In brief

In brief

  • Businesses must pursue innovative, agile business models to remain competitive and grow outside of their traditional core business—and many perceive ecosystems as a strong opportunity to do so.
  • Accenture Strategy research shows that companies clearly see advantages in ecosystems, and almost half of those surveyed are actively seeking them.
  • However, many companies aren’t seeing the revenue growth they had predicted from ecosystem participation.

Every industry is susceptible to disruption by ecosystem plays. Those who aren’t ready are at risk for value degradation. More than 40 percent of companies across 20 industries—accounting for a combined enterprise value of $26 trillion—are highly susceptible to future disruption.1

Seizing the full potential of ecosystems

Accenture Strategy surveyed 1,252 business leaders from diverse industries across the world to better understand the degree to which companies are capturing ecosystem opportunities. We found companies are pursuing new business models to navigate, or even lead, disruption.


Executives surveyed who would build ecosystems to disrupt their industry.


Business leaders surveyed who agree current business models will be unrecognizable in the next 5 years—ecosystems will be the main change agent.

Almost half of executives (46 percent) we surveyed said they are actively seeking ecosystems and new business models. However, executives often don’t have the experience and capabilities to design and execute market-leading ecosystems.

Great stakes. Limited progress.

Many of those we surveyed aren’t seeing the revenue growth they had predicted from ecosystem participation. While 58 percent of companies targeted a growth rate of 3-4 percent, only 40 percent are achieving it. Just 12 percent of companies are seeing growth of 5 percent or more from ecosystems.

A plan for forming ecosystems

Leading executives achieve performance targets and disrupt their industries by focusing on three major pillars as they form ecosystems:

  1. Ecosystem strategy
    Executives believe that ecosystem participation allows businesses to innovate (63 percent), increase revenue growth (58 percent), access new markets (55 percent) and access new customers (55 percent). Yet companies struggle with their strategic intent and goals for the ecosystem. Many executives (84 percent) say ecosystems are important to their strategy of disruption, but 37 percent are unable to balance the current business while exploring the new. Ecosystems require new mindsets and resource allocation.
  2. Ecosystem business model
    New business models accounted for just 1-5 percent of 2015 revenues, but are expected to be responsible for 30 percent by 2020.2 New business models thrive in an ecosystem. But to cultivate value, companies need a strong ecosystem business model that clearly identifies customers, markets, channels and the revenue model.
  3. Ecosystem operating model
    Many business executives are uncomfortable ceding control, which must happen for an ecosystem to be successful. Company leaders must fundamentally shift their mindset—relinquishing control and allowing others to do what they do best. One area where many keep the reins tight is data. Yet data sharing is essential to sustaining an ecosystem. Half of executives surveyed say they are using platforms to share data and/or information across businesses. Many are concerned about sharing intellectual property data (34 percent) and about cyber security (35 percent).


Executives who believe ecosystem participation allows businesses to innovate.


Those who anticipate an increase in revenue growth from their ecosystem participation.

Execute the ecosystems vision

The executives we surveyed see a strong future in ecosystems. In the next three to five years, they believe ecosystems will create new competitive advantage (56 percent), allow them to use data and analytics to better serve customers (50 percent), create new customer experiences (46 percent), and drive innovation and disruption (44 percent). These are the steps to executing an ecosystems vision:

  1. Shape the market play
    At the center of the ecosystem are market plays, disruptive growth opportunities with significant revenue potential for ecosystem participants. Ecosystem players should have a clear strategy for these plays: Define the vision, business case, prioritization and roadmap for the market play(s). The roadmap should outline how the ecosystem will incubate, launch and scale ecosystem products and services.
  2. Claim your role
    Every business can determine where it fits in the ecosystem by asking: Who are our customers? Who are our partners? What are we selling? How will we monetize? Will the business choose to be the innovator that proactively defines and leads innovation? The aggregator that plays a transactional role in the ecosystem? Or the orchestrator that builds the platform and assembles the partners?
Having a strong and clear role in an ecosystem allows companies to pick the right teammates to make a powerful market play.
  1. Pick your partners
    A variety of partners—from social to solution to infrastructure partners—can complement the ecosystem strategy. But those partners must be carefully selected. Ecosystem partners should bring complementary capabilities, a collaborative mindset, domain expertise, customer relationships and data that will help bring the market play to fruition.
  2. Orchestrate the ecosystem
    Once leading companies with distinct capabilities join together with a shared vision and clear plan for the market play and desired outcomes, they can launch and operate their ecosystem. This process will involve planning and testing the ecosystem design and piloting the market play. Key activities also include designing the architecture, risk matrix and vendor landscape to ensure the market play can scale.

In today’s competitive business landscape, companies cannot go it alone. They need the help of partners that bring unique capabilities, data, customers and industry knowledge that can be a source of innovation. Industry leaders are recognizing the power of ecosystems—a proven construct that can drive growth.

1 Omar Abbosh, Michael Sutcliff and Vedrana Savic, “Disruption need not be an enigma,” Accenture, Accenture Disruptability Index, February 26, 2018.

2 World Economic Forum, “How to disrupt yourself,” 2016.

Michael Lyman

Lead – Strategy & Consulting, North America

Ron Ref

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Ecosystem & Growth Strategy

Oliver Wright

Senior Managing Director – Consumer Goods & Services, Global Lead


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