Companies are under pressure to innovate faster than ever, and collaboration beyond organizational boundaries is central to accelerated innovation. But few companies navigate collaboration well—or even find the right path to get started. To move forward, companies must change their operating models to enable “digital shoring,” the latest evolution of organizational “shoring” approaches.

Digital shoring builds on digital technologies and capabilities to help innovators find each other—whether they are in the same city or across the globe. By giving digital proximity to organizations with a potential common purpose, companies can leapfrog the natural limitations of physical industry clusters. In reshaping existing operating models to make digital shoring possible, business leaders need to answer important questions relating to corporate openness, the protection of intellectual property (IP), the use of digital platforms, and the readiness of their people.

Through digital shoring, companies collaborate with partners located anywhere—from next door to across the globe.

Companies have long reconfigured their operating models to find new markets, new suppliers and new sources of labor in physical locations—both near and far from corporate headquarters. In the past, they may have used various approaches such as offshoring, onshoring, and near-shoring, as appropriate, to adjust for optimal physical distances between operations. The time has come for an operating model overhaul that enables digital collaboration, especially for innovation. Often, companies have not designed their operating models to enable efficient and effective collaboration across company boundaries. Still, some organizations are bucking this trend, through an approach Accenture calls digital shoring.

Through digital shoring, companies collaborate with partners located anywhere—from next door to across the globe. This approach enables companies to not only make collaborations more efficient, but also to enter into new ways of working and unlock previously unattainable value. For example, in the automotive and high-tech industries, many types of organizations are joining together to set common standards for innovative information-and-entertainment solutions for car drivers and passengers. On the other end of the spectrum from formal alliances, executives are taking to social media, such as Twitter, to make and deepen connections with fellow industrialists and innovators around the world.

Valuable models of digital shoring are arising not only because technology enables them, but also because, for many businesses, their geographic location—however prized—presents challenges.

In early 2015, Accenture, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, surveyed 452 executives to understand the importance of location to business competitiveness. Survey participants were senior executives—predominantly from the C-suite—in nine clusters from three industries: life sciences and health; chemicals and process; and automotive.

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