Sound cyber-security, an ability to innovate and compatible technology are highly-prized capabilities.

Most executives seem to believe their companies are a match-maker’s dream. Ninety-five percent of the executives we surveyed described their organizations as attractive ecosystem partners. Thirty-two percent thought their organizations were extremely attractive. Only 4 percent described their companies as average.

Such confidence among executives in their organization’s capabilities is laudable. However, it could easily mask shortcomings that need to be remedied. When we asked business leaders what qualities they would look for in a prospective ecosystem partner, three specific attributes came out tops – sound cyber-security, an ability to innovate and compatible technology. It appears that if your organization comes short in any of these three areas it may struggle to attract ecosystem suitors.

When questioned on what type of organization they would like as an ecosystem partner, most executives pointed to technology leaders, followed by front-runners in their industry and service providers. When considering the qualities needed by ecosystem partners within their specific industry, most highlighted the importance of innovative products and services. Other key requirements were a clear strategy and good digital capabilities.

Most of the executives we surveyed expect digital ecosystems to give their organizations a competitive advantage. They’re confident that ecosystems will enable them to improve the service and the customer experience their companies provide.

However, only a few companies appear ready to properly manage their ecosystem partnerships. Just 40 percent of executives said their organizations had the capability and experience to understand an ecosystem, build the structure and value exchange, measure success and manage relationships. A similar proportion reported that their companies had demonstrated an ability to form the cross-industry relationships and connections needed to create an ecosystem.

One of the big stumbling blocks to many organizations’ ecosystem ambitions is the attitude of their executives. Too often they want to retain control of their ecosystem activities. For example, we found that most business leaders recognize the importance of data and acknowledge that ecosystem partners need to share this key asset if their collaboration is to succeed. Around 87 percent of executives described their organizations as data-driven companies and 92 percent reported that their ecosystems partners shared data within their ecosystem. However, only 31 percent of executives said that data is shared without restriction across their ecosystems.

Why are business leaders reluctant to share data with their ecosystem partners? Loss of competitive advantage, disclosure of secret information and cyber-security risks are some of the key concerns (See illustration below).

Why are business leaders reluctant to share data with their ecosystem partners? Loss of competitive advantage, disclosure of secret information and cyber-security risks are some of the key concerns.

Some of these concerns can be easily remedied. Worries about cyber-security risks, for example, could be allayed by introducing proper governance frameworks within ecosystem partnerships. Concerns about losing competitive advantage or disclosing proprietary information might be dispelled by building a strong shared vision among ecosystem partners. Less than a quarter of the executives we surveyed ranked governance among their top three capabilities and only 38 percent strongly agreed that a shared vision among ecosystem partners was necessary.

Organizations looking to make themselves more attractive as ecosystem partners could do well to bolster their governance structures and devise strong ecosystem visions and business strategies that can be easily demonstrated to prospective allies.

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how insurers can prepare themselves to become strong ecosystem partners. Until then, have a look at these links. I think you’ll find them useful.

Cornerstone of future growth: Ecosystems.

Evolve to thrive in the emerging insurance ecosystem.

Ecosystem power plays: Beyond platforms.

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