Collaboration concept

Why partnerships are the key to sustainability innovation in a digital world

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As pressure rises on businesses to set – and hit – net-zero goals, today’s business leaders can be overwhelmed by choice and complexity.

While ‘digital transformation’ claims to be a magic wand for businesses needing innovation, the truth is that more than two-thirds of all digital transformation efforts end up failing. Others are left in ‘pilot purgatory’: according to the World Economic Forum, more than 70 per cent of industrial businesses are stuck here.

The answer to scalable, sustainable success? Collaboration. Partners, platforms and co-innovation ecosystems amount to profits for all the players – and planetary positivity. Partnerships are the key to sustainability innovation in a digital world. Here’s why.

To improve profitability, sustainability, customer experience or other objectives of an organisation’s transformation, it’s crucial that they innovate in partnership with technology providers. This need is particularly acute when it comes to successfully going beyond digital pilot projects – according to the World Economic Forum, more than 70 per cent of industrial businesses are still in pilot phases of their transformation, with only a select group of manufacturers that can reap the benefits of deployment at scale in their plants and escape the 'pilot purgatory'.

This is where choosing the right provider makes all the difference. Businesses should look beyond the promises and look for a partner that has experience of similar projects and whose vision and values are fully aligned with theirs. Only then will they avoid a long, drawn-out development process, missed milestones and, ultimately, failed digital transformation programs. Meanwhile, they should embrace purpose-made digital platforms that make it easy to collaborate, experiment and deliver insight that will inform the organisation’s future strategy.

The good news is that businesses increasingly recognise the importance of forging partnerships on the journey to greater efficiency and sustainability – both for themselves and their customers.

A recent IDC study commissioned by Schneider Electric found that 96 per cent of companies are either already using or are considering co-creation with vendors to develop new digital products and services for sustainability and efficiency. Once that happens, the benefits start to flow: according to Accenture, companies that integrate digital and sustainable transformations into their operations and value chains are two and a half times more likely to be among tomorrow’s best-performing businesses than those who don’t.

The accelerated digital transformation and collaboration on open digital platforms has been driven by the need of businesses to help the world recover from the pandemic, and to build back better. At the same time, there is a growing need for tailored, specialised solutions that businesses find difficult to develop themselves. Increasingly, organisations understand that successful innovation depends on partnerships. This is why we are seeing more and more people turn to digital ecosystems where businesses can find partners that understand their needs and have a proven track record in delivering similar projects successfully.

The power of partnerships shows itself in a ‘snowball effect’; once one business demonstrates the impact of partners on its sustainability journey, the industry starts to believe in the power of partners to influence innovation and decarbonisation.

Businesses can and should maintain a positive outlook on sustainability: after all, net zero is within reach. This doesn’t mean we should run the race alone, however. Bringing in specialists and partners provides domain expertise, creative innovation and the right solutions to help businesses grow healthily towards green maturity.

Collaboration encourages agility and resilience, helping organisations be better prepared for whatever the future throws at them. To achieve this, organisations can join those digital ecosystems, forge partnerships with tried-and-trusted technology providers and advisors, and take their crucial place in the sustainability (r)evolution.

Peter Weckesser is chief digital officer of Schneider Electric and a member of the executive committee.

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