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Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem

Book Description

The business world is rapidly digitizing, breaking down industry barriers and creating new opportunities while destroying long-successful business models. Given the amount of turmoil digital disruption is causing, authors Peter Weill and Stephanie L. Woerner of the MIT Center for Information Systems Research say it’s time for companies to evaluate these threats and opportunities and create new business options for the more-connected future of digital ecosystems. In recent research, board members at large companies estimated that 32% of their company’s revenue would be under threat from digital disruption in the next five years; 60% of board members felt their boards should spend significantly more time on this issue next year. Despite the threats from companies including Uber, Airbnb and Amazon, increasing digitization offers opportunities for companies to leverage strong customer relationships and increase cross-selling, the authors argue. The authors offer a framework, supported by examples, for helping managers think about their competitive environments. “The combination of moving from value chains to ecosystems and increasing consumer knowledge,” the authors write, “provides business leaders with four distinct business models, each with associated capabilities and relationships.” Companies can choose to operate as (1) suppliers, (2) omnichannel businesses, (3) modular producers or (4) ecosystem drivers. The authors found that businesses focused narrowly on value chains were at a disadvantage compared with those that thought more broadly about their business ecosystems. Companies that had 50% or more of their revenues from digital ecosystems and understood their end customers better than their average competitor saw 32% higher revenue growth and 27% higher profit margins than their industry averages. As they prepare for growing digital disruption, companies have two major decisions to make. First, they need to decide the extent to which they want to control the value chain or become part of a more complex ecosystem. Second, they need to decide how much they want to invest in knowing their end customers. Companies with ecosystem drivers as their dominant business model had the highest margins and growth of all the four options in the companies the authors studied.