How a Strong Ecosystem Can Help Companies Overcome Technology's Biggest Challenges and Reach New Markets

Successful collaboration isn't easy, but the payoff can be bigger than the sum of the parts.

December 9, 2022

4 Min Read
Business challenges

By Kate Woolley


Kate Woolley

In today’s environment, collaboration is key for any company to accelerate and scale its innovation and that of its clients. That means going beyond traditional business models to form relationships with all types of partners, bringing different companies into a cohesive ecosystem that creates new routes to market for everyone’s benefit and growth.

When a company has a strong ecosystem, they understand that client solutions can only be as good as the strength of their partnerships, which are essential to delivering the highest caliber of technology and services to the market. Gartner recently emphasized this point when it reported that “digital ecosystem communities” will produce sales that top $50 trillion by 2025 (PDF).

These relationships, while sometimes controversial, are critical to helping clients today, and to capturing the biggest market opportunities, most of which lie in the $1 trillion hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) market.

Collaboration Opens New Markets and Opportunities

Partner ecosystems are more than just the sum of their parts. In fact, they can be one of the most powerful forces in technology. When companies come together to solve today’s most complex business problems, participants get access to larger markets they otherwise couldn’t tackle independently.

For example, a healthy ecosystem can help customers across industries take advantage of hybrid cloud and AI to speed innovation, improve quality and lower cost. This can be especially valuable for customers in regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare, where modernization must also adhere to strict compliance and regulations. These projects might involve improving the speed with which a bank can roll out updates to its digital wealth management software, developing a voice assist program that provides quick answers to customer’s finance and healthcare questions, or creating a digital health care integration for securely exchanging electronic health records and using AI to derive insights, saving businesses time and money.

Such projects are ripe for partner teams working together to provide different components for the client’s benefit, including software development, systems integration and AI expertise.

Cultivate a Vision of Being Mutually Essential

But successful cross-partner collaboration isn’t always easy. Often, it means asking companies traditionally considered as “competitors” to work together on open platforms when their interests and expertise align. It also means asking stakeholders to view these instances of cooperation as healthy and necessary for innovation and growth. To overcome these challenges and help establish a collaborative environment, you must prove yourself both easy to work with and essential to your partners.

Being easy to work with includes managing complex relationships and interactions between yourself and your partners. This might involve creating a simple, frictionless end-to-end experience for partners where they can easily engage with you and one another. It might also look like investing in demand-generation programs, new solutions and routes to market, or streamlining how you make co-marketing funds available.

To position yourself as essential to your partners’ business, consider increasing product-specialized and technical resources you make available to support partners. It’s also critical to have technical experts working side-by-side with partners, or upskilling partner teams to help them compete in the most demanding IT markets.

Collaboration to Drive Transformation

Once you’ve proven yourself both easy to work with and essential to your partners, you can establish a collaborative environment that can accelerate innovation and bring solutions quickly to market.

In the modern technology landscape, collaboration with traditional competitors and through various hybrid and open software models is the way forward. Industries are transforming and no one vendor or partner can go it alone. Forming a strong partner ecosystem is the model of the future and key to delivering value for our collective clients and discovering new routes to market.

Kate Woolley is general manager of the IBM Ecosystem, where she leads global sales and programs that support IBM partners who deliver value to clients with hybrid cloud and AI solutions and services. Her team is responsible for partners that distribute and sell IBM hardware and software, ISVs, global and regional system integrators, as well as strategic partners comprised of hyperscalers and some of the world’s largest technology companies. She is also responsible for Ecosystem Labs and Developer Advocacy. Previous positions include serving as chief of staff to IBM’s CEO, Arvind Krishna, and as a partner in the New York office of Bain & Company (2006-2020), where she co-led Bain’s Cloud Computing practice globally. She holds a bachelor of laws and a bachelor of science (Operations Research) from The University of Melbourne. You may follow her on LinkedIn or @IBM on Twitter.

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