In the age of digital disruption, it’s not just about what capabilities you have, it’s also about who you can partner with and the ecosystems you create. Companies are increasingly integrating their core business functionalities with third parties and their platforms.

But rather than treat them like partnerships of old, forward-thinking leaders leverage these relationships to build their role in new digital ecosystems – instrumental to unlocking their next waves of strategic growth.

General Motors (GM) is a prime example. It began 2016 with a major partnership play – investing $500 million in the ride sharing platform Lyft. From this they launched their Express Drive service, where carless Lyft driver applicants can rent a car directly from GM and get to work right away.

Not only that – they are now a member of a wide and lucrative digital transportation ecosystem, and they can leverage their nimble digital partners to offer new and creative services to their customers.

A more recent example took place in July this year when South Australian engineering business LogiCamms, and French 3D software company Dassault Systemes, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly pursue business opportunities in the natural resources, energy, utilities, and life sciences industries.

Utilising Dassault Systemes’ collaboration platform, the organisations believe their complementary capabilities will help them and their customers leverage advanced technologies, gaining a competitive edge.

To remain competitive in the long run, every business must begin moving their thinking beyond the short-term gains that digital platforms provide. They must embrace a more holistic strategy that balances tactical IT decision-making with fostering and investing in the digital ecosystems that will enable long-term growth.

New digital ecosystems such as the connected home, precision agriculture, and connected health, are still small. But companies are choosing both their partners and their roles in these ecosystems now.

Ecosystems of businesses are aggregating around several new digital platforms, and businesses are more motivated than ever before to take advantage of these entry points.

Communication platforms like WeChat and WhatsApp, and AI intermediaries like the Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri represent distinct ecosystems delivering unprecedented access to customers – and businesses are flocking to them. These platforms give companies rapid access to pools of customers and, in the process, can drive more sales and improve customer service and experience.

Here in Australia, organisations are starting to connect with digital platforms and nimble start-ups to generate results. While the Australian start-up ecosystem is small when compared to the likes of Silicon Valley, it is certainly growing, and there is huge scope for large enterprises to engage in the ecosystems they create.

According to the 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report, Sydney has 1,300–2,100 active start-ups. All of these are potential opportunities for large organisations.

Key steps organisations should undergo to become a part of these ecosystems

  • Conduct an audit identifying how many internal and external platforms your company is using & the goals for their use

    Identify and address unnecessary overlaps.

  • Determine the platforms your organisation most relies on, as well as those that most depend on you.

    These are the ecosystems where your organisation should hold its strategic and market strengths.

  • Consider your organisation’s future through the lens of the biggest disruptions shaping your market, from inside and outside your industry.

    Craft the ideal role of your company in this future, and develop a shortlist of partners who can help make it a reality.

  • Expand the conversation

    Meet with your closest partners to understand their goals for the future. Uncover shared goals and commit to developing a strategic plan for achieving them together.

The digital partnerships that companies make today have long-term implications for their future. Whether it’s accessing new customer touchpoints or building new markets with industry partnerships, the external platforms that companies rely on are becoming the gateways to new digital ecosystems – and the pillars of an evolution in their value chain.