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El blog de Mikel Niño
Emprendimiento digital, startups, Big Data Analytics y nuevos modelos de negocio

The "conceptual stack" of a digital business: technology, product, organization and market

If we want to analyze the keys to face digital entrepreneurship, we can start with a simple and short definition that allows us to gather some elements that I consider as fundamental: create an organization able to build a product based on digital technologies and to successfully and sustainedly offer it to a market. By doing so, we can gather those four key elements (technology, product, organization and market) together in a "conceptual stack" that gives us an integral vision of all the aspects we should pay attention to while building a digital business.

At a first level we have to talk about digital technologies, structured in a technology stack that compiles the tools, languages, development environments, database systems, etc. that we consider as the most appropriate, according to parameters such as the complexity of the solution to build, the frequency and volume of the interactions it must give support to, the kind of devices where it will be used, etc.

In a next step we must take into account all those features that allow us to reach an upper level and to consider that combination of digital technologies as a product, answering securely in a production environment. We are talking about aspects such as being easily maintainable by different people over time, handling easily environment migrations or changes in one of the technologies in the stack, having a robust architecture that allows us to accomplish slight modifications without fear to "break" anything, answering in different service environments and with big user loads, having an appropriate response time considering its context of use, etc.

Last, we have a level corresponding to the business itself, where we have to consider two aspects: the market to which we will offer our product and the organization that we build to implement everything (considering the necessary resources and, above all, people, with the difficulties it involves to manage them). For example, if we represent our business model in an Osterwalder's canvas, we could relate the market to the right side of the canvas (the value proposition for some customer segments, with whom I communicate and who get access to the product/service through certain channels, allowing me to obtain some revenues), while the organization would relate to the left side (the people and profiles I need in my team so that I make sure of having the key competences and abilities, the partners I need to establish alliances with in order to obtain those abilities and resources that are necessary too but that I don't include in the nuclear team, the structure and associated costs it all generates).

If we want to build a rock-solid digital business and with real chances of being successful, we must consider all layers in this conceptual stack as critical since the very beginning. In other words, in a digital business both words play a nuclear role, that is, the "business" (organization and market) and the "digital" (technologies and product). It is useless to base our entrepreneurial project on a promising vision from the business point of view without integrating the necessary digital competences in our team, or disregarding the importance of knowing how to build and consolidate a digital product that works and is sustainable over time. Much in the same way, conversely, it is also useless having a strong knowledge about digital technologies if we are not able to create a product with them which is interesting enough for a set of customers so that our business is profitable and the necessary structure to operate it is financially covered, and at the same time has the much needed solidity to support changes in the organization or in the environments where this product must provide its service.

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