Stronger together: ecosystem trends to watch, examples of emerging tech in ecosystems and their impact on digital transformation

One area where this is especially pronounced is within emerging technology, technological progress that once sounded like science fiction but are now at the cornerstone of technology roadmaps and Fortune 500 business plans. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, Augmented Reality and other technologies are creating new trends, opportunities and challenges, all impacting business ecosystems.

Where Business Ecosystems Drive Emerging Tech

Artificial Intelligence: It has become an inescapable buzzword to some and a game changing advantage for others who understand its value and potential. Within ecosystems, stakeholders can share the often large investments of time, capital and human resources required for AI, the latter especially valuable as AI talent becomes more in-demand and thus more expensive to hire.

From automating processes to screening job applicants to spotting fraud, there are incredible applications. Forward-thinking Chief Information and Chief Strategy Officers should be aware of emerging threats to AI as well. Concerns over bias in facial recognition and more interest from regulators could harm both the reputation, acceptance and rollout of AI, issues that should be discussed with ecosystem partners.

Scoring and Trend Recognition: Finally, there’s an easier, automated way to recognize trends and score certain behaviors, extremely useful for understanding consumer intent, financial risk and even employee satisfaction. Scoring and Recognition is especially valuable and empowered by an ecosystem when multiple partners are feeding in data, running algorithms and combining diverse data.

But within the ecosystem, there must be ample autonomy to design, test and build new ideas with clear communication about in-progress projects. As results and data materialize, transparency and access should be prioritized so each partner can leverage the information for their own purposes and the goals of the ecosystem.

Augmented and Virtual Reality: It’s not just for video games and novel marketing gimmicks anymore. Augmented and Virtual Reality are finding applications in training employees to reduce risk, role playing sales scenarios and preventing purchase hesitation with virtual try-ons of clothing and glasses.

While other emerging tech may find more champions in an ecosystem, AR and VR may require more convincing; for some in leadership, they may be seen as nice-to-haves or “toys” without serious use. In a healthy ecosystem, however, this tech should be explored—especially because there are dozens or hundreds of startups in this space that are keen to partner with larger organizations.

Real Examples of Emerging Tech Ecosystems

When it comes to bleeding edge tech, an ecosystem may be the best way to reduce risk and upfront investments and it’s no surprise some of the biggest names seek out an ecosystem of partners.

Look at many of the most ambitious projects in recent years and you’ll find an ecosystem involving large and small players utilizing the large funding and resources of the big organization and the fresh ideas and agility of the startup.

Perhaps most notable in recent ecosystem history is the cooperation between Oxford University, AstraZeneca and biotech startup, Vaccitech. Utilizing the startup’s mRNA technology, AstraZeneca rolled out their COVID-19 vaccine in early January 2020, a combination of Vaccitech’s innovative tech and AstraZeneca’s colossal logistics, purchasing and marketing power.

In the mobility space, Porsche recently increased their stake in Croatian supercar brand Rimac and partnered with an AR startup and two mood-boosting app startups, creating an ecosystem that has given Porsche access to “innovative components” and technology—without having to pivot away from Porsche’s core business. For the startups, they gain credibility by working with one of the world’s most impressive automotive brands; it’s case study gold.

And, at Beer Garage, the innovation hub at AB InBev, we’re driven by our mission to fuel ABI’s growth through technology. We created five pillars to guide our efforts: 

  1. Academy: future casting, trends, and research,
  2. Ideas: hackathons, conferences, and pitch days,
  3. Incubator: an internal early-stage program to develop MVPs in a short sprint. We do this by partnering with tech companies, creating proprietary technology that enables ABI’s ecosystem partners,
  4. Partnerships: a suite of capabilities including scaled solutions, accelerator programs, and partner ecosystem, and,
  5. Build: bring the best emerging tech to ABI core through a structured program to increase the tech capabilities within the organization.  

Business Ecosystems’ Impact On Digital Transformation

Cooperation and collaboration is unleashing a wave of further digital transformation across retail, B2B services, mobility and other sectors. Even solidly traditional businesses cannot resist the pull of accessible digital transformation—or required change.

Even while Amazon, Alibaba and eBay have upended retail, the sector continues to transform and evolve with omnichannel shopping experiences, in-store technology and more. eBay, for example, welcomed Optoro into their ecosystem to allow retail brands and gig economy workers to resell returned items on eBay, a unique opportunity for gig workers and retailers.

Within B2B services—accounting, finance, human resources and more—ecosystems are pulling even small businesses into the digital age. Software with hundreds of integrations, automated processes and even global access to employees have empowered local businesses to think big and thrive. 

Even big brands want in on the SMB and B2B services space; American Express created Small Business Saturday and devotes considerable resources to helping AmEx cardholders find and visit mom and pop shops that accept their cards. Partners of AmEx like FedEx, ConstantContact and Dell even offer discounts as part of this ecosystem.

You may not think of Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, as particularly digital, but they’ve created an ecosystem that includes Uber, getting in on the potential of ridesharing while selling more cars. Both players benefit: Uber gets access to the complexity of car design and building while Daimler puts another foot into digital.

As the saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. In the high-risk, high-expense world of emerging technology, those who want to go far and embrace bleeding edge tech are teaming up, making an impact across digital transformation and hundreds of industries.

When you look at the future of technology ecosystems, what dream team or smart collaboration do you spot? 

Share and comment below!