Listen to this article now
All of us are working within a digital ecosystem—whether we realize it or not. The question is: is our ecosystem promoting growth, or prohibiting it? In an age when networks, partners, and innovations are everywhere we turn, how can businesses ensure their ecosystem is built to last? It turns out making smart connections is just part of the process. Today’s companies also need a culture that supports them.
First, let’s take a step back. What is a digital ecosystem anyway? The truth is, we travel through many different ecosystems every day, from the enormous super-system created from modern digital transformation, to that found in our homes, offices, industries, and beyond. Gartner defines a digital ecosystem as “an interdependent group of actors (enterprises, people, things) sharing standardized digital platforms to achieve a mutually beneficial purpose.” In laymen’s terms, it encompasses all the connections we make daily to achieve shared goals.
For some, the digital ecosystem is blurring lines between industries and even competitors. Companies in the Silicon Valley, for instance, may be collaborating within an open digital ecosystem to establish specific tech standards or advancements, while keeping certain intellectual property to themselves. In fact, most agree shared ecosystems—and innovations—are essential to success in today’s digital marketplace. The following are a few keys to keep in mind as you develop a strategic and beneficial digital ecosystem for your company:
Create an Open, Collaborative Culture
You know what they say: two heads are better than one. And in digital transformation, two incredibly smart and innovative companies are better than one, as well. The only caveat: companies need to be open and collaborative to reap the benefits. In fact, an Accenture study showed some 97 percent of large companies say open innovation is key to high-performing businesses. But it’s not as easy as implementing a solid unified communications plan. It means being willing to share your knowledge with others in your industry—something that can feel uncomfortable for many businesses. “Applied innovation,” notes one writer, is the ability to absorb, adopt, and consume new innovation and information coming out of your industry. Without an open culture, that level of sharing and adoption will be difficult.
Stay Open to Change
This one will be challenging for large, legacy organizations that are still dealing with heavy management models and clunky technology systems. Not only will they need more time to change their systems—their outdated systems are also likely “entrenched” within the company, making adoption and transformation difficult, no matter how much great information the ecosystem offers. Change is the name of the game in digital transformation, and no company will move forward without embracing it.
Rethink Your Business Model
If you’re one of the legacy companies I noted above, it might be time to examine your company processes, governance structure, management styles, silos, and contracts—and determine whether they truly fit in the digital age. To be able to implement nimble change, your company needs to be agile. It needs to be able to make decisions quickly, with full support and vision. That means adopting processes and structures that support and empower nimble growth.
Stay Ahead of the Digital Curve
Without modern technology to support you, it will be difficult to play a meaningful role in a digital ecosystem—at least, any successful one. Digital ecosystems are built for innovation, learning and advancement. Outdated software, failing connections, and clunky data centers will make share—and innovating—difficult. Investing in top technology—and people who are committed to learning about the latest digital capabilities—is key to the effective building of digital ecosystems.
If the whole concept of sharing your company’s innovations in the new digital ecosystems scares you, that’s OK. Studies show digital ecosystem membership increases with “digital maturity”—meaning, the longer you continue to advance in the digital marketplace, the more likely you’ll be to recognize the benefit of sharing your knowledge and innovations with others—even your competitors. According to one executive at Gartner, effective ecosystems “give rise to entirely new kinds of companies, products, and services.” It’s how we’re developing artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning, self-driving cars, and some of the most exciting developments of our century. Isn’t that the kind of growth you’d like your company to experience?
Additional Articles on This Topic:
Blurred Lines: Developing Mutually Beneficial Digital Ecosystems
Building a Digital Ecosystem that Benefits You
Collaboration in the Workplace: Best Practices for 2017
This article was first published on Forbes.