Digital EcoSystem - How to start growing your digital garden
Ok so this seems like an abstract analogy (and it probably is) but the concept is rock solid. A digital eco system is the sum of all the tech that makes a service, platform, website or app work. It is more than just a tech stack, it is everything, from the facebook page to the python scripts, the slack channels and git repositories - it's everything. All the digital communications, software, security and storage that lets a project exist, is the project's digital eco system.
So why would this be relevant to business? Well in order to run your business, you are going to need to do things digitally. Whether it's just banking or capturing payments and creating invoices or tracking expenses - at some point you are going to have digital processes managing parts of (probably most of) your business.
Now that we know you need a digital eco system, we can talk about how to create one and why getting it right the first time can save huge amounts of money, headaches and time.
Growing a digital eco-system is like growing a garden. A garden should have at least a small variety of plants and each plant will have a specific need (and certain plants get along better with some plants than others) - so selecting the plants in your garden is the the most challenging yet rewarding job when first starting your planning. If all the plants live in harmony and support each other with beautifully matched husbandry, the garden will flourish. If certain plants do not fit in to the garden, it will need constant upkeep, maintenance and effort to keep it going.
Choosing the right technology to achieve your business goals is like choosing the plants. Some programs are going to work really well with certain other programs and less so with similar programs for no apparent reason... For example, a movie needs sound and video; and you can edit sound in Logic Pro and edit video in Final Cut Pro. If you use these two programs together, the process is seamless and easy. The files from Logic Pro easily go into the project file of Final Cut Pro and vice versa. However, if you were to use change that mix and use Pro Tools for the audio and Final Cut Pro for video, you would find yourself dealing with all kinds of annoying bugs when importing XML files between the two softwares.
Maybe a better example is credit card payment gateways. All businesses need to take payments. If you are a business who needs to take payments from a foreign country, you will need to make sure you have the right bank accounts and payment-gateway providers or you may not be able to accept payments from your overseas customers. So you could look at accepting payments from PayPal for your online purchases and even use PayPals banking facilities to conduct portions of your business that are dollar centric. If you were to do that, you should check which banks in your countries support payments from PayPal. The sweet mix of payment gateway and bank accounts are the digital eco-system and if the system is in harmony, your business flows smoothly.
I could give you a thousand more examples, but suffice it to say that there is "the right digital ecosystem" for you and using the right one will save you time and money.
Because there are so many possible configurations of a digital garden, I thought I'd share my digital eco system for my own company Food Mind Soul.
Here is an example using my own company's digital eco system:
Food Mind Soul is an online-only digital-content SaaS company that produces Vlogs, Blogs, Monthly Meal-Plans, Programs and a Podcast. The company is based (and registered) in South Africa but derives the majority of its clients from South Korea, Japan, America, UK and Australia. This means Food Mind Soul needs to be able to process worldwide payments and then cash them out into the South African business bank-account.
Food Mind Soul has four main objectives:
Host and Store Content
Gain and retain subscribers
Each objective is accompanied by a tech stack:
Blogs = Apple Pages, Fiverr, Google Sheets, Adobe Stock
Meal Plans = Apple Numbers, Fiverr, Google Sheets, Photoshop, InDesign, Adobe Stock
Vlogs = Final Cut Pro, iPhone Video, Logic Pro X, Adobe Stock
Podcasts = Logic Pro X, Apple Pages, Adobe Stock
Livestream content = Final Cut, Logic Pro, OBS
Create online = Google Chrome, Canva, Wix, enSave, FreePik
Host and Store Content
Blogs = Wix Blog App, FMS App (on Android and Apple)
Meal Plans = Wix Dynamic Pages, PDF (Adobe InDesign), Email (Wix CRM), FMS App (on Android and Apple)
Vlogs = Wix Video, YouTube, FMS App (on Android and Apple)
Podcasts = Soundcloud, Wix Music, Apple Podcasts, FMS App (on Android and Apple)
Livestream = OBS, Wix Video, YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, LinkedIn Live, Castr
Backups & Filesharing = Google Drive, DropBox, WeTransfer
Patrion = YouTube subscriber proceeds
PayPal = Payments from around the world can be paid in PayPal dollars
Stripe = Credit cards from around the world can pay my Stripe Payment gateway on my website.
FNB = First National Bank in South Africa makes it easy for me to process international payments from my PayPal and Stripe accounts
Xero = Having an accounting software like Zero allows my business to track expenses versus earnings and provides analytics on my highest grossing content and marketing campaigns.
Google Workspace = Manages my emails
Gain and Retain Subscribers
Wix Email Marketing = Ascend Unlimited
Wix CRM Automations
Facebook Business Suite
Google Search Console
Google Cloud Studio
Visitor Analytics App
Ok, so just to host a classic (maybe slightly over the top) blog/ digital content company I make use of at least 42 independent softwares and platforms (and I left several out in the name brevity).
Now that we can see the eco system, we can start to see how the plants in this digital garden have good husbandry.
For starters you would have noticed I used Apple, not Windows. I am not here to start a debate about which softwares are better, I am simply making the case that some softwares work better with each other and every software has a specific use case where it excels over its competitors.
So I use Apple, this is mostly because of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro X. At the heart of my business is creating video and audio content. I also create a lot of graphic elements (Photoshop) and do a lot of writing (Apple Pages).
I could use a Windows based software like Ableton and Premiere or Audition and Premiere, but I don't want to do that - that's called preference. Some people think Microsoft Word is as good as Apple Pages, but I disagree. For my purposes of writing blogs - Word is overly complicated where Pages is just right. I could use Adobe Premier over Final Cut Pro, but FCP on a Mac is fast - like really fast. I continue to test FCP versus Premiere every year and FCP has never lost. The Final Cut Pro program handles video and video previews way better than Adobe Premier. So it's Final Cut Pro all the way. Final Cut Pro works with Logic Pro X and Logic and Final Cut are only available on Apple (specifically the Pro series).
So that's the basis of my garden - it runs on MacOS, which is kinda like saying I am building a shade garden and if I am to build a shade garden, I need plants that like the shade. I can't put a Sun Flower in my shade garden, no matter how much I like Sun Flowers. Just the same, I also can't run Vmix Pro on an Apple Computer no matter how much I want to, so I have to settle for OBS. Is OBS as good as Vmix Pro? No, but is the difference critical to my objective? Also no.
Is the difference between Microsoft Word and Apple Pages mission critical - no.
Is the difference between Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro mission critical - yes. Time is money and wasting time on watching a render bar in Adobe Premier is so 2007.
In my experience, Wix also works better on Google Chrome in MacOS than it does on Google Chrome on Windows 10.
So how do you start building your garden?
I started out small; one plant on a balcony type of small. I started in 2009 with Logic Pro X and a second-hand Apple iMac. That was the first digital eco-system I used to make money. I offered audio production services for Radio and TV and all I ever used was Logic Pro X, and then WeTransfer (on Google Chrome) to deliver my files. In order to use WeTransfer, I had to have an email address and so I created a free one using Gmail. Because I had a free Gmail Address, I started using Google Drive. Because I used Google Drive I started using using Google Sheets, Docs and eventually Workspace. When I started vlogging I never considered Vimeo - because YouTube was already part of the Google Eco System I was thriving in.
So my advice to you as a digital gardener, no matter how big or small your project is, start with the essential needs and find the right tool to achieve that. Once you have chosen your ideal tool to achieve the first and most pressing need, see what else you need done and if there are digital solutions that are more compatible with your existing digital garden.
OK, so that was hella abstract... Kinda like this cool fantasy landscape image that I love... But it's a really crazy subject to try and concisely put into words. I could write a whole book about the technology that makes my business work, but no one wants to to read a play book for another team - we're all sitting around trying to write our own perfect playbook.
If you are struggling to decide on how to start building a digital ecosystem for your business, hit us up in the comments and let's talk about it! We'd love to hear your thoughts on what tech is right for you and your business model.
And of course, if your business is serious about developing a digital ecosystem that is optimised to your needs, you can always get in touch with Marshall Arts and our team will be happy to offer the right advice.
Are you a digital expert? We'd love to hear from you, work with you, have a coffee with you.
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