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2014
tbrouill

Collaboration And IOT

Posted by tbrouill Sep 28, 2014

The largest benefit of the advances in technology is the simplicity and speed in which you can engage these technologies.  The Internet of Things concept is a great example where platforms, data, software and devices are all connected and accessible via cloud technology.  This will have a huge impact along with great opportunity for your collaborative network through improved connectivity, ability to share and collaboratively create and update work documents and plans, the abiltiy to access software and data from any platform and any location that can connect through a network, whether hard-wired to a local network or through a wireless network . These capabilities and tools are expanding it seems on a daily basis to expand and improve capabilities to collaborate and delivery benefits.


The Internet of Things has become one of the most used phrases and concepts recently due I think i large part based on hopes and potential, the hopes quite frankly of wireless companies to expand the utilization of their networks and the potential capabilities have been identified and marketed to the consumer and business community. I have previously discussed this type of capability and the danger of the hype cycle to overpromise and under deliver.  I have also previously discussed the tendency of industry and trade experts to repackage legacy technology and practices with new names to generate interest.  I believe though that the Internet of Things truly has the potential to dramatically impact many industries and practices.  The Internet of Things has the potential to dramatically streamline processes through the elimination of technical boundaries. 


On the other hand I have a great fear that the market hype and potential can overrun the actual capabilities to cause a let down and delays in realizing the potential.  The Internet of Things has two things going for it right now; a catchy name and a great deal of potential.  On the other hand, it also has some challenges; cost of implementing the capabilities and to some extend a business or social problem to resolve.  Either one of these challenges could derail the potential so they must be carefully managed.  The potential however to address the challenges in business collaboration and especially omni channel retailing and supply chain management are compelling. 


I think that the potential benefits can and must be captured through a cohesive strategy that identifies methods and benefits that can be achieved.  This strategy must take into account the current and proven capabilities to define and prove the concepts and develop a framework for achieving expanded capabilities in the future.  This strategy must be based on a sober review of current reality in order to build the framework and then define the roadmap to delivering the future potential.  The Internet of Things is a concept based on defined capabilities and you must define how you will embrace the concept to deliver capabilities.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

tbrouill

Optimize your Network

Posted by tbrouill Sep 27, 2014

Is there a point where your collaborative network becomes too big?  Is there a point where the value diminishes based on the effort to maintain your collaborative network?  I think that you can definitely come to the point where the size of the network reaches a point where the cost of maintaining the network in both effort and even spending overcomes the value that you achieve.  The challenge though is determining when you reach the point so that you can stop increasing the size of the network.  This is a difficult challenge because you must balance the partners that join the network with the partners that drop from the network.  The very nature of the professional encourages expansion and contraction of both members and participation.  Due to this natural tendency of your network to expand and contract you must carefully review any steps to control the size.


Your collaborative network will swell and contract from two key methods; a change, positive or negative, in the number of partners and a change in participation of the partners.  Due to this natural tendency to expand and contract it will be difficult to determine when you have reached a point of saturation.  This saturation point can simply be due to a natural expansion of participation or it can be due to going over the optimal size of the network.  You must keep in mind this factor when evaluating your network so that you don’t unnecessarily contract your network and impact the value proposition.  You must always watch the current and potential value proposition when evaluating your network size and participation.


Remember that your collaborative network will expand and contract naturally so before taking any drastic measures to control or limit the size of your network you should take a step back and evaluate why you believe your network has grown too large.  You must understand and explore the reasons behind your determination that the network has become too large.  There is a level of effort required to maintain the network from each of the partners, as the network and participation grows this level of effort to maintain the relationships also grows.  This is only natural, before limiting the size and participation of your network you must determine if it will provide an commensurate benefit to increase the amount of time available to manage the network.


This role of supporting and maintaining the collaborative network can be a growth area for employment with its own specific skill requirements.  I compare this to the roles that were created in companies and marketing to maintain social networks such as Facebook.  The role to maintain the collaborative network will follow a similar path.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

I have discussed many activities and processes that will either benefit your collaborative network and partners, or will help you to derive value from, and for, your collaborative network.  I have also continuously referred to the collaborative network as a professional network that provides the same types of opportunities for growth and sharing as one of the social networks such as Facebook.  In fact, the social networks such as Facebook have been blurring the lines between social and professional networks for quite some time.  One aspect that deserves attention is management of your collaborative network relationships.  You must focus more attention and time on managing the collaborative partnership relationships and this amount of time spent on managing the relationship increases as the number of partners increases. 


This is just a natural resulting requirement of the development of the collaborative network and this requirement naturally increases as the number of partners increases.  Think about this for a moment, compare this to a person and their social network of friends, as the network of friends increases and especially close friends, you will spend more time in contact and interacting with these friends.  This is an understood and unspoken requirement to maintaining the relationships.  This requirement is like gravity, you don’t think about gravity all the time but you know its there.  The collaborative network requires the same type of nurturing and regular maintenance in order to sustain and grow the network.  As with your personal relationships and network, the contact does not require face time but it does require time.  This time requirement will also fluctuate with the participation and activities involving the network. 


There are types and levels of contact and maintenance of relationships, again the professional collaborative network in this case closely mimics the personal social network.  You will identify collaborative partners into levels of relationships - you will have close partners that you interact with frequently in the course of your day to day activities and then the partner interaction decreases as the partners extend out through the collaborative network until you reach the level of partner and participate that is an infrequent level.  One additional difference between the professional collaborative network and the personal social network is the interaction and participation that is generated by projects within the professional collaborative network.  Projects and business, or network, driven initiatives will cause interaction to increase and decrease based on the initiative and the activities occurring as a result of the initiative.  This is a natural occurrence you must anticipate and recognize as it occurs.


It is important that you take this into account in your collaborative partnerships and relationship development.  Without spending the additional time and energy on maintaining the relationships your network will surely disintegrate.  The network must be nurtured and encouraged in order to maintain and the level of effort to nurture will increase as the span of your network increases.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

tbrouill

Collaboration Sharing

Posted by tbrouill Sep 21, 2014

Compatibility is an important aspect of collaboration and provides the basis for building and participating initially in the collaborative network. As I have previously discussed, compatibility provides the basis to begin the collaborative network. Both types of compatibility, cultural and professional  provide foundational building blocks for the first steps in building your collaborative network.  Next, there must be a commitment to openness. This commitment to openness is truly one of the key foundational principles of your collaborative network.  There cannot be a collaborative network without a commitment to openness and sharing.


Share the goals, strategic directions and issues of your collaborative network openly in order to build the commitment of your network partners. Share openly and consistently across your partners because to put it bluntly, collaborative success requires trust and in order to build this trust you must share openly and continuously. Sharing openly must be consistent across your network, this is not a pick and choose type of option.  Sharing openly across your collaborative network demonstrates commitment to the network partners and also demonstrates trust in the network partners. 


The demonstration of commitment and trust to openly sharing with your network partners builds the commitment to the network.  This commitment to the network is an important aspect to developing the synergy that will deliver increased value to your network and partners across the network.  As I’ve previously discussed the synergy delivers geometric value and benefits to the network.  Like any social relationship, your collaborative network requires open communications but through sharing and open communications the results delivered in meeting the shared goals and resolving the shared issues can be dramatic.


Inconsistency sharing and openness will kill trust immediately. Don't get misled that any single practice such as a repeatable process, or continuous improvement will overcome every occasion.  The only way to overcome the challenges is if these other aspects are in place.  Think about it for a moment, the first thing that you do when you lose trust and especially when dealing with a network of external partners is that you hold back in sharing.  This generally starts with holding back what you’ve identified as business issues or challenges, this is natural because you don’t want to give any competitor the information they can use to beat you.  This loss of trust is the starting point for when you begin to view your partners as competitors, then from this point it is a quick slide to exit the collaborative network.


This ability to consistently achieve value and increased benefits from your collaborative network starts with compatibility and then requires open sharing across and between your network.  This can be difficult to maintain and in fact requires additional levels of effort and commitment to manage across the network.  However, the results will be more than worth the investment.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

As I mentioned in my previous entry, the one truly critical tool required to maintain the success of the collaborative network is the attitude of the partners -  your collaborative partners must learn not to ‘Compromise’ but to ‘Synergise’.  As I’ve also stated, the exact tools used in this synergistic mode are of secondary importance to the mode itself. In the end the team must internalize this mode identify the tools that can help to achieve the mode.  I believe there is an second vital condition to recognize and embrace to support the collaborative network and that is compatibility.  For your collaborative network and partnerships to be successful, there must be cultural compatibility between and across the partners.


The culture can be developed over time, but it is mostly in-situ and part of the institution - whether a firm or a function or even a location in a firm. This compatibility can be encouraged and strengthened over time but the compatibility cannot be forced, even with the implementation of a repeatable process. The starting point must come from a base that is compatible so that the compatibility can be grown and strengthened over time.  Tools such as the social networking tools and collaboration tools can, and should, be added and embraced to support and even strengthen the compatibility of the partners, but the starting point must be the compatibility of the partners within the network.


Your collaboration partners and collaborative network is fundamentally based on social relationships.  You are developing the business relationships in the same manner as you would build your personal relationships, it is a type of tribe that you are developing.  This starts with compatibility, connecting through similarities whether they be long term goals or similar practices, they all start with compatibility.  The collaborative network of business relationships is made up of the people that represent the companies, or organizations that are striving to build personal relationships.  The people in these organizations require the social gathering. It is critical to remember that companies and organizations do not have relationships but the people in these companies and organizations will tend toward developing the personal relationships.


An interesting aspect of compatibility is that it is not finite, in other words compatibility can and will grow and strengthen as the collaborative network grows and strengthens.  In this way compatibility is a similar trait as synergy, as the partners focus and strengthen their compatibility, the points in which the compatibility grow and strengthen.  The compatibility points can also be viewed as a type of building block, or framework, that will grow and expand as the relationships grow and expand.  For instance three partners may join in the collaborative network because of the compatibility to a fourth partner and not because of any initial compatibility to each other.


Building the compatibility requires patience and determination but it does deliver value across the network.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

tbrouill

Collaboration Tools

Posted by tbrouill Sep 19, 2014

Collaboration tools is a very important topic and it merits revisiting and revising periodically.  I’ve been discussing organizational tools that will help to focus, measure and direct the activities of the organization and the collaborative network.  These tools are all critical to the on going success and value of the partnership network.  These tools provide the means and the methods to measure results which is critical to the support of the network from leadership.  I’ve also discussed using these tools to overcome the let down that occurs when the newness wears off, I called it the ‘new car smell’.  These tools and methods are important for maintaining the value and continuing to identify new means to derive value from the network.  There is one additional tools that I would have to say is truly critical to the initial and continued success of the collaborative network and probably the most powerful collaboration tool is attitudinal and behavioural not technical and procedural.  This tool already lies within your people and must simply be directed and encouraged.--- When working with others your collaborative partners must learn not to ‘Compromise’ but to ‘Synergise’. (From Covey).


It comes off sounding contrite but the power of a ‘Synergistic Team’, or to rephrase for this discussion the power of a ‘Collaborative Team’ lies in the word TEAM; Together. Everybody. Achieves More.  I know that everyone’s heard this before and I also know that it comes across a little smarmy but the concept is based in fact, the team, acting as a team and collaborating, can achieve much more than the total of the individuals.  I also think that this concept provides the initial ‘new car smell’ and the continuing underlying drive to continue to collaborate and reach new heights. 


There is a bit of relationship type ‘mathematics’ that can be used in describing collaborative behaviour and demonstrate the potential through a comparison of compromise and synergise, or collaboration.

  • Compromise - Each of the partners involved in this type of relationship or partnership must give up some of their original ideas/positions in order to achieve a common agreement. In other words, in this model everyone loses something together - ‘1 + 1 = 1½’
  • Synergise, or Collaborate - Each of the partners involved in this type of relationship work together to create a better idea, position, or widget than any of one of their individual original ideas. In other word, in this model everyone creates something together - ‘1 + 1 = 3’ or better yet a greater number, this is where the model really can deliver amazing results where ‘1 + 1 = 11’.

The exact tools used in the synergistic or collaborative mode are of secondary importance to the mode itself. The team will end up internalizing and changing the tools to their own benefit.


Sometimes the collaborative mode requires a recharging effort in order to reinforce the importance of the team and collaborating and that is what the organizational tools can and will provide.  They can provide the support to get over the hump of recharging.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

In order to internalize and incorporation the collaboration model as part of your own organizations methods, business model and practices you must move from the skunkworks implementation to incorporation of a collaboration strategy.  You must formalize the methods, tools, performance indicators to measure success and your business objectives.  This collaboration strategy will encourage and measure the results and benefits of the partnership to your organization in order to ensure the continued support of your organization’s senior leadership. 


I'd summarize my method for creating the collaboration strategy as:

  • Create a vision or future state where the benefits for both your own organization and the collaborative partners are identifiable, measurable, and are in alignment of strategic business goals of not only each organization but also the partnership network..
  • Wrap a robust process around this vision that includes performance indicator measurement along with regular communication on the progress toward the goal.
  • Reward and celebrate the team's accomplishments along the way.
  • Perform regular evaluations of the objectives, results and performance indicators as part of a formalized continuous improvement program to ensure that the strategy continues to deliver benefits.


In the beginning of your strategy implementation it is important to define quick hit objectives to achieve an early win for the team to provide momentum.  These early wins will also show some immediate results that will help to ensure you retain the support of the executive sponsors.  In addition to the early wins, the formalized  continuous improvement program help to ensure that the collaborative partnership network grows and continues to provide the support necessary in a changing business environment.  This is necessary to ensure that the early benefits achieved continue to grow and the network does not die. 


There comes a time in every strategic improvement process where the shine wears thin and the process can be in danger of losing its momentum and support.  This is where the continuous improvement program becomes a critical tool and critical ingredient supporting the growth and value the robust and high performance network.  The most important time for your continuous improvement program is after the new car smell wears off and there is another new initiative that diverts the focus and attention of senior leadership.


In addition to the internal strategy development it is also time to develop a strategy that can be embraced by all of your collaborative partners.  This external strategy should be developed in the same manner, and for the same reason, as your internal strategy.  This external strategy can be viewed as more of a patchwork, or quilt, of the many internal strategies of your network partners.  You must cultivate the continued success and support of your network partners just as you do your internal leadership.  This strategy will provide the method to guide and direct the focus into developing the lasting high performance network.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

I’ve said previously that you can achieve outrageous results and benefits when you harness and promote your collaborative networks.  I’ve also said that I believe the results achieved through cooperation and collaboration are much greater and more importantly sustainable than the results you would achieve through competition.  In order to achieve these results, however, you must incorporate and embrace a strategy that develops and supports a blended approach to utilization of the tools and practices.  This strategy must guide and encourage the organization and more importantly the network to spend an the appropriate the appropriate time for heads-down action and then also the appropriate time to look up to take in your surroundings.  A strategy that supports and provides for a blend of these activities will help you to achieve and maintain a value added and high performance network.


There is an old saying - All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  This was taken to a suspenseful extreme in the movie ‘The Shining’ however it has always been meant to convey the need to have a blended approach to life.  There is a similar requirement to achieving success in business and especially to building a successful collaborative network.  Businesses are built by people and collaborative networks are a means for these businesses to build connections to the community of businesses.  The collaborative network is a type of social network then for the business world that supports and encourages building professional business to business relationships.  This requires a strategy and and encouragement in order to maintain the value proposition. 


This is where the importance of taking in your surroundings comes into play.  First of all, it is obvious that you would never have developed a collaborative network if you had not at some point taken in your surroundings to identify and engage with your eventual partners.  So this is more of an acknowledgement and embracing as an accepted strategy the activities that started your collaborative network.  I think it is important to acknowledge and institutionalize these activities as an integral part of your business strategy. 


In many cases, the collaborative network starts as a type of skunk works where the relationship is developed without the initial encouragement of the senior leadership.  This incorporation of the methods and practices in your business strategy provides the framework to institutionalize these practices.  This incorporation in your business strategy broadcasts the acceptance of these methods and practices by the business leadership to all levels of the business.  This acceptance is critical to the continued growth and development of the network.  A key concept is the practice of taking in the surroundings to determine how these surroundings can be incorporated into your network to bring new value.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

tbrouill

Open For Collaboration

Posted by tbrouill Sep 13, 2014

A key aspect, or practice even, to reaping benefits from your networks is to continuously review the networks for growth and sales opportunities and also remain open to participating in new network groups.  Remaining open to participation is probably the key factor in maintaining and growing collaborative networks, in fact I think that remaining open to participation is the essence of collaboration.  The second key aspect to maintaining and growing collaborative networks is the willingness to step outside of your normal comfort zone and participate or help your partners.  You must remain open to the opportunity and then be willing to participate and engage in the opportunity. 


I think of this as forward looking, or maintaining an awareness of your surroundings.  As a personal example that may help to explain this, think of this as the act of looking up and surveying your surroundings periodically.  As an analogy, think about sitting at a table at Starbucks with a coffee and you are catching up on email or some other introspective activity.  I am suggesting that periodically you look up and survey your surroundings and then periodically engage with other customers that may be sitting around you.  This extraspective activity is an example of the open to participate attitude that I mention above. 


The thing that is most useful in maintaining a social network can also be the thing that is most detrimental to expanding your network; technology from the smartphone to tablets to laptops.  While these tools allow you to remain connected to far flung networks, these things also promote the very introspective activities and practices that limit the openness and extraspective activities that also help to grow and strengthen your network and the benefits of your network. The advancement in these hardware and software tools can have a detrimental impact on the value that you can achieve through your collaborative network.  In order to counter this tendency you must put the tools down periodically and survey your surroundings, engage in a person to person conversation make new friends and contacts.


You can achieve outrageous results and benefits when you harness and promote your collaborative networks.  I believe the results achieved through cooperation and collaboration are much greater and more importantly sustainable than the results you would achieve through competition.  The challenge to achieving these results is a blended approach to utilization of the tools and practices.  There is a time for heads-down action and a time to look up to take in your surroundings.  A blend of these activities will help you to achieve and maintain a value added and high performance network.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

I recently introduced what I would categorize as a new type of collaborative network to support extending sales to a broader market and to allow this new type of collaborative market to compete and win deals from larger companies.  This type of collaborative network is in addition to the functional and process support type of collaborative network.  This new sales and marketing type of collaborative network can be developed and exist in addition to the functional and process support type network and in fact your functional and process support network and also be a sales and marketing type of network.  These networks can coexist and you can even participate in multiple networks at the same time to support growth in both market reach and functional process improvements.


Remember, the collaborative network is a professional type of network that is comparative to a social network such as Facebook. As such the collaborative business network can grow and change to support the needs of the members.  From a sales and marketing perspective it is perfectly reasonable to participate in multiple networks based on your company's capabilities and fit to the opportunity.  The basis of this practice is a constant professional networking and search based on two things; needs of the network and opportunities in the marketplace.  These opportunities are a direct result of the maturity level of your collaboration practices.  The more mature and robust your collaboration network the greater the number of opportunities in both sales and process networking.  This is a natural growth result that you should monitor and not hesitate to explore because this is also how your own business grows and expands.


These two types of networks will converge in many places across your network which as I said is a natural aspect of the collaborative process.  These two types of networks also provide opportunities to expand and grow both your sales and process type of networks.  By the same token you may be a partner in multiple networks and the members of the network may not even cross over or participate in all of the networks in which you are a member.  This is another aspect that is directly relatable to personal social networks, LinkedIn is a great example.  I am a member of many groups in LinkedIn and many of the members of one group are also members of other groups in which I am a member.  However, all of the members of the members from one group are not necessary members of the same groups.  For instance, I am a member of an international supply chain group and the leader of that group is a member of many of the same groups as I but we are not member of all of the same groups.


The key to reaping benefits from your networks is to continuously review the networks for growth and sales opportunities and also remain open to participating in new network groups. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

Sales collaboration is another way of looking at outsourcing sales and marketing to support the broader collaboration network.  This broader perspective will allow your network and the partners within the network to be much more competitive in the market with much larger organizations.  This sales and marketing perspective will allow your collaborative network to effectively compete and win opportunities over these larger organizations because your solution will provide the same value and the cost will be reduced because your collaborative network has eliminated, or does not have the requirement to support a large administrative management overhead.


One of the key benefits to this sales collaboration perspective is changing the network partners’ view of sales and marketing from a product or ‘what can I offer to the market’ to a market need or ‘what is the market need’.  This perspective change, or paradigm shift is critical to the long term success of the collaborative network and all of the network partners.  This perspective shifts from a myopic viewpoint to a farsighted viewpoint that focuses on market needs.  I think you can quickly see that this focus on market needs will provide the foundation for flexibility and growth that will promote and ensure the success of the collaborative network.


This market focused perspective will allow you to extend your network’s opportunities, allowing your network to meet the needs and challenges of the marketplace and develop new markets.  As I’ve discussed this perspective is important to encourage and even ensure the future viability and growth of your network and the partners in your network.  What I am proposing is not really outsourcing in the classic sense, I am proposing a new type of outsourcing that connects the capabilities of the individual partners.  In this type of outsourcing the objective is for the new partner to view the needs of the marketplace and then identify how the collaborative network can meet the needs to support and win the market initiatives or sales.


You can see why this is not the classic definition of outsourcing, because you will be creating a new framework that helps to glue your network partners into a cohesive framework.  In fact, I think that this provides a new type of service industry, or offering, that fits very nicely into the collaborative partnership framework.  This creates an opportunity for a new partner to focus on two things; the needs of the market and building the team from the collaborative partnership to meet the needs of the market.  This shift in perspective will allow the network to better meet the needs of the market and win more initiatives.  Winning more initiatives then provides the review to support the growth of the collaborative partnership. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

I touched on previously a new type of sales and marketing partners to support your collaborative partnership network in generating new income.  As I mentioned though, these partners should be considered a phase two type of addition to most collaboration networks.  The type of collaboration network that I’ve focused on is the type the collaborations and develops partnerships to support the needs and overcome the challenges of the business partners.  In this type of collaborative partnership the initial focus is directed inward to support the needs and challenges of the partners.  The sales and marketing partners will be introduced when the partnership network begins to look outwards and taking advantage of the strengths of the network to support new business capabilities to generate new income streams.


Just like any other partner in your network, the sales and marketing partner brings capabilities, expertise and most important market contacts to the network to develop a new income streams.  These partners can help your network to identify markets and then develop the opportunities with clients in those markets.  These partners come bring a broad market focus that will extend each partners’ reach into new markets without increasing their own internal sales and marketing capabilities.  Again, this incorporates the outsourcing viewpoint in the sales and marketing capacity of the network. 


This would be a phase two addition to the collaborative network because it is beginning to change the view from an internal support view to an external market opportunity view.  It is important that you do not move too early to this external opportunity view with your collaborative network that started with an internal view perspective.  It is important to develop a sound foundation prior to changing your viewpoint.  As with any other type of business initiative without a sound foundation to build on it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to change or extend your direction. 


The collaborative perspective also changes the sales activities and really the greatest change is from the in-house type of sales to outsourced type sales and marketing.  This change in perspective is necessary though because it changes the view of sales and marketing from a product or ‘what can I offer to the market’ to a need or ‘what is the market need’.  This perspective will allow you to extend your network’s opportunities, allowing your network to meet the needs and challenges of the marketplace and develop new markets.  It is important to develop a broad view of the market in order to ensure your future viability and growth.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

I’ve discussed the potential to engage your collaborative network partners to grow the business and income through combined service offerings that engage partners in your network to support client initiatives that any one partner in the network would not be able to support alone.  This is a great means to expand market share and increase the revenue of the partners in the network.  In order to achieve these new business opportunities your network must be open to both recognizing the potential and then pairing up the service specialities of the network to meet the needs.  I see this as a potential for a new service that would identify the opportunities and then engage the network to bid and win the opportunities.  I see this as a variation on outsourcing the sales and marketing for your collaborative network extended services. 


This sales and marketing partner would also join the collaborative network to provide their specialized services to grow the revenue for the network.  This new type of partnership for the collaborative network would allow your network to step up to the next level of performance and value.  This would be accomplished by performing a SWOT analysis of the market place needs to identify areas of opportunity to target with the collaborative network services.  You will notice that I am consistent with the tools and methods that I suggest, in this case the SWOT analysis.  This is not because of a limitation on the tools that are available, it is because the consistent use of the SWOT analysis supports a consistent method of comparison.  I believe this methodology provides the means to easily and consistently build a repository of valuable information for future use.


This new addition to the collaborative network partners provides a new method to group the partners, this time though rather than the partners supporting the the needs of the internal partners they are supporting the needs of external clients.  This opens a whole new business channel that can be supported by the network.  This new business channel must be nurtured, though, and engaged through the focus of the new marketing and sales partners to realize maximum value.  The new marketing and sales partners realize the benefit through sharing in the revenue generated by these new opportunities. 


This is not something that should be engaged too early in the life cycle of the collaborative network though.  In order to bring value to the network your collaborative framework must first be in place and working to support the needs of your partners.  It is important to build the solid partnership framework before engaging new sales initiatives that will test that framework.  Without that solid collaborative partnership framework that is embraced by the network you will not be successful in offering the partnership network services to outside customers.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

In order to round out your collaboration network and in the process provide real growth opportunities you should look into partners to support network marketing and sales opportunities.  After all of the previous discussions related to supporting the need and risk mitigation for the network it is time to put the capabilities together and wrap them with a means to derive market value.  This is exactly what you must do by adding marketing and sales capabilities to your collaborative network.  I’ve already mentioned that the collaborative network can help the partners in the network to compete with the largest management consulting and services firms.  The addition of marketing and sales to the network will allow you and your partners to derive additional value from the collaborative services and capabilities.


Every partner in your network has marketing and sales skills so why would you need to add these skills to the network?  The truth is that you may not need the additional partners but I think its important to that you perform the same SWOT analysis on your marketing and sales objectives and capabilities as they relate to the entire network.  This analysis will confirm the need for, and the type and focus of these capabilities.  Every partner within the network has a marketing and sales team that is focused on their internal capabilities and market, what is needed is a holistic view and approach to marketing and sales for the network.  This is something that may very well require additional support to get the opportunities flowing.


I have seen and spoken with partners that have developed a sales channel based on the needs of a marketplace.  These sales partners have developed a network of partners that specialize in supporting the needs of the marketplace. Generally these specific and specialized partners have the skills for a specific need within the initiative and the sales partner brings the additional skills together from other network service partners in order to support the marketplace initiative.  This sales partner is action as the catalyst to bring together and coordinate the support of specific requirements to meet the marketplace need. 


I am suggesting that your collaborative network engage this type of sales and marketing partner(s) in order to take the next step in developing and engaging your collaborative network.  After all if your network partners support the needs and specialized skills required to mitigate risk and provide value added services for your own network partners just think of the value that can be offered to external customers in need of such services.  The trick is to develop the market sales funnel to develop and land these additional opportunities.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?

I would break down collaboration into two major categories; long term, where you develop a mutually beneficial relationship that you expect to grow and develop over time; temporary, where you engage in a short term relationship for a particular initiative.  A long term collaborative relationship may best be identified as one that supports essential activities within the network, such as shipping or financial services.  A short term, or temporary, collaborative relationship may best be identified as one that supports a limited, or specific, specialize service for a short period of time.  The best example of the temporary relationship is probably temporary, or contract, labor where you engage labor with specialized skills that are only required for a specific task or initiative.


Temporary collaboration is best exemplified in contract labor services and these service may be provided directly to the end customer or through another party.  One aspect of larger management consulting firms that I find fascinating is their practice of contracting for specialized services from local staffing firms to support their contract services requirements.  In other words these firms have a base of staff and skills and then contract with local staffing companies to fill specialized or even general staff increases for specific initiatives.  These contract staffing resources are ‘branded’ through the large management consulting firm so their client believes they are receiving support from the name brand firm when in reality they are simply paying for a marked up contract staffing.


I believe this practice should be embraced by companies and especially collaborative networks to extend their capabilities and support short term increases in needs or short term or special initiatives.  This can be done as an activity by each of the partners within your network or I think a better way would be to add a staffing service to your collaborative network.  This staffing company would bring to the table the network and relationships of temporary staffing and the temporary staffing market to support the temporary needs of your collaborative network.  In this manner you would not have to perform the search and the skills analysis yourself, let your staffing partner that specializes in temporary staffing services to provide these services.


I would suggest though that rather than view this staffing requirement as a short term specific need, you should take the long view.  In other words rather than simply engaging the staffing firm on an as-needed basis, I suggest that you add staffing firms to your long term collaborative network.  The reason is simple, I think you will or already have found that temporary staffing is a long term requirement that would be best addressed through a long term relationship with a staffing firm.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?