Defining an Ecosystem

ecosystem map

The Brief

The Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) Information Systems Group (ISG), within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is pursuing a strategic goal to improve both the user and the employee's experiences by designing, aligning, and optimizing operations to improve customer experiences. CMS CCSQ product and program teams, being so focused on their immediate work, sometimes do not always understand how their work influences and is influenced by other groups (i.e., people), systems, policies, and processes that may or may not be something they can control. This lack of a shared understanding and a systems thinking mindset impacts the efficacy of their work.

An ecosystem is a network of people interacting with products or services. Ecosystems include users, the practices they perform, the information they use and share, the people with whom they interact, the services available to them, the devices they use, and the channels through which they communicate.

Some of the symptoms of this problem include:

  • Stakeholders are unaware of the overall architecture of the ecosystem and the connections within it.
  • Broken communication, not knowing where to go/what resources and services exist
  • Stakeholders are unaware of the magnitude of the problem and do not understand the full picture
  • Stakeholders only have a partial myopic "inside-out" view, but need to gain a holistic customer-centric view
  • What I did

    Rob led an initiative to engage with colleagues across the agency expert in programs and policy related to end stage renal disease. He structured a series of workshops designed to define this ecosystem, identify gaps in understanding, and focus on creating a shared understanding and consensus on business priorities moving forward.


    The biggest win was simply getting people from across the enterprise to come together to talk. And rather than focusing their own needs and goals, they gained empathy for their shared customer, those suffering from end stage renal disease. The conversations, the sharing of expertise to gain a common understanding, was more valuable than any resulting artifact. However, a subsequent high level ecosystem map was generated and socialized throughout the enterprise in an effort to break down organizational silos and increase work efficiences. A bit more elaboration can be found in the following video (see 1.15s mark) promoting the Center of Excellence: