between these components within the design ecosystem.

Like a trusty compass, these maps help us navigate the customer journey and discover opportunities to improve the service experience.

UX Ecosystem Maps

In UX design, an ecosystem map operates similarly to a detective’s notebook, consolidating clues about customer relationships and their interactions with various touchpoints. This helps us solve the mystery of how to optimize services and products, leading to better user experiences and innovative solutions.

Business Ecosystem Maps

In the business context, an ecosystem map functions like a treasure map, guiding businesses to:

  • Comprehend their existing stakeholders

  • Discern connections and dependencies among different actors

  • Detect behavior patterns that could lead to potential opportunities and capital.

Creating Your Own Ecosystem Map

Having understood the concept of ecosystem maps, we shift our focus to the process of creating one. It’s like baking a cake, where you start by gathering all the ingredients (entities), then mix them together (visualize relationships), and finally bake it to perfection (identify opportunities and gaps).

Listing All Entities

Just as gathering all the ingredients is the first step in baking a cake, listing all relevant entities is the initial step in creating an ecosystem map. This involves brainstorming, conducting research, and engaging with stakeholders to gather information.

Just like a chef needs to know all the ingredients before starting to bake, we need to understand all the entities before we can start visualizing connections.

Visualizing Relationships

Once we have all the ingredients, we mix them together to create the cake batter. Similarly, once we have listed all the entities, we need to visualize the relationships between them. This involves drawing connections between entities and categorizing them based on their roles and interactions.

Identifying Opportunities and Gaps

Finally, just as the cake is put in the oven to bake, once the connections between entities are visualized, we analyze the map to identify opportunities for improvement, collaboration, and innovation.

In the same way, once the connections between entities are visualized, we analyze the map to identify opportunities for improvement, collaboration, and innovation. This is the final stage in creating an ecosystem map.

Ecosystem Mapping Tools and Templates

Photo of ecosystem mapping tools and templates

Creating an ecosystem map, like baking a cake, becomes easier when equipped with the appropriate tools and templates. Several tools are available to help with this process, including Miro, Canva, and PARTNER CPRM.

Miro Ecosystem Mapping Template

Miro Ecosystem Mapping Template functions as a well-prepared kitchen counter for a chef, offering an existing framework to visualize and categorize relationships between entities with a focus on the customer.

Canva Ecosystem Map Template

The Canva Ecosystem Map Template, on the other hand, is like a sample recipe, offering a sample map to help beginners visualize and categorize connections and entities easily.


PARTNER CPRM (Collaborative Partner Relationship Management) is designed to help organizations manage and analyze their complex networks of partners. Let’s put this into a more relatable context – think of baking a cake, a process you might be familiar with. I’ll use this analogy to explain how PARTNER CPRM works, kind of like a recipe guide for managing complex networks.

  • Network Visualization: It’s like laying out your cake ingredients. In PARTNER CPRM, you see how everyone in your network is connected.
  • Relationship Analysis: Understanding how your ingredients work together. In the tool, it’s about knowing how your partners interact.
  • Survey Tool: Like tasting your cake to see if it needs more sugar. The tool gathers feedback from your network.
  • Customizable Templates: Having a basic cake recipe you can change. The tool lets you adjust your network strategy.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Learning from each cake you bake. The tool gives you insights from the data to make better network decisions.
  • Collaboration Facilitation: Finding friends who like to bake and inviting them over. The tool helps you find good collaborators.
  • Dynamic Updating: Baking different cakes for different occasions. The tool adapts as your network changes.
  • Reporting and Exporting: Writing down your cake recipe and sharing it. The tool lets you share network insights with others.

Collaborative Ecosystem Mapping

Illustration of collaborative ecosystem mapping

Much like baking a cake can be a solo or group activity, ecosystem mapping can be pursued individually or collaboratively.

Collaborative ecosystem mapping involves engaging team members and stakeholders in the mapping process to gain buy-in, share insights, and foster a shared understanding of the ecosystem.

Engaging Team Members

Getting team members, actors involved, and subject matter experts in the mapping process, like in baking a cake, promotes collaboration and learning as they bring their knowledge and insights to the table.

Communicating Insights with Stakeholders

Just as a cake is shared with others, the insights gained from the ecosystem map should be communicated with stakeholders to drive decision-making and prioritize projects that can increase market share.

Real-World Examples of Ecosystem Maps

Like the versatility of a cake recipe for different occasions, ecosystem maps have found successful applications in diverse sectors:

A Ride-Sharing App

Imagine you’re using a popular ride-sharing app. A UX Ecosystem Map for this app would focus on your experience as a user. This map would include elements like the app interface, customer support, payment systems, and driver interaction. For instance, it would show how you discover the app, navigate through it to book a ride, and the various touchpoints like notifications or feedback systems. It’s fascinating because it reveals how interconnected everything is – from when you open the app to when you reach your destination.

A Small Local Bakery

Now, let’s think about a charming small local bakery. A Business Ecosystem Map here would encompass suppliers (like flour producers), distribution channels (maybe a local farmer’s market), competitors (other bakeries and cafes in the area), and customers (both regulars and tourists). This map helps the bakery understand its place in the larger business environment. It’s like looking at a detailed landscape of relationships and influences that shape the bakery’s day-to-day operations and long-term strategies.

BCG offers insights into designing a business ecosystem. It addresses key questions such as whether an ecosystem is the right choice for a particular business opportunity, the type of ecosystem needed, and who needs to be part of your ecosystem. This article is valuable for its discussion on the different types of business ecosystems, such as solution ecosystems, transaction ecosystems, and hybrids, and the roles of various players within these ecosystems​​.

FAQs: Business Ecosystem Maps

What is a Business Ecosystem Map, and why is it important for my company?

A Business Ecosystem Map is a visual representation that illustrates the relationships and interdependencies between various entities involved in your business, such as suppliers, customers, competitors, and partners. It’s crucial because it helps you understand the broader business landscape, identify opportunities for collaboration, and foresee potential challenges.

How can a Business Ecosystem Map help in strategic planning?

By providing a comprehensive overview of your business environment, a Business Ecosystem Map aids in strategic planning by highlighting key players, their roles, and how they influence your business. This understanding enables you to make informed decisions, anticipate market trends, and create strategies that leverage these relationships for competitive advantage.

What elements should I include in my Business Ecosystem Map?

Your map should include suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, regulatory bodies, and any other stakeholders impacting your business. Additionally, it’s important to represent the nature of relationships (e.g., collaborative, competitive), channels of communication, and the flow of resources and information.

Can a Business Ecosystem Map evolve over time, and how should it be updated?

Absolutely. As your business and the market evolve, so should your ecosystem map. Regular reviews and updates are necessary to reflect changes such as new competitors, changing customer preferences, evolving supply chains, or regulatory shifts. This keeps your strategic planning relevant and responsive.

How can small businesses benefit from creating a Business Ecosystem Map?

Small businesses can particularly benefit from ecosystem mapping as it helps them identify their niche, understand their competitive landscape, and find potential partners or channels for growth. It’s a tool that can level the playing field by providing insights that allow small businesses to compete more effectively in their market.


Just like every chess game is unique, so are these ecosystem maps, each serving a distinct purpose. You’ve seen how they stretch across different areas: Service Design, UX, and Business. It’s fascinating how they tailor to specific needs.

Each map, in its own way, helps us make sense of complex systems. It’s not just about drawing lines and plotting points. It’s about understanding connections, seeing how things work together, and using that knowledge to make better decisions.

So, there you have it, a journey through the diverse landscape of ecosystem maps. I hope this has given you some food for thought and tools to navigate your own challenges, be it in service design, user experience, or business strategy. Remember, understanding your ecosystem is key to moving forward with confidence and clarity.

Project Manager (PMP), Interior Designer and 3D visualizer. Member of the Project Management Institute - Netherlands Chapter.

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