From media and technology to energy and mining—no major industry is untouched by the rise of business ecosystems. These dynamic groups of largely independent economic players working together to deliver solutions that they couldn’t muster on their own come in two flavors: transaction ecosystems in which a central platform links two sides of a market, such as buyers and sellers on a digital marketplace; and solution ecosystems in which a core firm orchestrates the offerings of several complementors, such as product manufacturers in a smart-home ecosystem. Both types can quickly generate eye-popping valuations; since 2015, more than 300 ecosystem startups have reached unicorn status.
Given the success of this cohort of startups, as well as the Big Tech ecosystem players now numbered among the world’s most valuable companies, it’s no surprise that ecosystems are high on the strategic agendas of incumbent companies. More than half of the S&P Global 100 companies are already engaged in one or more ecosystems, and in a recent BCG survey of 206 executives in multinational companies, 90% indicated that their companies planned to expand their activities in this field.
Yet many leaders of incumbent companies are still unsure how to define their ecosystem strategies. This article aims to help them in that pursuit. It is informed by the insights we’ve gleaned from three years of ecosystem research and engagements with large enterprises across industries and geographies. Organized in eight fundamental questions, it offers a step-by-step framework for developing a company’s ecosystem strategy.