Many companies may worry that their ecosystem partners do things better than they can, and feel threatened as a result. To combat this, they must put in place robust change-management processes.

“I have seen some very smart firms attempt to create an open platform upon which to invite innovation and collaboration from start-ups and emerging technology players,” says Higgins. “They’ve thought about how to do it in a very modern way, creating open architectures, APIs and microservices to allow that. But then they’ve fallen down in how they’ve approached the interaction with start-up and scale-up communities. They operate and think of themselves very differently than corporates and large hierarchical firms. There is a cultural challenge that makes ecosystem curation difficult.”

The value an enterprise can create within an ecosystem is directly proportional to how well the relationships are managed. A successful relationship requires trust, transparency, and equitable sharing of benefits, as well as effective operational enablement of the relationship.

Greg Sarafin, EY’s Global Alliance and Ecosystem Leader, says that enabling effective relationship management has unlocked hyper growth across EY’s top ecosystem relationships. “A few years ago we realized that we had a lot of alliances on paper, but the uplift we were getting was only slightly accretive to the overall growth of the firm,” he says. “So we set about curating down to a shortlist of alliances that we would invest in disproportionately, starting with effective relationship management enabled by support services for campaigns, co-innovation, data quality and MIS [management information systems], communications, collateral, compliance, quarterly business reviews, events, and much more.

“To do this cost effectively at scale, we created a shared service function in low-cost markets underpinned by significant investment in technologies such as automation and AI. The impact was almost immediate, with growth rates tripling and becoming highly accretive to both EY and its alliance relationships. Driving material revenue contribution from the ecosystem requires a certain level of infrastructure to enable the relationship and joint go-to-market pieces.”

“If you aren’t willing to fund the infrastructure, you won’t get results, and you run the risk of creating relationship strain from missed expectations. The good news is there are leading practice models you can draw upon to know where to invest and how much to invest relative to the outcomes you wish to drive.”