Game of Chains


The traditional boundaries between sectors and industries are blurring, or even vanishing, due to the increasing digitalization of business globally. It’s now much easier for new digital players to enter – and completely transform – existing markets. Consultancy firm McKinsey predicts that, in less than ten years’ time, companies will be less likely to compete with their traditional opponents and much more likely to face competition from rapidly emerging ecosystems made up of companies from different sectors.

“Ecosystems are the future for digital supply chains,” claimed Gartner’s Michael Burkett during the firm’s supply chain conference in London in September 2017. American seed giant Monsanto and American tractor manufacturer John Deere are both planning to link their customer communities – containing data, knowledge and advice – to raw materials traders’ online platforms. The knowledge in the resulting ecosystem is expected to help farmers increase their harvest yields by eight to 12 percent, according to Burkett.

For me, this looming battle between ecosystems brings to mind the popular TV series Game of Thrones which is set on the mythical continent of Westeros. Following the king’s death, various noble families fight for the throne in frequently changing alliances. You could liken this to how Mercedes is collaborating with DHL and Amazon on car-boot deliveries of online orders. Volvo has similar kinds of partnerships with a number of retailers in Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. In Game of Thrones, the Iron Bank of Braavos plays an important role in financing the warring parties. Amazon has close ties with the Capital One bank for its connection with Amazon Alexa, with whom users can chat and place online orders, and Amazon’s competitor Alibaba even has its own bank in the shape of Ant Financial.

In Game of Thrones, in addition to continuously forging new alliances, the warring families also have to listen to the people – just as companies have to listen to their customers’ wants and needs. The dragons and black magic featured in this TV series can be likened to the new technologies and business models with which newcomers ambush the traditional players. My advice to companies is to visualize their changing competitive landscape, such as by drawing a map of their own world just like the one in Game of Thrones.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media