Ecosystems: Are you mastering your ecosystem strategy? | EY

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If you want to go further, go together.

Providing the complex products and services customers want at the speed they expect has become increasingly difficult for any single company, especially for offerings based on advanced technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). To compensate, more enterprises are creating partner ecosystems, networks of relationships with partners whose strengths and expertise complement their own.

“The outcome the customer gets is more than they would if they were dealing with us independently,” says Denise Millard, Chief Partner Officer at Dell Technologies, which created a partner ecosystem as part of evolving from selling hardware to selling technology services that support clients’ business transformations.

Companies such as Dell realize the tremendous value a partner ecosystem helps them deliver to customers and stakeholders more broadly. Successful collaborations drive double-digit revenue growth and incremental earnings while improving innovation and speed to market. But despite ecosystems’ widely recognized value, far too many fall short.

Seventy-seven percent of business leaders surveyed struggle with issues related to their ecosystem strategy or planning. A major cause of poor performance is attempting to build and operate a partner ecosystem as an extension of a related function, like channel management, supply chain management or business development. Failure to do so can lead to missed opportunities, wasted time and eroded trust in the market.

To understand how companies can overcome the challenges to develop an effective partner ecosystem strategy, we surveyed over 500 ecosystem leaders and conducted in-depth interviews. Our findings identified three key pillars that serve as the foundation for a successful, scalable partner ecosystem:

  • The right use case — a joint innovation that fills a need in the market, blends digital and physical elements and includes clear KPIs to track value creation.
  • The right partners and business model — a network of qualified contributors with complementary capabilities and strengths structured so each party shares equitably in value and risk.
  • The right IT infrastructure — integration of cloud, automation and cybersecurity to support the use case, enable trusted collaboration and mitigate risk.

The three pillars may seem like common sense moves but have proven to be tricky to master. To make the most of them, leaders must elevate partner ecosystems to the level of a primary business function and implement new processes, ways of thinking and technology architectures to support them. To ensure partner ecosystems succeed, leaders also must implement long-term planning and continuously monitor performance.

The CEO Imperative series provides critical answers and actions to help leaders reframe the future of their organizations. In this article, we demonstrate how leaders must stand up a fully empowered and funded Partner Ecosystem function within their corporate structure to obtain real value.

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