Felietony Archive

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Using AI and Analytics to Transform Your Business

As  the  world  becomes  more  digital,  artificial  intel-ligence (AI) is increasingly critical to the way we do business. Leaders are no longer deciding whether they will implement AI — they are deciding how.This year’s MIT SMR Connections survey shows that organiza-tions are rethinking the way they operate to gain value from AI. They are transforming their processes, encouraging collabora-tion across the enterprise, and finding new ways to use AI and analytics to get tangible results. Still, many organizations are facing challenges in getting their AI programs off the ground: Less than half of survey respon-dents reported active adoption. Most are still in the early stag-es of executing AI strategies. The good news is that leaders are committed to transforming their businesses. They understand that making changes today leads to big benefits tomorrow.SAS has long been an advocate of AI and its associated tech-nologies. We’ve been a pioneer in analytics, including machine learning,  for  more  than  40  years  and  have  decades  of  expe-rience  in  natural  language  processing.  And  we’re  embedding  AI into our core solutions so that our customers automatically benefit from AI capabilities.But it’s important to remember that even if you have the most powerful  analytics  available  and  expand  automation  across  ever more business processes, you still need humans to drive business strategy. Machines are not taking over the world.

They don’t understand strategy. They lack the vision required to truly drive change at a strategic level.Strategic vision can only come from business leaders and their teams. The survey explains how commitment from an organi-zation’s C-suite is key to a successful AI effort. When the tech-nology becomes part of the business culture, it’s more acces-sible to everyone. At SAS, we know that bringing AI into the day-to-day work-place — and making it more accessible — is integral to improv-ing the world around us. Business leaders need to account for the  convergence  of  people,  processes,  and  technology.  AI  is  one piece of the puzzle. Fortunately, the survey results indicate that businesses are shifting in the right direction. I’m excited to see this evolution as more organizations make AI part of their everyday decisions. It’s a big undertaking — transformation often is. But in the end, it’s well worth the effort.

 Jennifer Chase, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, SAS

More:  The research report “How AI Changes the Rules: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Organization”

Executive Summary

Many leaders are excited about AI’s potential to profoundly transform organizations by making them more innovative and productive. But implementing AI will also lead to significant changes in how organizations are managed, according to our recent survey of more than 2,200 business leaders, managers, and key contributors. Those survey respondents, rep-resenting organizations across the globe, expect that reaping the benefits of AI will require changes in workplace structures, technology strategies, and technology governance.The energy for exploring AI is widespread: Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents reported increased spending on AI technolo-gies in the past year. However, for most, it’s still too early to realize benefits at scale. Less than half of respondents reported active adoption, with just 1 in 20 indicating that they have implemented AI broadly, while 18% have implemented AI in a few processes and 19% are running pilot projects. The responses from those who have implemented AI indicate that these initiatives have implications for general management and technology leaders in three significant ways: 1. AI will drive organizational change and ask more of top leaders.The majority of respondents to our survey expect that imple-menting AI will require more significant organizational change than other emerging technologies. AI demands more collaboration among people skilled in data management, analytics, IT infrastructure, and systems development, as well as business and opera-tional experts. This means that organizational leaders need to ensure that traditional silos don’t hinder AI efforts, and they must support the training required to build skills across their workforces.2. AI will place new demands on the CIO and CTO.AI implementation will influence the choices CIOs and CTOs make in setting their broad technology agendas. They will need to prioritize developing foundational technology capabilities, from infrastructure and cybersecurity to data management and development processes — areas in which those with more advanced AI implemen-tations are already taking the lead compared with other respondents. CIOs will also need to manage the significant changes to software development and deployment processes that most respondents expect from AI. Many CIOs will also be charged with overseeing or supporting formal data governance efforts: CIOs and CTOs are more likely than other executives to be tasked with this, according to our survey. As leading practitioners note, AI requires both quality data and ongoing support to improve the efficacy of its results and to achieve strong ROI.3. AI will require an increased focus on risk management and ethics.Our survey shows a broad awareness of the risks inher-ent in using AI, but few practitioners have taken action to create policies and processes to manage risks, including ethical, legal, reputational, and financial risks. Managing ethical risk is a particular area of opportunity. Those with more advanced AI practices are establishing processes and policies for technology governance and risk management, including providing ways to explain how their algorithms deliver results. They point out that understanding how AI systems reach their conclusions is both an emerging best practice and a necessity, in order to ensure that the human intelligence that feeds and nurtures AI systems keeps pace with the machines’ advancements.The report that follows explores these findings in depth. Read on to learn more about the changes that leaders must prepare for to successfully implement trusted AI.

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Getting Uncomfortable on Purpose

Thinking about purpose in business was once a provocative and urgent activity. A seminal HBR article from 1994 states, “In most corporations today, people no longer know—or even care—what or why their companies are,” and argues that “strategies can engender strong, enduring emotional attachments only when they are embedded in a broader organizational purpose.” At the time, purpose was a disruptive idea, reminding companies how disconnected they had become from their raison d’être and inspiring them to re-articulate it, recommit to it, and mobilize around it.

Yet like many new ideas in business, what starts out as a provocation can easily become an empty word, a comfortable routine, or even an excuse for not facing the toughest issues. Indeed, interest in purpose has surged, peaked, and declined, suggesting that the concept, like CSR, agile, and other initially powerful business ideas, has been overused and diluted. (See Exhibit 1.)

A clear sign that purpose has lost its power is if discussing it is easy and comfortable—if in articulating purpose you are merely describing, rather than disrupting, how your company works. Such discussions are probably not adding much value. Yet the reasons for a serious consideration of purpose have only become more urgent. How can we get back to the raw power of the idea of purpose and jettison the ambiguity, complacency, and ritualization that have grown up around it?

What Is Purpose?

Purpose is developed at the intersection of aspiration, external need, and action. A purpose is an enduring aspiration formed around a need in the world that a company is willing and able to act on, using either intrinsic strengths or capabilities it could develop. For example, the world’s oldest company, Japanese construction firm Kongō Gumi, describes its purpose this way: “Kongō Gumi constructs shrines and temples that cultivate and bring calmness to your mind.”1 Although the company has probably articulated this purpose in different ways over time, and its offering and operations have evolved (the company was recently acquired), it has pursued the core social good of bringing calm to people’s minds since its founding 1,440 years ago.

At the heart of the idea of purpose are a number of discomforting tensions. (See Exhibit 2.) There is the tension between idealism and realism: on the one hand, you want to set forth an ideal that pushes your company to become something greater than it currently is, but on the other hand, you don’t want videos and speeches articulating lofty aspirations that are grossly mismatched with your company’s intention and capability to act. Reality without ideals takes you nowhere, but ideals without reality are equally fruitless: you end up either ignoring the ideal or pretending you are already living it.

Then there is the tension between imagination and existing needs. One can be guided by a dream—of what people’s lives or society could be like—using it as the basis for articulating a new need. Or one can set out to meet a palpable existing need. Serving acknowledged needs is likely to be more realistic but also to provide less differentiation from others. Shaping new needs offers greater possibilities for uniqueness and profit but is likely to be less feasible.

There is also the tension between having a positive impact on society and maintaining financial viability. When addressing an ideal cannot generate a return, the purpose will not be sustainable. On the other hand, when the need is conceived as little more than providing a useful product, the purpose is hardly inspiring. The tension is between fulfilling a societal need and keeping the machine of the business running to fund the purpose on a sustainable basis.

Finally, there is the tension between consistency of purpose over time and adaptation to changing conditions. On the one hand, a commitment that can be broken and reframed too easily is not a principled basis for an enduring identity. On the other, aspirations, needs, and capabilities all change over time, indicated by the dotted triangle in Exhibit 2; it is natural that even if your purpose endures, how you understand and act on it evolves as you experiment and learn in a changing world.

A good purpose integrates and balances all of these tensions. It is a balance of idealism (setting a real aspiration) and realism (not ignoring brutal truths); it is an imaginative way to meet a genuine need; it suggests a path for making an impact while attracting and maintaining sufficient resources to do so; and it captures what is timeless while leaving room for evolution of thought and action.  

By Ashley Grice , Martin Reeves , and Jack Fuller

More: The BCG Henderson Institute is Boston Consulting Group’s strategy think tank, dedicated to exploring and developing valuable new insights from business, technology, and science by embracing the powerful technology of ideas. The Institute engages leaders in provocative discussion and experimentation to expand the boundaries of business theory and practice and to translate innovative ideas from within and beyond business. For more ideas and inspiration from the Institute, please visit Featured Insights.

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Reflections from Davos 2020

Unseasonably and somewhat unnervingly mild temperatures provided a fitting backdrop for what emerged as the top issue at the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting: climate change and its risks.

But that was far from the only topic. At the end of this year’s Annual Meeting, I sat down with Rik Kirkland, our director of publishing, to share my reflections.

Here are four key takeaways, which are also captured in this video. https://www.mckinsey.com/about-us/new-at-mckinsey-blog/davos-2020-four-big-themes

Climate risk is firmly established as a C-suite issue. Research published in reports like the McKinsey Global Institute’s “Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts” has clearly convinced more and more global policy makers and business leaders that the problem of climate change has moved from a far-off priority to a here-and-now risk that demands action. Personal experiences, whether from watching the wildfires in Australia or California or numerous other small examples, have also brought home the reality that this is a topic that requires leadership from the top.

While there wasn’t much debate about the science, executives and investors were concerned about the lack of reliable data on the efforts companies and society are making, not to mention their impact. Greater clarity is required in order to speed development of new standards to help markets act more efficiently and reward progress.

Beyond metrics, the leaders I spoke with are thinking about the problem in new and creative ways. They are taking a clear-eyed look at what is driving their carbon footprints, beginning to quantify the cost of inaction, and asking how they can accelerate positive change in a way that fits within their core business agenda.

That’s a huge shift in tone from even a year ago.

The short-term economic outlook is “optimistic.” First, a caveat: the Davos consensus is not always right. Last year, many feared 2018’s synchronous growth would turn into synchronous recession. That did not prove to be the case. In fact, by a number of measures, economic growth in many countries in 2019 turned out just fine and markets hit all-time highs. […]

People love AI. People fear AI. While climate bumped technology from last year’s number-one slot as the Big Topic, tech and AI in particular again featured prominently. […]

The stakeholder era is here. The Annual Meeting’s overarching theme this year was “stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world.” A number of sessions covered the breakdown in trust, probed globalization’s shortcomings, and underscored the need for companies to think not only about investors but also the planet, employees, and the communities in which they operate. […]

Kevin S

By Kevin Sneader

Serves as the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company

More: McKinsey & Company

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Empatyczne roboty

Empatyczne roboty, czyli trendy technologiczne, które zmienią biznes w 2020 roku

Globalny rynek rozwiązań opartych o sztuczną inteligencję, które pomagają rozpoznać emocje człowieka, będzie rósł o 32,3 proc. rocznie w ciągu najbliższych czterech lat

Aby technologia stała się motorem zmian, w organizacji niezbędne jest umiejętne połączenie ze sobą kilku przełomowych innowacji. Jak wynika z raportu firmy doradczej Deloitte „Tech Trends 2020”, decyzje w sprawie inwestycji w IT coraz częściej należą do dyrektorów finansowych, podczas gdy architekci systemów informatycznych zaczynają brać na siebie większą odpowiedzialność za wdrażanie poszczególnych usług. Współpraca obu działów jest konieczna do rozwoju technologicznego organizacji. Jak ustalili eksperci firmy doradczej w tej chwili działy IT na wdrożenie nowych rozwiązań innowacyjnych wydają średnio 18 proc. swojego budżetu.

W erze cyfrowej, umiejętność łączenia wielu różnych technologii naraz stała się kluczem do rozwoju organizacji i najwyższym priorytetem działalności firm. Według ekspertów Deloitte to właśnie rzeczywistość cyfrowa, blockchain oraz technologie kognitywne, takie jak uczenie maszynowe czy boty, będą kształtowały biznes w ciągu najbliższej dekady. Aby jednak było to możliwe, konieczna będzie bliska współpraca pomiędzy prezesami zarządów a szefami działów IT. Pozwoli ona firmie nie tylko zidentyfikować obecne trendy rynkowe, wypracować odpowiednią strategię działań, lecz też uzyskać pozycję lidera na tym niezwykle konkurencyjnym rynku.

Doświadczenie cyfrowe, analityka, technologie kognitywne czy też blockchain to tylko niektóre z czynników, które już teraz decydują o losie przedsiębiorstw. Oczekujemy, że w ciągu kolejnych kilku lat innowacyjne rozwiązania jeszcze bardziej zakorzenią się w biznesie. Sztuczna inteligencja w sposób wykładniczy zacznie nie tylko rozpoznawać wzorce, ale również interpretować ich sens, co pozwoli firmom jeszcze efektywniej działać, np. poprzez bardziej kontekstową obsługę klientów. Spodziewamy się też dalszego rozwoju technologii kwantowej, która zacznie znajdywać praktyczne zastosowania przy rozwiązywaniu na dziś wciąż zbyt skomplikowanych zagadnień i nie będzie już tylko odległym marzeniem – mówi Sławomir Lubak, Partner, Lider obszaru strategii i integracji technologii oraz

Trendy technologiczne 2020 – prezentacja: https://www2.deloitte.com/pl/pl

Zaufanie nigdy nie było tak ważne

W ciągu ostatnich lat rola etyki w biznesie zyskała na znaczeniu. Nad kwestiami wykorzystania danych osobowych czy śledzenia zachowań w internecie zastanawiają się nie tylko klienci, lecz też pracownicy, partnerzy, inwestorzy oraz organy regulacyjne. Pojawienie się technologii cyfrowej oznacza zatem dla firm walkę o większe zaufanie. Jak wynika z badania Deloitte sporządzonego we współpracy z MIT Sloan Management Review „Accelerating digital innovation inside and out”, 35 proc. respondentów uważa, że liderzy ich organizacji poświęcają wystarczająco dużo czasu na przemyślenia i komunikowanie wpływu innowacji na społeczeństwo. Wykorzystanie technologii w sposób etyczny pomaga nie tylko zdobyć jeszcze większe zaufanie wśród interesariuszy, lecz też zwiększa przejrzystość funkcjonowania firm oraz zapewnia bezpieczeństwo danych.

Zaufanie do firm jest dziś ważniejsze niż kiedykolwiek wcześniej. Klienci, organy regulacyjne i media oczekują, że marki będą otwarte, uczciwe i spójne we wszystkich aspektach swojej działalności, od produktów i promocji, po kulturę pracy i relacje z partnerami biznesowymi. Ponieważ każda firma jest teraz mniej lub bardziej technologiczna, wartości te powinny być wpisane we wszystkie działania wykorzystujące technologię – od odpowiedniego zabezpieczenia danych klientów i kontrahentów, przez etyczne wykorzystanie danych i algorytmów AI po informowanie otoczenia o wykorzystywaniu konkretnych rozwiązań technologicznych. Tylko etyczne wykorzystanie technologii może zbudować zaufanie, które zaowocuje długotrwałymi relacjami biznesowymi – mówi Mariusz Ustyjańczuk, Partner w departamencie zarządzania ryzykiem, Deloitte.

Niezbędna jest współpraca

Jak wynika z badania Deloitte „CIO Survey 2018”, przeciętny dział IT wydaje 56 proc. budżetu na utrzymanie działalności biznesowej i tylko 18 proc. na innowacje. Uzyskaniu większego wsparcia w kwestii unowocześniania systemów IT przeszkadzają wewnętrzne procedury planowania budżetu firm. W związku z tym, zgodnie z przewidywaniami autorów raportu „Tech Trends 2020”, w ciągu kolejnych dwóch lat coraz więcej liderów działów IT i finansów będzie nawiązywać współpracę w celu wypracowania elastycznego podejścia do finansowania innowacji.

W ramach zwinnej transformacji zazwyczaj redefiniowany jest proces budżetowania w firmach, który historycznie bazuje na corocznych budżetach, co może utrudniać szybkość działań w organizacji. Podejście zwinne, wymaga częstych zmian kierunku i decyzji w kontekście przeznaczania zasobów. Właśnie dlatego, coraz więcej firm decyduje się na plany kwartalne. Co więcej, aby przyspieszyć wdrożenie innowacyjnych rozwiązań, dyrektorzy zarządzający i finansowi muszą zbadać inne możliwości finansowania na przykład współinwestowanie w obrębie branży czy sektora. Pozwoli to nie tylko współdzielić ryzyko z tym związane, lecz też osiągać wspólne cele rozwojowe – mówi Daniel Martyniuk, Partner, Lider doradztwa technologicznego, Deloitte.
 

Empatyczne roboty

Rozwój affective computing, czyli technologii rozpoznającej stan emocjonalny człowieka, nabiera tempa. Według ekspertów Deloitte, w ciągu następnych dwóch lat coraz więcej firm będzie inwestować w takie rozwiązania, które pozwolą im lepiej zrozumieć potrzeby swoich odbiorców. Oczekuje się, że dzięki technikom HCD, czyli projektowaniu opartym na szerszym poznaniu perspektywy człowieka, np. użytkownika, technologia będzie w stanie coraz lepiej rozpoznać emocje i kontekst sytuacji, w której człowiek się znajduje, a także odpowiednio na to zareagować. Z raportu Deloitte wynika, że wykorzystanie informatyki afektywnej pomoże organizacjom osiągnąć wzrost przychodów 17 razy szybciej od tych, które takich działań nie podejmą. Ponadto, wielkość globalnego rynku rozwiązań afektywnych wzrośnie z 22 mld dolarów w 2019 r. do 90 mld dolarów w 2024 r., osiągając roczny wzrost na poziomie 32,3 proc.

Połączenie badań neurobiologicznych, czyli pomiaru aktywności mózgu, czy ruchu gałek ocznych, technik HCD, odpowiednich zasad etycznych organizacji oraz wartości ludzkich, pozwoli firmom lepiej zrozumieć naturalne procesy decyzyjne klientów. Umiejętne przetwarzanie pozyskanych danych stanie się zatem czynnikiem decydującym o sukcesie przyszłych innowacji – mówi Sławomir Lubak.
 

Wirtualizacja świata

Z biegiem lat granice pomiędzy fizycznym a cyfrowym światem coraz bardziej się zacierają, stwarzając tym samym nowe możliwości rozwoju. Już dzisiaj na wiele różnych sposobów firmy wykorzystują potencjał cyfrowych bliźniaków, czyli wirtualnych replik fizycznych urządzeń lub złożonych systemów. Np. w służbie zdrowia służą one do symulacji pracy ludzkiego serca. Możliwości te nie są nowe, ale trend nabiera tempa dzięki szybko rozwijającym się metodom modelowania, lepszej interoperacyjności oraz większej dostępności narzędzi i infrastruktury obliczeniowej. Jak twierdzą eksperci Deloitte, rozwój cyfrowych bliźniaków będzie się nasilać w nadchodzących latach.

Bliźniaki cyfrowe mogą zwiększać wydajność produkcji, optymalizować łańcuchy dostaw, przewidywać potrzebną konserwację maszyn, czy pomagać w ograniczaniu zatorów – a potencjalnych zastosowań jest o wiele więcej. Dostęp do coraz większej ilości danych umożliwia tworzenie symulacji, które są bardziej szczegółowe i dynamiczne niż kiedykolwiek. Ponadto, wirtualizacja obiektów stała się tak samo dostępna dla dużych, jak i małych organizacji. W najbliższym czasie niemal każda firma będzie mogła wykorzystać cyfrowe bliźniaki do optymalizowania procesów, podejmowania decyzji na podstawie danych w czasie rzeczywistym oraz opracowywania nowych produktów, usług i modeli biznesowych – mówi Mariusz Ustyjańczuk.

Architekci IT idą na całość

Architektura IT, czyli projektowanie, wdrażanie i nadzorowanie poszczególnych komponentów technologicznych, ma obecnie większe znaczenie strategiczne niż kiedykolwiek przedtem. Według 42 proc. respondentów webcastu Deloitte „The future of architecture: Designing a foundation for growth” architekt IT przyszłości to jeszcze bardziej wyspecjalizowany technicznie i dostosowany do środowiska biznesowego specjalista. To osoba, która pomaga w dialogu pomiędzy biznesem a IT, przekładając potrzeby firmy na język systemów. W najbliższym czasie architekci zaczną brać na siebie coraz większą odpowiedzialność za tworzenie usług i zarządzanie systemami operacyjnymi. Ponadto, będą bezpośrednio odpowiedzialni za osiąganie wyników biznesowych i rozwiązywanie problemów architektonicznych.

– Aby zachować konkurencję rynkową, duże organizacje będą musiały przemyśleć swoje podejście do architektów IT. Architekci powinni wyjść ze swoich stref komfortu i udzielać wsparcia na projektowej linii frontu. Taka zmiana pomoże im podnieść poziom zaangażowania, responsywności i kreatywności, a jednocześnie zachować całościowy obraz organizacji. Podwyższone zaangażowanie architektów w kluczowe projekty transformacyjne pozwoli napędzić szybkość zmian, usprawnić działanie całej organizacji i z pewnością przyczyni się do jej rozwoju – dodaje Daniel Martyniuk.

Magdalena Biedrzycka-Doliwa (Selwant-Różycka)

Magdalena Biedrzycka-Doliwa (Selwant-Różycka)

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The Emerging Art of Ecosystem Management

Today’s artists express their vision by stretching far beyond the boundaries of canvas and paint. Through unorthodox juxtapositions of light, color, video, sound, and nature, artists such as Bill Fontana and the artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude create immersive experiences that require the input of a complex and highly adaptable network of collaborators—including the spectators themselves, each of whom comes away with a highly personalized experience. To succeed, this type of ambitious endeavor requires radical connectivity, an open mind, and a wide range of players. The collaboration itself and the interplay of different elements create artistic value.

The same is true for the complex ecosystems now emerging throughout the business landscape and across industries—and for the new ways they deliver value. As the Internet of Things (IoT) makes our homes, phones, and cars “smart,” companies must work with a far wider range of partners to pull together the underlying technologies, applications, software platforms, and services needed for an integrated solution. The need for partnerships is further amplified by rapidly changing technologies and consumers’ growing demand for a highly customized user experience.

Today’s “smart” products depend on complex networks of partners. But few companies know how to manage these networks effectively.

Some large networks, such as the digital ecosystems of smartphones, comprise a million or more platform partnerships through their integrated app stores. And it’s not just the tech industry that’s undergoing these changes. All industries—including incumbents such as banking, health care, consumer products, logistics, and automotive—are seeing an evolution of their products and services and a need to collaborate differently.

This new reality can be especially challenging for incumbent players, many of which are used to going it alone—either by trying out new things in-house or by buying a company in order to enter a new space. And when they do set up partnerships or make acquisitions, they often end up with an ecosystem more by accident than by virtue of long-term strategic planning.

A better approach is to actively participate in shaping the new landscape. To this end, many leading companies are building their own collaborative networks and/or joining existing ones. The challenge is how to effectively set up and manage these ecosystems and use them strategically to maximize value—and gain a competitive edge. Companies that can meet this challenge will reap enormous benefits, while those that don’t risk falling behind or becoming irrelevant.

In this article we’ll explore a number of key strategic questions, including:

  • How collaboration within an ecosystem is different from traditional collaboration
  • What types of ecosystems are available and which are best suited for incumbents
  • How incumbents can gain a competitive advantage through the strategic use of digital ecosystems

The New Collaboration Model

Just as contemporary art installations are completely unlike traditional paintings, the members of today’s digital ecosystems collaborate in ways that are fundamentally different from collaborations of the past. Case in point: the auto industry, which is currently undergoing radical changes. In the past, automakers either formed a joint venture or alliance with an OEM to enter a new market (such as China) or formed contractual relationships with hundreds of suppliers to secure parts. These traditional partnerships still exist, but today a typical European auto company will draw on an ecosystem of more than 30 partners across five different industries and several countries to make cars that are connected, electric, and autonomous. (See Exhibit 1.) The auto company acts as the “orchestrator,” whose role is to organize and manage the ecosystem, define the strategy, and identify potential participants.

Today’s collaborations have a different purpose, structure, and outcome than those of the past—and industry lines are becoming increasingly blurred. Articles in academic and business journals have explored only limited aspects of these differences, such as the new focus on smart, integrated solutions;1 the goal of achieving innovation leadership and speed to market;2 and the shift from rigid value chains to highly adaptable value webs.3 But these are only part of the story.

Our extensive research into 40 ecosystems revealed four additional aspects of the new digital ecosystems that are changing how companies collaborate: geographic diversity of participants; cross-industry focus; shorter, more flexible deal structures; and mutual, continuous value creation. (See Exhibit 2.)

Super Platforms: Integrating Several Platforms into One Fully Integrated Offering

Some platforms integrate a wide range of complementary platforms into a single, fully integrated super platform. A good example is a digital assistant that integrates transportation, payment, shopping, and communication services into a single user-friendly solution. This type of ecosystem requires advanced digital capabilities, an openness to outside partners, and a well-established platform to start with. For these reasons, it tends to be preferred by well-established tech companies.

Number and Type of Partners. This type of ecosystem depends on a high volume of users driven by a limited number of well-established partner platforms and their contributors, which number in the millions. As a result, super platforms are open—even to competitors, if they can add unique features. For instance, Amazon’s Alexa integrated the Sonos smart-speaker platform to attract high-end users. Rather than standardizing partner screening, super platforms focus on strategic considerations, such as what impact potential partners will have on the overall market opportunity, product cannibalization, and user lock-in.

Role of Orchestrator. Since super platforms have a relatively small number of partners (i.e., the partner platforms), the orchestrator can focus on negotiating the strategic aspects of the ecosystem, such as data sharing, exclusivity, and any changes to the platform that affect services or functionality. The orchestrator’s negotiating strength depends on the power of the super platform, which is a direct function of the number of engaged users and the products and services that are already integrated. The orchestrator also sets technical requirements for the partner platforms.

Another key focus is on providing a best-in-class customer interface and user experience to drive user engagement, grow the user base, and attract other partner platforms. Both Amazon Alexa and WeChat, two well-established super platforms, offer highly intuitive user interfaces that draw upon extensive user preference data from the companies’ other businesses. The two super platforms also integrated their own adjacent services and platforms before adding key partners. This allowed them to experiment with integration, prove the viability of the combined offering, and build up their user base—all of which made the platforms more attractive to potential partners.

A strong financial backbone is needed to grow a super platform. For instance, Amazon launched an extensive marketing campaign to promote Alexa and discounted speaker prices to bring in users. It also provides financial support (via the Alexa Fund) and gives programmers financial incentives to develop skills that continually increase Alexa’s usability and appeal.

Value Creation. A super platform makes money largely through adjacent, mostly data-based businesses, such as ads, e-commerce payments, and new service offerings. A good example is WeChat, which started as a social messenger and now allows users to buy and sell products, send money to friends, order food and groceries, and check news. Customizing service offerings and building adjacent businesses that users want and need require a broad set of user data. Super platforms therefore focus partner negotiations on trying to safeguard their own data and get access to the data of other integrated platforms.

Key Success Factors. Our research suggests that a successful super platform needs a well-established technology foundation, a superior user interface and experience, and strong financial backing.

Looking Ahead

Companies used to work primarily one to one with another companies, but that was ten years ago. To create products today, Niki Lang says that companies need to have an array of partners.

In today’s connected world, industry and geographic boundaries are becoming meaningless, and unexpected change has become a constant. Adaptable ecosystems are designed to respond more quickly to evolving demand patterns, customer preferences, and the competitive landscape.

The new art of setting up and managing these broad collaborative networks—and leveraging their potential—is still uncharted territory for most businesses. The insights described above provide a starting point. Forward-looking companies that can capitalize on the potential power of ecosystems will reap enormous benefits and be well positioned for an uncertain future.

Authors:

Nikolaus Lang  Managing Director & Senior Partner; Global Leader, Global Advantage Practice, Munich;

Konrad von Szczepanski  Managing Director & Partner, London

Charline Wurzer Project Leader, Munich

TEN PRINCIPLES OF ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT

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