Suppliers, customers, and partners can collaborate instantaneously in a digital ecosystem. This drives efficient decisions, innovation, and amplified value. Such as at the Dutch state benefit provider SVB, where ecosystem participation accelerates improvements. “We keep our core responsibilities and tasks close to ourselves,” says Astrid Zwiers, IT Director at SVB. “But we can’t do everything alone.”
The current emphasis regarding digital ecosystems is on purpose, states Ghelmer Brilleman, Director of Technology Consulting at PwC, at the start of the second episode of CIO TV’s summer series, a collaboration with infrastructure and digital services specialist Equinix. “Until now, organizations were mainly concerned with digitizing their existing business, for example, to make things more efficient. But that is shifting to a value model.”
PwC has researched digitally progressive companies in various parts of the world. Three leadership imperatives emerged: reimagine your place in the world, build a system of privileged insights from your customers and embrace and create value via ecosystems.
“One of the challenges of SVB is that the regulations are becoming increasingly complex”
Brilleman speaks of digital ecosystems as interconnected systems or entities that work synergistically as a unit. Ecosystem flavors are platform providers, orchestrators, integrators, and innovation partnerships in a variety of industries. The PwC director also comes with a definition: “An ecosystem is an interconnected set of offerings that allows customers to fulfill a variety of their needs through an integrated experience.”
The “Social Insurance Bank” (Dutch: Sociale Verzekeringsbank or SVB) is an independent administrative body and the oldest provider of social security benefits in the Netherlands, such as old age pensions (AOW and AIO), child benefits, and several others.
“One of the challenges is that the regulations to be implemented are becoming increasingly complex,” tells Astrid Zwiers, IT Director. “In addition, as with so many others, digitization still mainly revolves around the existing paper processes. At the same time, societal needs are changing. For our 5.7 million customers in the Netherlands and abroad, all benefits they are entitled to must remain transparent, informative, and at the same time it has to be a feasible process.”
This is complex, although there is a political and social climate in which SVB can drastically simplify and improve its processes. “There are certainly opportunities for all our stakeholders, for example in the field of solutions, collaboration, and data sharing between government bodies. But if we want to approach that in an agile way, our normal services must continue.” SVB pays out 50 billion euros in benefits annually.
Redefine and reinvent
Dave van Meer, Head of Solutions at Orange Business Services, adds, “Customers and employees demand an ever better experience, partly under the influence of new technological possibilities. In addition, this also brings new players to the market – both competitors and partners. Partly under that pressure, organizations are forced to redefine their position, and possibly reinvent themselves, which is not always easy.”
Sometimes it leads to all kinds of new connections between companies and industries, to be able to supply the requested products and services together in a composable or modular manner. “Based on Lego blocks brought in by all the different parties,” says Van Meer.
“Bringing together resources from multiple organizations contributes to their strength”
Naturally, this requires the stability that is necessary. It presents organizations with challenges as well. Particularly in the public sector, such as at SVB, which must be a trusted partner for citizens.
The ecosystem trend is visible in all industries: automotive, omnichannel retail, and the public sector, says Orla Ni Chorcora, Vice President, Channel EMEA at Equinix. “Many of those developments to create value together with others based on technology and data are not dominant present within those organizations, but they must be managed in the right way by C-level [positions]. At the same time, they realize well that they cannot do it alone and that bringing together resources from multiple organizations contributes to their strength.”
It’s about creating an infrastructure that gives you the ability, confidence, and security to connect to relevant ecosystems. “Including its monitoring. This also enables you to provide the same consistent quality of service anytime and anywhere in the world, based on the best competencies in the market, whenever you wish. While you continuously comply with the applicable laws and regulations,” says Orla Ni Chorcora.
It all starts with a good vision of the role you want to play in the market and your objectives, and therefore also the capabilities that you bring yourself and that partners can or must fulfill.
“You have to be explicit with your strategic ambitions, and you have to link a specific value to it, ” says Astrid Zwiers. “Poverty reduction, for example, is an important one. We want to limit the “non-use” of certain benefits by people who need them financially. That is the business pull for which we offer a technology push to achieve that goal.”
“Within an ecosystem, the best of the market can be used for a specific purpose.”
The same applies to improving services or changes as a result of new regulations. SVB does this alone or with the help of ecosystem partners. Zwiers: “In this way, in the short, medium, and long term, we are building new value and solutions for the business and our customers in addition to our robust, secure core services.”
In addition to combining solutions, the orchestration of a distributed infrastructure plays a role. Within this interconnected ecosystem, data is freely shared where necessary or possible and is preferably located at the network’s edge. The ultimate goal is to be able to offer customers, employees, and other stakeholders a great user experience – in whatever form that may be.
Watch the full episode with some additional tips and recommendations for technology leaders.