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2014

Your collaborative methodology must be maintained in order to ensure that it continues to provide value.  This maintenance comes in the form of improvements and revisions to the methodology itself to take into account the needs and objectives of your collaborative partners.  I’ve been discussing the collaboration methodology and my suggestions for methodology review practices to ensure that your methodology maintains relevance.  This review and maintenance program must be instituted in support of your methodology and in order to ensure the appropriate level of support you should define the process at startup of your collaborative methodology initiative. 


The surest path to failure of your collaborative methodology is to assume that you will get around to the maintenance improvements for your brand new collaborative methodology.  The surest path to not achieving acceptance of your collaborative methodology is to assume that you have addressed all requirements in your initial start-up of the collaborative methodology.  The reality of the situation is that unless you start your collaborative methodology with a clear plan and procedures to review and maintain this methodology it will be doomed to failure.  The reality of the situation is that the collaborative methodology by its very make-up of participants is so complicated that unless you start your collaborative methodology with a clear plan and procedures to review and maintain this methodology it will be doomed to failure. 


I’m guessing that at this point in the discussion you are thinking to yourself - Considering how complicated this collaborative methodology can be and considering the efforts and controls that you must put into place to ensure success and considering the high risk involved in starting this collaborative methodology, why should you even take up this initiative?  Well the answer to this is very simple and also straight forward - yes you should take up this initiative because the rewards will be too great to ignore!  In addition to the rewards, I also think that this initiative will be a great contributor to the very survival of your enterprise.  I know these are strong words and suggestions however I look around at all of the technological capabilities and the pressures from consumers, suppliers, carriers, real estate, and new software and hardware capabilities and I see an environment that no single organization can hope to navigate without the help and collaboration of many partners across the entire chain of connections. 


Let me bring this around to the point again to tie these thoughts together.  I think its safe to say that it will be much easier and more efficient to recognize the risks and potential difficulties in the successful implementation of your collaboration methodology when you begin your efforts so you can put the controls and monitoring procedures in place to help ensure the continued success.  This is especially important because you will require the support from your external collaborative partners in order to ensure the success and the benefits.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?

In order to ensure that any methodology maintains its relevance it must be reviewed and maintenance such as revisions implemented and your collaboration methodology is no different.  The downfall of any methodology is complacency and collaboration is especially susceptible to complacency.  The review and maintenance of your collaboration methodology can be a bit more complicated than other internal methodologies because you must include your external collaborative partners in this review process.  An additional complication is the requirement to gain consensus of your external collaborative partners of any changes to the methodology or practices.  I suggest the best method to support these needs is a regular continuous review and improvement program.  This provide the trial and error practice that I see as critical to the successful collaborative methodology.


In these times of increasing discontinuous change you cannot allow any methodology to stand still, you must institutionalize a program that reviews changes in your approach and environment.  Due to the interaction with external partners, including adding and eliminating external partners your collaborative methodology will be even more susceptible to change.  In order to maintain the relevance of your collaboration methodology you must a review and revise process that can incorporate and include the needs, opportunities and priorities of your partners.  This must be included and coordinated with the needs, opportunities and priorities of your own internal organization.


At a minimum you should review your collaboration methodology on an annual basis to identify the processes and procedures that are working and those that are not working.  This review should also include any potential new processes and procedures to add and  improve your methodology. These reviews are a little more complicated however because of the interaction with your external partners and the addition of new partners and the elimination of partners.  These external influences and demands increase the level of complexity required to maintain and review your collaborative methodology.  Your collaborative methodology encourages and depends on sharing and developing a mutually beneficial relationship with both your external and internal partners. 


In past discussions related to collaboration I discussed the importance of developing a mutually beneficial relationship with your internal and external partners.  The collaboration methodology is where these points come together in a framework that supports and encourages a mutually beneficial framework supporting your objectives.  Your collaboration methodology first will support the successful delivery of your objectives and second it should ensure that your internal and external partners can count on a method and framework that provides mutual benefits. 


All of these points lead to a complex framework supporting many objectives both internal and external.  Due to the potential complexity of this framework the chances that you will get it right the first time are pretty low.  In order to ensure the collaboration methodology supports your needs it must be flexible and focus on sharing objectives of your partners.  All of these ingredients lead to the need to support the collaboration methodology utilizing a continuous improvement practice.  This continuous improvement practice will ensure that your collaboration methodology remains focused on your partners’ objectives and mutual benefits.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?

A critical step to any methodology is the step and methods that you will use to define value, and your collaboration methodology is no exception.  The definition of value follows some standard methods and requirements that will be contained as part of the collaboration methodology. There are some important additions that must be included in your collaboration methodology.  These important additions are the value that will be brought to your organization from your external collaboration partners and the value that your external collaboration partners will realize with the initiative.


The internal value stream and increased value calculation is a pretty standard function within any methodology.  This calculation is made up of hard value savings such as reductions in cost, then there is the soft values such as increases to productivity or sales and then there is what I call the cost of doing business such as regulatory or maintenance requirements. So I will leave it to say that you will include these calculations in your collaboration methodology.  Every collaborative project you undertake will and must also include the value that will be achieved by and for your external partners.  The definition and documentation of this external partner value is actually your first collaborative step in your methodology.  This value realized by your external partners truly is a soft value to your own organization, even while it is made up of a combination of hard and soft values for your external partners. This may be a little tricky from your internal leadership perspective simply because it truly is an external value that will not provide hard value to your organization.


In order to achieve acceptance of this new collaboration methodology by your senior leadership, not to mention the leadership of your external partners, you must show the value that will be achieved through each collaborative project.  This is a dramatic increase in the complexity or your value definition and this increased complexity requires a means to both define initially and then monitor and track the delivery of this value.  The complexity comes from the communication and measurements required across all partners in the collaborative effort.  This complexity increases when you add additional partners to the collaborative effort, as you can imagine.  The increase in complexity comes not only with the number of additional partners but also the relationships of the value achieved by your external partners and also the value provided across partners.  I have two pieces of advice for this challenge, don’t underestimate the effort to manage this requirement and also don’t underestimate the value of this requirement to the acceptance of the collaboration methodology. 


I feel very strongly that a focus on the value provided by your collaborative efforts to both your internal organization and your external collaborative partners is critical to the acceptance of collaborative initiatives both internally and externally.  One reason why I think this is so critical is because of the impact this focus will have on the priority and focus on your collaborative efforts.  Lets face it, everyone will demand the achievement of the value, especially hard value, and the clear definition of achievable value across all partners will ensure the focus and priority will be high for all partners to achieve results.


Next I will discuss the methodology review and maintenance procedures that are required to ensure that the bureaucracy does not overwhelm the value of your collaboration methodology.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?         

Contemplating starting your efforts to develop and implement a collaboration methodology can be a little overwhelming at first.  All initiatives must start with a first step and implementing a collaborative methodology is no different.  Implementing a collaboration methodology can be a bit of an overwhelming task if you do not sequence and then focus on the steps in the appropriate sequence.  As I have previously stated, collaboration and more importantly collaborative innovation should be framed as part of a methodology that provides a repeatable method to deliver the value. 


Implementing a methodology is always a challenge to provide value to the organization without implementing a new and frustrating bureaucracy. I’m sure that you all have encountered this frustration of burdensome bureaucracy through project and program management methodologies.  I know that I have run into the brick wall of bureaucratic hurdles that focus more on form that value or function and I’m sure that you all have run into these same challenges.  Don’t let these experiences hold you back from realizing the benefits collaboration and collaborative innovation.  Instead you must use your previous experience with these bureaucratic hurdles to implement a methodology that provides value with only the framework of value added bureaucracy.  This last statement may seem at odds with itself, after all bureaucracy is always bad and never adds value, right?


In order to increase the likelihood of success, you should start your efforts to implement the methodology by focusing on the methodology steps.  These methodology steps will provide the framework, or guideposts, to delivering value to your organization and partners.  However these methodology steps are also bureaucracy.  My objective here is to help you understand that a bureaucracy should not always be viewed as bad.  A bureaucracy is only bad if you allow it to lose site and relationship to the value stream.  For some this will be hard to accept.  I also think that there is a tendency for bureaucracy to grow and build on itself if you are not careful and monitor this bureaucracy to ensure that value is the objective and not allow bureaucracy to become the objective.


This now ties back into the topic, starting your collaboration methodology by providing a suggestion for the overarching objective, provide value.  This is very easy to say and everyone will agree that we would not start anything unless it would provide value.  However, this is much easier to say and gain agreement than it is to ensure the long term adherence to that objective.  As a starting point I suggest the first step to success should be defining your procedures to define value and your procedures to regularly review the methodology to ensure that the bureaucracy does not overwhelm and become a bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake.  Without this initial guide and framework I believe the risk to your collaborative methodology will be insurmountable.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?

In this discussion I want to focus on my suggestions for developing or implementing a collaboration methodology.  This is an important step in institutionalizing collaboration and more importantly encouraging collaborative innovation in your organization and both internal and external partners.  I am a big believer in a very simple adage, and that is that in order to be successful in any endeavor you must focus on a implementing and following a repeatable process.  I suggestion that this adage should be extended to include the objective to continuously improve your repeatable process.  In order to increase the likelihood of success I think you should focus on starting with the understanding that you will implement improvements through a continuous improvement process.


From a global aspect your methodology should include:

  • Objectives definition so that everyone clearly understands the desired outcome
  • How does it support your enterprise strategic direction and objectives?
  • Requirements definitions
  • Critical success factors, in other words how are you measuring and testing for success?
  • Build - this is where the rubber meets the road and you build your collaboration
  • Review - Did you meet your objectives?
  • Define improvements and any next steps to expand

These points are a good start, you can look to prioritize or define additional points to include in your methodology.  You should take into account your own culture in your initial methodology development. You will see that this methodology follows a common project management methodology and this is because of the importance of following a repeatable process.  As I mentioned earlier I feel strongly that utilizing a repeatable process encourages and increases the likelihood of success.


There is one point that I think must be addressed in order to clearly define the objectives and requirements and that is the cross functional team.  The cross functional team should include members from all of the internal and external participants that would be impacted by the initiatives.  In order to increase the success factors I think it would be prudent to start with internal team members, in fact if you can start with participants within one silo of your organization it would provide a great team makeup to validate your methodology.


A critical aspect to the long term success of your collaboration methodology development and implementation is the successful delivery of initiatives along the way.  In order to increase the likelihood of success, you should start your efforts to implement the methodology by focusing on the methodology steps.  What I mean by this is that starting with a team of people that have already worked together allows you to focus on the methodology and initiative delivery rather than the issues of a newly formed team.  After you’ve been successful with your initial projects, you should then expand your team, again though the first expansion should be within your enterprise.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?

Collaboration and methodology used together with methodology ’describing’ collaboration seems to be at odds at first look.  I think the common belief about collaboration is that it ‘happens’ based on desire and need.  This is absolutely correct as an instigator or goad for collaboration, after all every action is the result of a need.  The collaborative effort though does follow a method that can and should be documented so that you can develop a repeatable process.  In order to increase the likelihood of success for any initiative, you must follow a proven and repeatable process, and collaboration is at its most basic core must be viewed as another initiative.  As I stated in my last discussion, I believe very strongly that in order to develop a collaborative organization you must incorporate your collaboration initiatives into your strategic objectives and plans.


Let me first lay out my basic assumptions for successful collaborative initiatives.  These assumptions incorporate basic project management concepts in the focus on collaboration.  In order to ensure success you must develop and utilize a repeatable process.  In order to develop a repeatable process you must define a methodology.  I consider these to be the basic building blocks of any successful and repeatable process.  It is OK to start your collaboration initiative with a pilot or proof of concept that is very loose in the methods used because you are simply testing your hypothesis.  In fact, I think you would be foolish to start without this initial proof of concept.  This discussion starts after the successful proof of concept though so I will limit my discussion to this basic reference.


My suggestions for your methodology will continue with the simplistic and the reason for this is that I believe very strongly that you should not over complicate your methods.  Your methodology should support your business and provide guide rails to ensure the success of your initiatives.  You should fight to keep the methodology simple in concept.  Your methodology should support your business, your business should not support your methodology.  In addition to focus on the basics, I also suggest that your methodology should support any type of initiative and in order to support any type of initiative your methodology must focus on providing guide rails.  Your methodology must not focus on tools it must focus on the steps required to deliver your objectives. 


Now that I’ve covered the ‘don’ts’ its time to cover some to the ‘do’s’.  Your methodology should include:

  • Objectives definition so that everyone clearly understands the desired outcome
  • How does it support your enterprise strategic direction and objectives?
  • Requirements definitions
  • Critical success factors, in other words how are you measuring and testing for success?
  • Build - this is where the rubber meets the road and you build your collaboration
  • Review - Did you meet your objectives?
  • Define improvements and any next steps to expand

With these steps to your methodology you will increase the likelihood of success of your initiatives and in addition you will be able to easily coordinate your collaboration initiatives with your other strategic initiatives.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?

Collaboration and collaborative efforts across all internal and external partners must be taken into account and planned for in your strategic planning in order to be successful.  So many times organizations and the members of the organization engage in a collaborative effort with internal or external partner or a combination of both without taking into account the enterprise strategic objectives.  When the collaborative effort fails, or loses steam these organizations blame the collaborative effort or even the collaborative partners as the reason for this failure.  Rather than laying blame on the collaboration efforts or the partners (the ‘see I told you it wouldn’t work’ reaction), I think that the real reason behind the failure is that the collaborative effort does not align with the strategic plans of the enterprise.


I am not suggesting that every collaborative effort should be evaluated against the strategic plans because that would just put too much effort on the initiation of collaboration.  I am saying though that you cannot just allow collaborative actions to simply ‘pop up’ randomly across the organization.  Eventually you must evaluate the collaborative efforts across your organization against the stated strategic goals and objectives of the enterprise.  My suggestion for your actions is that you should follow standard project management methods in your collaborative efforts.  This means that you should encourage collaborative efforts across your organization and both internal and external partners in ‘pilot’ engagements.  Once your have developed the pilot engagement to prove the value, your next step should be to review and evaluate the collaborative effort in relation to your strategic objectives and goals to ensure they are aligned.


The challenge in this approach is encouraging innovation and experimentation that can be aligned with the strategic objectives and goals.  This is obviously a huge challenge and I think one of the key factors in the failure of many collaborative efforts.  These two forces (strategic plans and collaborative efforts) are working against each other - strategic plans are all about thoughtful planning and working the plan where collaborative efforts are experimental in their nature.  Somehow you must develop a method that supports and encourages the experimental nature of collaborative efforts within the strategic plans and objectives of the enterprise.


This is where the project management methods and procedures, along with a continuous improvement approach will provide the framework to support this marriage.  The practices and framework provided by a continuous improvement approach supports the experimental nature of the collaborative efforts in a structured manner.  The continuous improvement approach encourages small pilots to prove your concept then build on that concept to incorporate into your strategic goals and objectives.  Couple this with standard project management methods that provide the framework to support the successful delivery of your collaborative experiments from conceptual pilot to strategic objective.  Incorporating these practices and methods into your collaborative efforts provides the structured procedures, or framework, to dramatically reduce the risk of failure and ensure the collaborative achievements will align with your enterprise strategic objectives.  These tools will encourage and support collaborative innovation in your enterprise in a manner that reduces risk and supports success of the endeavors.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative experiments?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the collaborative practices and methods you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value and support your strategic goals and objectives?

Consumers are building social, or collaboration, networks that are robust and very far reaching.  These networks are coming together through the desires and experimentation that rivals the most robust private networks.  In fact, I think that these networks surpass private networks in many ways.  These public networks are growing and changing and improving in ways that should be making the keepers of private networks jealous.  I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the growth and development of these public networks is the fact that they are being driven by the youth that are the largest group of participants.  The challenge now for the private network keepers and commercial participants in the public network is how can they grow and change in their use of these networks. 

 

Let me give you an example; businesses have been flocking to Facebook for a while now in an attempt to engage the consumer.  The vast majority have been utilizing this channel as a marketing outlet, that drives the consumer to their commerce site, although there are many businesses using Facebook as a customer service outlet.  These businesses are using the Facebook page as a virtual storefront where they can present their pitch and services, including driving consumers to their web site for additional offerings.  While these businesses have been focused on this and based a large part of their strategy on Facebook as a channel a funny thing happened.  Facebook turned into a retirement home in the eyes of the youth, and this youth is the target market of these businesses.  If you’ve been even only partially experimenting with social networks you can quickly get confused because of the number of networks that are regularly gaining in popularity.  I’ve seen many stories lately trumpeting the end of Facebook saying that the only people left on Facebook are senior citizens and that the youth only go to Facebook to communicate and share photo with their families.


This presents a serious problem for businesses, especially after investing so heavily in Facebook.  How can businesses overcome this issue and stay abreast of the changes that are constantly arising in social networks?  I suggest that its time to focus on a collaboration strategy that includes customers, suppliers and physical sales or services outlets.  Don’t focus on the tools, focus on the objectives and the opportunities.  The problem with focusing on tools is encompassed in the old saying ‘If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like nail.’ 


I feel strongly that a collaboration strategy should be a very important aspect and key objective in your overall business strategy.  I would suggest that you start with your business strategy, this has been defined and incorporated into the fabric and mission of your business.  Next, review your business strategy from a collaboration perspective to determine how your strategy will benefit from collaboration.  What do I mean by a collaboration perspective?  This is viewing your strategic objectives with an eye towards defining how others can help you achieve these objectives.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of expanding your use of social or collaborative networks?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of the social networks you currently utilize to identify if they are providing value?              

Anyone that is looking for examples of a company that has, and continues to develop practices that are driving the market in omni-channel commerce collaboration and the use of Big Data needs to look no further than Amazon.  I think that Amazon provides the gold standard of collaboration and the imaginative use of Big Data in the omni-channel commerce market space.  This is interesting because Amazon is an e-commerce entity that has shown the capabilities that can drive the brick and mortar market as well as the e-commerce market.  I mentioned in previous discussions that the tools and technologies have reached a point where Big Data can provide a competitive edge if you are imaginative in your analysis and you have collected the data necessary to perform the analysis.  In this discussion I want to add a new ingredient to the mix of influences and drives that are coming together and that is changes in consumers’ shopping habits and methods.


I think that e-commerce has reached a level of general acceptance and been fully embraced by consumers.  I think the fact of the matter is that consumers have passed the retailers in the retailers capabilities support the consumers’ shopping practices and desires.  I’ve said recently that retailers must begin to focus on bringing all shopping channels together into the omni-channel shopping experience that is collaborative and supports the consumers’ quickly changing and evolving shopping patterns and habits.  This is easy for me to say and how do you put these words into action and results?  A key ingredient to the future success of omni-channel merchants is quite simply having the information to understand the trends, direction and desires of the consumers.  This is where Big Data comes into the picture.  Big Data provides the capabilities to not only collect and house the massive data requirements, it provides the tools and practices to analyze the data to help identify the trends, direction and desires of the consumers to allow the retailer to quickly adjust their business practices to align with the changing trends more efficiently and quickly.


This is now where I bring the Amazon example that I started with back into the discussion.  Amazon has shown how imagination and data analysis can be used together to change the shopping experience.  This is where the long view comes into play in your improvements and use of Big Data.  You can use the Amazon example as a guide for the types of services and shopping experience to implement, or you can use the Amazon example as a guide for the type of tools, processes and resources, especially people or service providers, to help you develop your own collaborative shopping experience.  Each of these choices provide their own benefits and challenges and the best choice I think is a combination of the two.  In other words, take a blended approach where you incorporate good ideas and concept from the market of competitors and at the same time invest in the research and development to bring about your specialized touches. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of collaborating with your end consumer?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of your proprietary information and what is appropriate to share with the consumer?

I believe that the consumer collaborative opportunity is the next frontier and Big Data tools and capabilities will provide the tipping point to make the omni-channel collaboration opportunity and more importantly the mutual benefits a reality.  We seemed to have reached a point in technology where the tools, the network and the storage capabilities are able to support the various and growing desires of the social community to collaborate across multiple channels of communication and commerce.  In addition to the capabilities we have also reach a level of understanding and imagination and experimentation to make use of these tools.  In other words, we seem to have reached a point where the tools and their capabilities are not limiting factors to the imagination and desires of the consumers, service providers and omni-channel commerce. 


The discussion should revolve around two concepts; what types of products and services are consumers searching for and how can suppliers provide these products and services.  These two concepts however are deceptively simple in concept and yet extremely complex and difficult to successfully execute.  First of all this requires massive amounts of data in order to obtain the information required in order to analyze and make decisions.  Second of all it requires massive amounts of computing power in order to perform the queries and analysis required to understand the information.  This is why it has taken so long to come to this time where the tools, technologies and capabilities have achieved a level of capability to perform these queries and analyses.


As I mentioned in my last discussion, I think that Amazon is leading the way when it comes to adding value for the consumers based on the information they’ve collected based on shopping habits.  They’ve also added a method for consumers to participate fully in the shopping experience in order to collaborate and improve the experience through ratings of products and suppliers and Amazon partners.  Amazon is able to utilize this information to analyze trends in shopping and they are also able use this information to help them identify new products and services that would interest their consumers.  Add to this the fact that Amazon encourages a collaborative environment in the manner that they support their partners and consumers.  As an example of this encouragement, they provide the method for consumers to either return textbooks for credit or even sell the text books outright through Amazon.  Amazon has opened their services, for a fee of course, to support these types of activities by consumers in a mutually beneficial and collaborative environment. 


This is mutually beneficial because the consumer/seller gains an outlet to sell products they no longer require via a tremendous reach of other customers, Amazon charges a fee for services, including arranging shipping, collects the payment for the products. This provides a great outlet for consumers and it provides a great outlet for Amazon to extend their income channel through offering their services.  The kicker for Amazon that provides tremendous value is the information they are able to collect from both three sides of these transactions.  Amazon can then use this information to identify new products and services to offer to the market.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of collaborating with your end consumer?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of your proprietary information and what is appropriate to share with the consumer?

Improvements in Big Data capabilities and the explosion of Big Data applications presents the opportunity to turn the challenges presented by omni-channel commerce collaboration into valuable opportunities.  In order to achieve success in any new opportunity or capability the tools required to make this capability successful must be robust enough to support the requirements. This was true in the early days of the Internet when e-commerce burst into the market.  In those days the promise of e-commerce was great but the realization fell short because the network bandwidth could not support the dramatically expanded data requirements.  The smartphone market is another example, now that the wireless bandwidth has been dramatically expanded the smartphone has become a ubiquitous tool that people are using to help manage their lives.  The smartphone market has reached the point where they are almost able be replace the computer.


All of these points are converging now to make this the time where consumer collaboration across both consumers and the retailers and service providers the consumers deal with on a daily basis.  From the consumers’ perspective they are using the social network tools to collaborate with other consumers to support their needs and desires from a retail perspective and from a services perspective.  The omni-channel retailers have also been expanding into the the social network realm.  The retailers however seem to have embraced the social networks as another marketing or sales channel and not from a collaboration perspective.  In other words the retailers for the most part are using the social networks as a showroom window.  In do this, these retailers are overlooking a major opportunity to build a relationship with the consumer.


I believe that the pendulum has reached the point where it is starting to swing back where consumers are looking for a long term relationship and not focused on the individual transactions.  Everywhere you look both service providers and retailers that focus on the relationship are showing greater success than their counterparts.  This is a bit of the tail wagging the dog and this ‘tail’ is the consumers organizing themselves through social network collaboration to share insights and recommendations for services and goods.  These consumer driven factors are driving ‘me too’ suppliers and retailers to chase the trend.  On the other hand, look at Amazon, this is a company that drives the market by providing a mutually beneficial and collaborative environment for their retail partners and consumers. 


In my opinion Amazon has been a pioneer in stretching the horizons of technology and the use of data and techniques to bring this data to both their internal selling channel and the consumers.  I think the benefits they provide to their consumers are possibly more important to the long term success of the company.  This is where Big Data capabilities come into play in the omni-channel market.  I believe that the consumer collaborative opportunity is the next frontier and Big Data tools and capabilities will provide the tipping point to make this opportunity real. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of collaborating with your end consumer?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of your proprietary information and what is appropriate to share with the consumer?

In my opinion, the key value proposition for omni-channel commerce will only be achieved when the retailer fully collaborates with the consumer.  This collaboration is where the mutual benefits will really kick in for values for both the end consumer and the retail extended supply chain.  From the consumer perspective I think they can expect benefits such as product availability and price structures that are compelling across channels for example.  From the retailer perspective I think they can expect benefits such as true customer loyalty and the increase in the customer sales and individual customer value that will be achieved with a true omni-channel experience bringing the ability to shop any time any where.  It has long been known that the value of the customer is dramatically higher for an multi channel retailer and this next phase of commerce, omni-channel commerce will provide the opportunity to increase the value of the omin-channel consumer.


I mentioned in my last discussion that the retailer can take two courses of action; eliminate the open collaboration with the end consumer, or, redefine the proprietary information that you share with these partners.  I say this rather sarcastically because I don’t see that there is really an option here.  The simple fact of the matter is that the consumers are collaborating and sharing amongst themselves already.  The retailers themselves have opened the door a crack with their entry into Facebook, or Google+ to use the outlet as a type of ‘window’ into their store if you will.  Facebook has been the most visible of the social networks for the retailer to join.  This visibility though only provides a portion of the collaboration that can be of great value to the retailer.  I think that retailers have a tendency to fool themselves into thinking that because they are providing a communications channel with the consumer through Facebook that they are collaborating and this is mistaken.  It is a false choice that you can eliminate the open collaboration with the end consumer.  If you don’t embrace the open collaboration with the end consumer I’m afraid that you will be relegating yourself to extinction. 


Open collaboration has different meanings for different people.  To me, open collaboration is based on the foundation of open and honest two way sharing of information for the mutual benefits of both partners.  This foundation can be extremely difficult coming from a culture that protects ‘proprietary’ information with a passion.  I put proprietary in quotes because it has different meanings for different people and this is the key stumbling block to open and honest two way sharing of information for the mutual benefit of both partners.  One way to overcome the cultural paradigm that proprietary information must be protected is to explore and understand the potential benefits of the open collaboration.


One method to achieve the benefits is provided through the big data potential that can be utilized to make sense of the vast amount of information that will be available through the implementation of extended collaboration with the consumer.  Big data analysis provides a method to collect and make sense of the huge amount of information related to everything from shopping habits to new product research and new service analysis.  The caveat to achieving these benefits is that you must redefine proprietary information to increase the types of information that you share with your customers.


There is one challenge to the open collaboration that I am suggesting; security.  This must be addressed and with a robust solution to address the risk to customers’ and retailer personal information. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of collaborating with your end consumer?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of your proprietary information and what is appropriate to share with the consumer?

Omni-channel commerce will bring about a new level of collaboration not only across your commerce channels, it will increase the collaboration across your entire extended supply chain.  This increase in collaboration will also begin to extend to your customers in the form of incentive programs and new product offers and evaluations and services expansions.  This new collaborative expansion will link your supply chain from the raw materials through the end consumer.  I believe that this extended collaborative community is will become the holy grail search in the coming years.  The final piece to this puzzle I think is bringing the consumer into the extended collaborative network. 


In the past I’ve discussed the importance and the value of the collaboration across your extended supply chain network.  I see this collaboration and the efforts to build the collaborative extended supply chain network as critical to the success of your extended supply chain network in the face of increasing discontinuous change.  I also believe that the omni-channel commerce capabilities and success will depend on collaboration with the end consumer.  I see the obvious next step in this journey to be the connection of the collaboration from the end consumer through the raw materials, or from the very beginning of your supply chain to the very end of your supply chain.  The challenge to building this collaborative network is the cultural hesitation for the omni-channel commerce organization to share on both ends of this new collaborative network.


As I’ve discussed in the past, I believe that a key objective for a truly successful collaborative network is the focus on mutually beneficial results and opportunities.  In my opinion this is the greatest challenge facing the members of this collaborative network, how do you encourage and maintain a level of open collaboration that encourages and delivers mutually beneficial results.  This means that you must continuously work to overcome a natural tendency to protect what you have always believed to be your abilities and strategies to increase your sales or develop new products for example.  Collaboration means sharing and sharing means that you open yourself up for someone to steal, or use your ideas for their own objectives.  This is the reason for nondisclosure agreements after all, to protect each of the parties in an agreement from the other sharing proprietary information.


It is a challenge to take that first step and open up to extended collaboration with your business partners.  This can be overcome, however, because after all you have a professional and mutual dependency on your business partners for each other’s success.  The risk to your proprietary information can be dramatically reduced through the use of the previously mentioned nondisclosure agreements.  This relatively closed and controllable environment allows you to collaborate without the risk of loss of your proprietary information.  Now introduce a new collaborative partner, the end consumer, over whom you have no legal controls to limit the information they share or with whom they may share this information and you’ve dramatically increase the risk of disclosure of your proprietary information. 


It would seem that you can take two courses of action; eliminate the open collaboration with the end consumer, or, redefine the proprietary information that you share with these partners.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you contemplated the challenges and benefits of collaborating with your end consumer?  Have you contemplated the reevaluation of your proprietary information and what is appropriate to share with the consumer?