By the end of this year, more than half of enterprises overall, and 80% of those in the middle of digital transformation, are projected to join some sort of a strategic partnership with digital partner firms, both in and beyond their respective industries. That comes from a study by the IDC, which suggested that this marks the tipping point for the widespread adoption of digital ecosystems.
IDC's Sr. VP Frank Gens declared, "We are at an inflection point as digital transformation efforts shift from 'project' or 'initiative' status to strategic business imperative. Every (growing) enterprise, regardless of age or industry, must become 'digital native' in the way its executives and employees think, what they produce, and how they operate."
"Coopetition," a combination of cooperation and competition, defines the 21st century. In the mobile global social world, nobody goes it alone.
Gartner explained digital ecosystems as "an interdependent group of enterprises, people and/or things that share standardized digital platforms for a mutually beneficial purpose, such as commercial gain, innovation or common interest. Digital ecosystems enable you to interact with customers, partners, adjacent industries ‒ and even your competition."
Looking at the future of business this way fundamentally reframes of the role of IT – from the department that builds the internal scaffold of information flows that support the business, to an endlessly branching partner connection initiative. In many ways, this mirrors the increasingly important of social networks to the enterprise for departments as diverse as purchasing and marketing.
Developing a robust digital ecosystem takes a concerted effort to build digital channels that reach out to partners and also build pathways that incorporate partner processes into the business.
Ecosystem channels from the inside out
Customer journeys don't begin or end with a single company for the most part. Businesses are just starting to realize that where a customer comes from and where they go after interacting with a business will impact how they feel about the interaction overall.
That's why an enterprise like Delta linked their mobile app and SkyMiles reward system with Lyft to earn extra miles while simplifying transportation before and after the flight.
Another great example of this is how the online grocery delivery company Peapod set up partnerships with Campbell's, Kraft Heinz and Barilla for ready-made meal kits, streamlining the shopping process and offering meal suggestions for busy consumers.
After mapping out the internal customer journey, businesses can more easily see how other potential ecosystem partners might fit into the bigger picture. The next step is working with IT to draft pathways that link internal systems to other service providers in the outside world for a smoother hand-off.
The policy of giving open access to information control technologies (ICT) gave companies like Amazon the edge over companies with the walled IT approach of traditional retailers. Digital-first businesses allowed partners, often competitors, to access system components so they can integrate into a larger ecosystem.
Two of the most significant developments in IT that made this possible are application programming interfaces (APIs) and the microservices architecture that breaks processes into independent, interoperable components. These developments also play a significant role in how any company can incorporate partner tech into their own operations.
Ecosystem channels from the outside in
Bringing in outside tech to complete internal processes was one of the early precursors to digital ecosystems, starting with the first ecommerce websites that shuttled site visitors to a payment portal for completing transactions.
That still goes on today with the twist of integrating onsite webstores with virtual cash and cryptocurrencies, such as Apple Pay or the many forks of Bitcoin.
In addition, application performance management (APM) software can map out user session flows, showing the most common pathways users take in visiting your site and which flows result in the highest conversion rates. Companies can pinpoint failure or bounce points and then locate external software that can support stronger engagement at those stops along the flow map.
From personalization to mobile call data analytics, external software integrations can open up a global customer base that a small business couldn't access any other way.