How efficient digital ecosystems became business critical

Carsten Bruhn, CEO at Ricoh North America
During this unprecedented era of rapid digital transformation, establishing a well-functioning ecosystem stands to benefit both employees and customers

Has there ever been a more important time to establish an efficient digital ecosystem? 

A significant proportion of business leaders and other stakeholders would allege the answer to be ‘no’, especially given the era of immense digital transformation through which we are living, headlined by the dawn of generative AI.

That’s without even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the way certain working practices and expectations changed pretty much overnight as a result. 

Carsten Bruhn, President and CEO at Ricoh North America, goes as far as to say the creation of a well-functioning digital ecosystem has become “critical” in the context of today’s business environment. 

“The concept of the ‘office’ has changed forever and every organisation is still working out what the future looks like for them,” he continues. 

“What hasn’t changed is people’s desire for engagement and connection. So, enabling a digital ecosystem and digital experience – both internally for your employees and externally with your customers – is one of the most important things you can do to sustain your business."

Clare Hart, CEO at Williams Lea

Fellow CEO Clare Hart highlights the importance of a digital ecosystem to the services being provided by her own company, Williams Lea, adding that increasing use of technology and AI in business operations and processes has moved the goalposts. 

“Companies must think about how they can effectively utilise technology partnerships with clients, suppliers and partners to drive streamlined, scalable and, ultimately, more competitive businesses,” outlines Hart. 

“At Williams Lea, we work closely with firms in the banking, legal and professional services industries, and we’re constantly receiving feedback from clients about how they’re looking to streamline their operations to maximise efficiency. 

“We support these businesses through tech-enabled services and help them understand where they can gain efficiencies, whether that’s how best to use their workforce or provide a superior work product for their clients – something that would be impossible without having a strong digital ecosystem.”

Supporting the era of digital transformation 

Clearly, developments over the past few years have accelerated our need to be able to share information securely and easily.

However, a new challenge is afoot, says Bruhn, and it relates to data.

“Companies today are producing millions of pages of data each day, much of which is dispersed across multiple silos throughout the organisation,” he explains, insisting that valuable information can often be inaccessible or underutilised. 

“An efficient digital ecosystem provides the key to structure this data and extract its value.”

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AI and groundbreaking tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which catapulted this game-changing technology into the mainstream towards the end of 2022, evidently come into this conversation. 

This collective tendency toward digital adoption has motivated businesses to respond, and that urgency will surely increase as technological innovations become even more groundbreaking.  

“ChatGPT and its widespread availability to consumers has been the catalyst for businesses really considering and adopting AI to transform their operations,” Hart goes on. 

“Having an established network of digitised solutions that seamlessly connect with one another is vital to making sure businesses can quickly take advantage of new technologies being developed.”

Digital ecosystems: Crucial to clients and the workforce

As mentioned, Williams Lea, which offers BPO to a wide variety of major companies, relies heavily on its digital ecosystem. 

Its digital client platform, ENGAGE, provides the foundation, connecting services and products to clients while also supporting a number of internal processes. Clients are given a detailed view of service activities, productivity and utilisation, allowing for real-time task and job queue management, secure job sharing and a complete chain of custody for all activities. 

“Even further,” says Hart, “the analytics arm of the platform provides metrics, audit trails and service performance in real-time. 

“These insights ensure resources are optimally utilised, service levels are maintained and help firms make informed decisions to meet their business objectives.”

From Ricoh’s perspective, there is huge emphasis on the positive impact an efficient ecosystem can have on the workforce, with its potential to boost motivation levels and productivity – ultimately benefitting the business. 

“We see digital transformation less about technology and more about what it unleashes in our people,” Bruhn adds. 

“When people are freed up to work and collaborate from anywhere – spending less time trying to sign on, searching for information or worrying about compliance and security – they can spend more time focused on what really matters: people, experiences, innovation and agility, dramatically improving employee engagement and business outcomes.”

The key to commercial growth

It’s certainly true that robust digital ecosystems have a strong correlation with commercial growth. 

Bringing processes and data together in efficient fashion leaves businesses better-equipped to scale and make decisions to meet their growth needs.

Like her C-suite colleague, Hart is a big believer in employees being freed up to focus on “the things that matter”, while ecosystems support operational and administrative tasks in the background. 

Giving an example, she says: “We’ve seen that the digitisation of some legal processes helps to lighten the load for first-year associates, allowing them to grow in other areas of their careers. They’re able to focus on more billable work, which increases output – and ultimately revenue – for their firm. 

“For any business looking to evolve and grow, having their workforce focus on value-add tasks is vital to that growth, and digital ecosystems can have a huge impact in making sure that happens.”

Referring back to the difficulties faced by businesses working in silos, with disconnected information and systems, Bruhn concludes: “The risk, when we talk about digital transformation and technologies, is that companies start deploying disconnected or siloed methods of digitisation and that can lead to fragmentation. These organisations are not able to achieve their full potential. 

“In a connected digital ecosystem, you’re truly able to bring together in an efficient way the systems, people and ideas for innovation, and your power to grow and deliver on customer and employee expectations just multiplies from there. But it must be efficient.”

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