Institutionals Think Ecosystem

20.02.2024 7 Reading Time

More added value networked. More co-operation now.

Ecosystems are the business logic of the hour because no other value creation system can cope with the complexity of the present. But let's start at the beginning: An ecosystem consists of different organisms which, together with their environment, form a functional unit. Organisms within a business ecosystem are companies from a wide range of sectors that fulfil different functions and perform tasks based on their capabilities.
No one can be the best at everything alone. Only together can we shape our world in a positive way.
Henning Koch
Chairman of the Management Board / CEO of Commerz Real AG

Topics instead of sectors.

In principle, business ecosystems can be applied to any industry. However, it is always about topics rather than industries. All players in a so-called value creation network form strategic partnerships around their respective key capabilities. For example, the property industry, together with the construction industry and other sectors, is part of the "Life" ecosystem, which was recently identified as the system with the largest market volume.

Cooperative competition instead of rigid company boundaries.

Players in business ecosystems can take on three roles: Orchestrator, Realiser or Enabler. These are based on their own core competences and define the scope of responsibility in the system. However, joint value creation only works if cooperation and competition are viewed without contradiction and company boundaries are blurred.
"The success of 7 of the 10 largest companies in the world is due to an active business ecosystem."
Microsoft and OpenAI provide a prime example of the value of business ecosystems. The partnership with Open AI has increased Microsoft's market value by around USD 1.2 trillion, an increase of around 70%. Microsoft provides its capabilities and resources in cost-intensive cloud computing with Microsoft Azure, while OpenAI implements its AI insights and capabilities into user-facing offerings.

What characterises business ecosystems:

  • Joint value creation of several companies
  • Networking around topics and key capabilities
  • Cooperative competition instead of rigid industry boundaries
  • Risk minimisation through risk sharing
  • Constant exchange of values and continuous new impulses
  • Higher degree of innovation through access to new markets
  • Customised offers through diverse perspectives on user needs


Digitalisation: Reset first. Then mindset.

Companies in a business ecosystem see themselves more as a functional unit. Their added value: together they can create more value than can be achieved by an isolated player. Even though Microsoft and OpenAI are still two companies, their collaboration on the topic of AI creates a high degree of overlap that links separate business areas, reduces costs and drives development forward. An ecosystem should only be established if it offers real added value.

Don't just talk about it. But start the system.

Only when more than one partner is required for this added value should a business ecosystem be sought at all. However, practice shows that many companies quickly get stuck at this level. They talk about a business ecosystem, identify opportunities and partners, but do not set the system in motion. A culture of trial and error is needed. It is essential that all players think in terms of networked value creation. However, this way of thinking is the result of a learning process that many companies have not yet internalised.
"By 2030, more than 30% of global sales will be generated in business ecosystems."
Companies that have a broad-based portfolio of business activities have a slight advantage. The parent organisation acts as an orchestrator and finds versatile partners who put the ecosystems on a sustainable footing.

This is also the case at Commerz Real, which is primarily involved in property, equipment leasing and renewable energies. Small ecosystems are created around each area and integrated into the overall system. By sharing information, skills and resources, Commerz Real can provide customers with a broader range of products and services to a larger target group more quickly on the basis of a better database.

The partners' different perspectives on customer and user requirements form a better basis for product development than would be possible for a single company. By utilising the skills of individual partners, offers with new features or of better quality can be created, while they benefit from better market access. In these exchanges, a win-win-win is sought in which both partners and customers benefit.

The potential of joint value creation at a glance:

  1. More value: Information, skills and resources are made available and deliver value in exchange for value instead of money instead of goods.
  2. User-orientated offers: Each player has a different perspective on user needs, which creates a complete picture.
  3. New markets: As different sectors co-operate in a business ecosystem, all participants gain access to these.
  4. Greater efficiency and resilience: Sharing knowledge and resources leads to cost minimisation. Risk sharing leads to risk minimisation.
  5. More influence: Actors have a greater share of connection points in the system, can react more quickly and increase their share of profits.
  6. Higher degree of innovation: Constant impetus and joint knowledge generation as the basis for needs-based new developments.