Today’s digital leaders are building ecosystems for sectors such as connected health, precision agriculture, the smart home and connected transportation on their digital platforms. As they do so, they are blurring the traditional boundaries that once set industries apart. In our Accenture Technology Vision for 2017, we call this trend “Ecosystem Power Plays”.

It sees businesses increasingly integrate their core business functionalities with third parties and their digital platforms. But rather than treat them like partnerships of old, forward-thinking leaders leverage these relationships to build their roles in new ecosystems—instrumental to unlocking their next waves of strategic growth.

We are just at the beginning of this massive shift in the market. Accenture anticipates up to 450 new industry platforms will be created in the next few years, generating an unprecedented new wave of ecosystems. Each insurer must decide where it will build its own platforms, where it will acquire capacity, and where it will partner as this trend unfolds.

The platform revolution is a trend that we noted in our Tech Vision in 2015 and 2016. Now, we’re seeing digital platforms coalesce into new digital ecosystems, which are underpinned by a network of other companies: cloud providers, industry partners, open source platforms, startups and more. In fact, most insurers have been taking part in emergent ecosystems for several years as they have chosen digital marketing partners, cloud application and infrastructure providers, and distribution partners such as aggregators.

Accenture prediction Five years from now, 80% of the S&P 500 will be engaged in multiple industry ecosystems, and most will have made public statements about increasing their reliance on ecosystems for future revenue growth.

As an insurance carrier participates in these ecosystems, its future growth becomes more closely intertwined with the fortunes and performance of the companies that provide the platforms and orchestrate the ecosystem. That means insurers need to start thinking strategically about where they will play in the next generation of platforms.

The decisions made today will determine their future ability to help customers reach their goals, and thus help the company achieve its growth objectives. This approach requires new business strategies and business models. Intelligent enterprises must peer into the future of multiple ecosystems and determine where to make investments, connect platforms and form business relationships.

70 percent of unicorns are platform companies

Take self-driving vehicles, for example. As autonomous cars come to market, the automotive industry will start to overlap with the rental car industry, the logistics industry, the insurance industry and the public transit industry. Disruptors like Tesla and Uber are jostling with incumbents like General Motors to build the leading transport ecosystems of the future.

Auto insurance leaders are already thinking about this emerging connected transportation ecosystem and where they will play a part in the future. The digital ecosystem and digital platform decisions made today will frame the opportunities for future growth and extended value chains for tomorrow. This is a decision that needs to be made wisely—my next blog post will offer some ideas about where to start.

Read the Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2017 report .

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