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Digital transformation strategy guide: From e-fax to AI

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Goldman Sachs builds digital ecosystem, not empire, to serve clients

Goldman provides its clients with sophisticated services by partnering with startups like Kensho Technologies.

How does one of the world's largest banks move with confidence in a digital marketplace? Not by building a digital...

empire, but by nurturing a digital ecosystem, according to Martin Chavez, CIO and deputy CFO at the New York-based firm. Rather than doing the digital heavy-lifting by itself, Goldman is working with startups -- and sometimes funding them -- to bring new features it likely wouldn't have built to the firm's digital platforms.

"We're moving very rapidly to an ecosystem where we don't have to do everything in house; we don't want to do everything in house," Chavez said at the recent Data, Dollars and Algorithms event at Harvard University.

One startup it's partnering with -- as well as funding -- is Kensho Technologies based in Cambridge, Ma. Kensho is a big data analytics and machine learning company for market prediction. The startup crawls the web for weather data, government news, earnings reports -- anything that may cause markets to fluctuate.

Customers can type questions into a text box such as, "When OPAC announces a production cut, or when Trump issues a tweet, what stocks go up and what stocks go down?" Chavez said. And Kensho provides the analysis in minutes. In 2015, Forbes.com described Kensho as "The financial answer machine."

Martin Chavez

By partnering with Kensho, Goldman can offer a sophisticated service through its digital platform to its own customers. "There are a couple of things we're really good at and lots of other things we'd rather partner with others," said Chavez. He manages a portfolio of around 100 investments and called it "one of the best parts of my job."

'Seize the digital ecosystem'

The strategy is on par with advice Gartner is doling out to CIOs. In its annual report "The 2017 CIO Agenda: Seize the Digital Ecosystem," Gartner consultants wrote that digital ecosystems are the next step in digitization. The consultancy defines digital ecosystem as "an interdependent group of actors (enterprises, people, things) sharing standardized digital platforms to achieve a mutually beneficial purpose."

Using data from its annual CIO survey as well as information gathered in case study research, the report found that "digital ecosystem membership increases with digital maturity." It identified three areas where top-performing companies, which are more likely to participate in digital ecosystems, outpaced "typical" companies or "trailing" companies. The three areas are as follows:

  • Interoperability: Top performers prioritized technologies that would best stitch an ecosystem together such as cloud services and security. Not surprisingly, Gartner found that top performers build more of this stitching technology in-house than typical and trailing companies.
  • Skills and business value: The report found that all three company types -- top performers, typical performers and trailing performers -- struggle with a skills shortage, especially in analytics, data science and business intelligence skills. Gartner encourages CIOs to find ways to mitigate the skills gap by both hiring new staff and training the staff they've already got. The report also found that top-performers are more likely to adopt a bimodal IT strategy, which enables IT to respond to the needs of the business faster and more iteratively while continuing to maintain a high operations standard.
  • Master interdependence: At top-performing companies, IT priorities are more often in lockstep with business priorities when compared to typical companies or trailing companies. Tight IT-business alignment suggests CIOs are engaged with C-suite counterparts and particularly with their CEOs, according to Gartner. Peer engagement "is a key component of success for most digital initiatives, even more so in digital ecosystems," according to the report. Gartner highlights the CFO as a stakeholder that will likely need CIO attention, as CFOs were found to be the least involved and the least supportive of digital initiatives.

Next Steps

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Gartner Symposium 2016: Master the digital ecosystem

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Essential Guide

Digital transformation strategy guide: From e-fax to AI

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