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2014

Collaboration is essentially the direct result of communication with your partners, whether internal or external so you might be wondering why I’ve chosen this as a topic for discussion.  It is absolutely correct that communication is a result and a direct contributor to collaboration.  I think it is important though to define and implement a communication process that defines the methods, schedules and types of communications expected from the processes.  It is important not to leave your communications processes to chance and scheduled as time permits or when the need arises.  The action of defining the methods and processes with your collaborative partners provides the foundation for open communications that will become a cornerstone of your collaborative partnerships.  These communications methods and processes will support the growth in both size and maturity of your collaborative network.


The first step is the types of communications.  The types will help you to define a schedule and the process utilized, you will need to define a process for each type of communication.

  • Partnership network status sessions to discuss the needs of the partners that can potentially be supported by the network partners.  These sessions should be made up of a review of the current capabilities, the direction of the market and the direction and plans of the partners.  These sessions should be held on an annual basis and can be thought of as your collaborative network conference, similar to the software vendor conference.
  • Continuous improvement sessions to review issues with current processes and schedule analysis reviews for process improvements to take advantage of new partners and partner capabilities.  These sessions would be open to all of the partners and would support a lean initiative across your collaborative network.  These sessions would also provide the opportunity to identify either current partners or potential partners to support improvements to the network processes and capabilities providing a process to maintain and encourage participation.  These sessions should be scheduled on a quarterly basis and would follow a standard agenda that is reviewed and revised as a result of these sessions. 
  • Project or initiative sessions to support specific initiatives.  These are part of the standard project management communications sessions for the initiative teams.  These would be scheduled as part of an initiative and include the initiative participants.


Of course there are many types of unscheduled communications that occur between partners at any time.  Since the concept of the collaboration network is based on communications these ‘pop up’ and social communications should be encouraged.  The formalized communication processes will provide the foundation and framework to encourage robust communications and growth in both size and maturity of the collaboration 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 Influence

Posted by tbrouill Oct 28, 2014

Previously I discussed the challenges of prioritizing and delivering continuous improvement initiatives due to the fact that your partners do not directly report into your organization and management chain for the most part.  This challenge requires that you convince your partners of the importance of an initiative that is important to you based on factors that will resonate with your partners; factors such as benefit to the partners within the partner through increased value or reduction in costs.  This is a very similar process that you would go through internally when you are requesting budget funding.  This type of influencing extends through your collaborative partnership network however for all activities.


A result of the fluid nature of the collaborative partnership network with partners joining and leaving and participation of partners increasing as their collaborative maturity level grows it requires a different type of leadership, or probably more appropriately guidance than is required in your own and other partners’ organizations.  The leadership model is more like a parliamentary democracy or the United Nations where partner members participate and vote on initiatives presented by members.  These partners may even elect a leader, similar to a prime minister, that would provide the guidance as long as the members agree.  I would expect the partnership network to require a great deal of maturity however to reach the point where there would elect a leader of the network.


Due to the social aspect of the collaborative partnership network I would expect the leadership to be based on a conscientious decision based on the votes of the participating partners.  In this case the participating partners, or key stakeholders, would be the partners directly involved in the initiative or the proposal.  Any partner participating in the discussion would be able to vote and provide input and the partners directly involved in funding and implementing the initiative would have the decision making authority.


I would suggest that a monthly meeting to review performance indicators, discuss direction and opportunities for new initiatives would be a minimum schedule and the partners involved in an initiative would meet much more frequently while executing the initiative.  You must have a regular schedule for these meeting so that your network partners can coordinate their schedule for attending.  These meetings in most cases would not require an entire day they are meant to promote communication and collaboration across the network.  The working sessions would be part of the project initiatives and involve specific partners.  Then on a quarterly basis you should schedule a full day session to review the performance of the network and the expectations and general requests for improvements.  Out of this session you would kick off specific improvement initiatives based on the priorities and vote of the partners.


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?

The continuous improvement process can be one of the most important tools, or practices, supporting your collaborative partnership network.  The continuous improvement process puts a method into place with accepted  practices, processes and procedures to evaluate the network, promote and agree to the improvement initiatives and deliver the improvements.  This process also puts into place procedures and measurement of performance indicators to define and incorporate the management requirements.  As I discussed previously, the success of the collaboration partnerships requires additional focus and management and this additional focus and management will be provided by the continuous improvement process and procedures.


Let me lay the foundation here for expectations from the continuous improvement process as it relates to the collaborative partnership.  First of all, this should be focused on your closest partners.  These would be the partners that you interact with on a near continuous basis and these are the partners that have achieved your highest level of collaboration.  Through your incorporation of partners with the closest relationship you will have the greatest potential opportunity for success because these are the partners that share the same or similar practices and the practices are as important to their business as to yours.


Second, remember that the partners engaged in this continuous improvement process have engaged to bring value and return to their business in addition to the partnerships.  This means that you the initiatives and the return from the initiative must be clearly defined in order to prioritize and schedule across the partnership.  This will help to focus the initiatives on the results that will be realized by the partners.  This focus on the potential results and gains will help to enforce and highlight the initiative and also prioritize the scheduled efforts to implement the initiatives.


Third, and probably most important, is that you must remember that while you can influence decisions and support, you cannot order or force your partners to accept your own priorities.  This is the linchpin to the success, or failure, of your continuous improvement efforts and initiatives.  While this is the most important foundation cornerstone, it will also be straightforward, manageable and fair to the partners if and because you incorporate the first two points that I cover above.  This third foundation cornerstone is also a cornerstone to the success of your collaborative relationships.  It requires that you invest time and management focus to succeed in your collaborative partnerships.


The strategy guiding my suggestions in these discussions is to provide a method and guidance to allow you to incorporate your standard practices into processes and procedures that will bring value to your partnerships.  This strategy allows you to extend the value of the standard collaboration practices so that the become incorporated and ingrained into your daily activities and practices.


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 previous discussions I’ve mentioned many times that improvements and revisions in your collaborative network comes from a realization of the value that can be achieved through the revisions.  I have also discussed many times that this realization is the outcome of regular network evaluation exercises.  These network evaluation exercises provide you with the opportunity and most importantly a schedule to step back and evaluate the good, the bad and the ugly of your collaborative network so that you can take measures to improve.  This is a straightforward continuous improvement method that must be extended to your collaborative network to insure the continued growth and value of the network to all of the partners in the network.


The collaborative network requires a higher level of involvement, maintenance and management on a continuous basis in order to sustain the value across the network.  Success and benefit realization does not just happen, you must work at it and in order to ensure the continued success you must regularly review the successes and failures of the network just like you would any other initiative.  This leads to the incorporation and maintenance of a continuous improvement program implementation as an integral part of the collaborative network. This can be a challenge to implement due to the span of stakeholders and the prioritization of the initiatives.


Implementing a continuous improvement program within your own organization is a relatively straight forward first because the stakeholders are within the same organization with the same priorities and second because these stakeholders are guided by the same senior leadership and the same mission.  Implementing continuous improvement program in your collaborative partnership network is much more difficult because you have different factors influencing the decisions and the priorities.  The effort increases to influence and negotiate the both the priorities and the types of improvements.  Even considering these additional challenges to implementing the continuous improvement program I believe the effort is worth the results and value that will be returned.


This additional effort and focus must be provide by the key partners within the collaborative network in order to maintain the focus and the momentum required to deliver the benefits.  It is important that the key partners embrace the continuous improvement program both publicly and privately to show their respective organizations that they embrace the program and believe in the potential.  This requires additional leadership focus and attention to ensure the results.  This is the type of attention requiring time and effort that must be provided by senior leadership to project the importance of the activity.  The management of the program will additionally require a higher level of involvement because of the interaction and coordination required across external partners.  This will require a higher level of focus and attention to ensure that the improvements are implemented and maintained across the network and this too requires a continuous involvement.  The end results however are more than worth the effort.


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 your collaboration maturity level grows you will probably come to a time where you realize that you must collaborate with your end customers in order to reach new levels of opportunity and value from your network.  This level of collaboration generally would not be valuable until you reach a level of maturity in your collaboration and a level of understanding and trust in your closest partners.  You must reach this level of maturity and capabilities prior to collaborating with your end customers because you must project a level of professionalism and capabilities in a continuous manner.  This type of collaboration requires a commitment for the long term to build the trust with your end customers.


Remember, your collaborative network is structured similar to your social network and by that I mean that you will have varying levels of maturity and partnerships across the collaborative network.  Your closest partners within the network have generally been a part of the collaborative network for the longest and are sharing in the greatest level of benefits achieved through the collaboration.  On the other hand, your distant partners within the network have generally been part of the network for the least amount of time and are just beginning to achieve benefits through collaboration.  I am speaking in generalities here and there are going to be exceptions to these generalities, for instance you will have distant partners that have been part of the collaborative network for a long time and have not progressed in maturity or levels of collaboration due to either their own limitations, or desire to progress.  In addition you will also have partners that have been close at one time that begin to pull back and distance themselves for a variety of reasons.


Getting back to the end customer collaboration, this requires a level of commitment to the increase level of collaboration and trust that is extended to the end customer that is normally not achieved.  In addition this collaboration requires a long term commitment to this type of collaboration.  This end customer collaboration requires the higher levels of maturity because the network must be able to on board new end customer partners quickly and efficiently, in addition you must also be able to release the end customer from the network quickly and efficiently

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As I initially mention, including the end customer in your collaborative network comes from a realization of the value that can be achieved through this collaboration.  I think this realization is the outcome of regular network evaluation exercises.  These network evaluation exercises provide you with the opportunity and most importantly a schedule to step back and evaluate the good, the bad and the ugly of your collaborative network so that you can take measures to improve. 


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 previously discussed the strategic collaboration activities are the activities that provide the value measurement of the collaborative network.  I think these are the activities that key to measuring the maturity of the collaborative network.  These strategic collaboration activities are defined by partners sharing and delivering activities that are related to business critical activities for each of the partners.  These business critical activities are considered to be core business activities for any one of the partners related to activities and information that were closely guarded prior to entering into the partnerships.  These are the activities change change the relationship from service provider to a partner.


Let’s face it, no one goes into a collaborative partnership sharing the crown jewels of their enterprise with any partners.  You enter into the collaborative partnership with other organizations that you have done business with and as such you are familiar with their practices and capabilities.  The simple fact of the matter is that everyone starts their collaborative partnerships as a type of service arrange, in other words, I agree to obtain service ‘X’ from you, and only you, and for that arrangement you provide a shared savings.  This arrangement with partners grows and partners expand and additional services and products are added to the mix of the partnership.  This process describes the initial maturity levels of the collaborative partnership pretty clearly. 


As the trust in partners grows through the continued success of the arrangements, the types of activities and information shared with these partners in which you have developed a level of trust in each other grows and begins to include strategic types of information.  Information related to the strategic growth and product development of the partners.  In addition to the growth in the types of information and activities shared across the partners, you develop a partner on-boarding process that simplifies the relationship start-up and allows partners, and especially new partners to engage and increase value in a standard manner and more quickly.  This process describes the increasing levels of maturity in the collaborative partnership.


As this maturity and trust in partners grows, the types of activities provided by the partners and the information shared among the most mature partners reaches the level of the crown jewels of yours and their organizations.  This is the level of partnership in which you begin to share both your key strategic data and also the secret sauce capabilities.  More to the point, this is where you begin to engage partners at this highest level of trust to provide the secret sauce capabilities.  This is where you develop new strategic capabilities that would not have been attainable without these highest level of trust partners.


I am not saying that all partners in your collaborative network would ever reach this level of maturity and trust in the partnership.  Your own level of maturity will allow you however to quickly and efficiently work with all levels of maturity and most importantly will allow you to help your partners in the collaborative network grow in their maturity and capabilities.  This is what allows and encourages the collaborative network to grow.


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?

The partners within your collaboration network each perform specific activities in support of the network and as an integral part of the collaborative partnerships.  It is very important to document and define the types of activities that partners will provide both within and across the partnerships to clarify the expectations and deliverables of the relationships.  The activities and participation of the activities will change during the lifetime of the partnership, the activities will expand and contract based on the requirements of the partnership and the capabilities of the partners.  This growth of the activities is one of the factors providing a means to measure the maturity of the collaborative partnerships along with the relationship and maturity of the relationship of each of the partners within the network.


As I mention above, the activities that are performed by the partners will change over time due to the requirements and opportunities of the collaborative network.  These types of changes are often brought about as a result of either new, or changed, needs of the network, or new, or changed, capabilities of the partners.  These changes to the activities and services will change as a result of the growth of the network and a growth of the capabilities of the partners.  These changes measure the value that is derived from the collaborative network.  This value is an important aspect of measuring the growth of the collaborative network and it is important to measure this aspect with a document describing the activities and the value expected to be delivered to the partners from these activities.


Another important aspect to the documentation and measurement of the activities is the and the relationship of the partners.  These types of activities can also be measured by the strategic value that they provide to the partners within the collaborative network.  This strategic value can be very difficult to measure and at the same time it will be very difficult to deliver.  I believe this is the key maturity measurement metric to defining the maturity of your collaborative partnerships.  This measurement truly defines the strength of the collaboration. 


I would argue that strategic collaboration comes the closest to measuring the maturity and the value of the collaborative network.  The strategic collaboration activities are defined by partners sharing and delivering activities that are related to business critical activities for each of the partners.  These business critical activities are considered to be core business activities for any one of the partners related to activities and information that were closely guarded prior to entering into the partnerships.  It is difficult to provide specific examples of these activities and information because they are different for each partner and industry.  I think one way to define this maturity of the partnerships is that these are the activities change change the relationship from service provider to a partner.


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?

Incorporation of standards and procedures in your collaborative network to help in managing and maintaining the relationships are an important aspect to the continue growth and benefits of your network.  I believe that standards and procedures are a key factor in measuring the maturity of your collaborative network.  Not only that but standards and procedures are also a key factor in delivering value and benefits to the network on a continuous basis.  Standards and procedures start with the networking partnership agreement and continue through to the management and coordination of the partners and the delivery of the benefits. 


I have said many times before that standards and procedures provide the guardrails to the relationship and methods to work together.  I believe these standards and procedures provide and support the framework to build and grow a strong collaborative network that provides value to all partners.  These standards provide the guiding principles and methods of engagement that build trust across your network and partners.  In fact one of the key benefits of the standards and procedures is trust across the partners in the network.  This trust is the glue that binds the the partner relationships and the glue that binds the trust across the partners. 


I see three types or general groups of these standards and procedures;

  1. The general non-disclosure agreement that assures the information shared among partners will not be shared outside of the partnerships.
  2. The definition of the types of activities that will be engaged within and across the partnerships to clarify the expectations and deliverables of the relationships.
  3. The partnership guiding principles that define the ‘rules of the road’ for the manner in which the partners will engage.

Each one of these types of procedures and agreements provides one leg of the tripod that makes up a strong partnership.  Each of these types of procedures and agreements are absolutely required in order to ensure the stability and the flexibility of the collaborative network.


Combined together these procedures provide a starting point for measuring the maturity level of your collaborative network relationships and also the capabilities.  As the maturity of your network increases these documents will change and grow to support the changing needs and objectives.  The simple fact of the matter is that the execution and delivery of benefits will identify new opportunities and the new opportunities will identify new rules or principles that must be followed in order to achieve the benefits.  These changes and growth activities require regular review and evaluation, in other words a continuous improvement process that will ensure that the growth and expansion are understood and provide benefits to the network.  This growth and expansion of the network and the procedures and agreements are the metrics of an increasingly mature collaborative 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 believe that the size of your collaborative network is an important maturity metric and should include the internal and external partners in the network.  This is a relatively straight forward metric that simply should measure the quantity.  The measurement of quantity is important because it identifies an ability to manage and maintain the relationship with the partners.  In addition to the size of the network it is important to measure the length of the partnerships to identify the stability of the network partnerships.  Size, or quantity, and the length of the partnerships are the key metrics related to size in order to measure the growth and longevity and stability of the collaborative partnership.


As with any metric, it is important to capture these metrics on a regular basis on an ongoing basis.  I would recommend a simple monthly snapshot of the number of members and the average length of each of the partnerships.  It is important to maintain a cycle that is frequent so that you can measure trends and yet not too frequent that the measurement is meaningful.  I think a monthly measurement cycle for the network size is appropriate to capture meaningful statistics and identify trends. 


In this case the total number of partners metric, capturing this data on a monthly basis helps you to understand the growth and the vitality of the network.  You may determine that your network continuously grows and even expands in spurts, or maybe expands at different times of the year.  This tells you that your network is vibrant and providing a value to the partners within the framework.  This is a sign of a vibrant collaborative network that provides value to the partners.  You may also determine that your network expands and contracts, members join the network and then member leave the network.  This should cause you to investigate other aspects of your network to determine the underlying reasons.  This may be a sign that your collaborative network partners are simply participating on a short term basis to fill an immediate need.  This is not the sign of a healthy and vibrant collaborative network.


In addition to the trending aspect of the total number of partners you should group the partners by the length of their partnership in the network.  There are many other grouping categories that you should evaluate based on the makeup of your collaborative partnership.  You may try grouping by type of service or skills the partner either provides or consumes.  The point of these metrics and performance indicators is to provide the historical data to allow you to analyze and improve your collaborative network.  The size of the network only provide one puzzle piece required for evaluating the maturity but it is only one small piece that requires additional sizing metrics to bring meaning and evaluate the maturity level of your 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?

There are many aspects and metrics that can be used to determine the maturity level of your collaboration capabilities ranging from the size of the network in which you participate to the collaboration agreement you have with each of your partners.  Each of these metrics will also have metrics that help to determine and measure the capabilities of the network. In this next series of discussions I will cover some of the metrics that I consider important in two manners; measuring, or evaluating, your collaborative capabilities and identification of the types of metrics that will help to evaluate the capabilities.


There are some simple metrics that can begin to describe your capabilities for instance the size, or number of partners, in your collaborative network, or the incorporation of standards and processes to help to maintain your collaborative network, or the incorporation of a collaborative agreement to support your collaboration activities.  As I’m sure you have already determined though, these metrics identify categories of metrics to measure and the individual performance indicators within each of these categories will help to measure the quality and capabilities of the collaborative network. 


Another important aspect of measuring capabilities and defining the maturity of your capabilities is the collaboration tools that you incorporate in support of your collaboration efforts in the network.  In addition to the tools how you use the tools and for what you use the tools are also important aspects in defining your capabilities.  The tools can range from the simplistic and common tools such as email, or EDI all the way to the web portal tools that provide a standard platform for sharing.


Maturity measurement ties the process, people and tools combinations that have been brought together in the collaborative network into a descriptive rating to help to communicate capabilities and value proposition that can be achieved through the collaborative network.  It is important to have a common language and measurement that can be used in communication across your collaborative network in order to increase the effectiveness and deliver on the potential value and benefits of the network.


I have only been able to scratch the surface of the metrics and quality of the metrics that must defined to determine the maturity level of your capabilities.  In addition to this challenge it is also fair to say that this type of measurement is in it infancy, without a formal recognition.  However I believe that the evaluation of your collaboration capabilities using the metrics and quality measurements will help you to maintain and increase the overall value delivered by your collaborative 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?

In this entry I will continue the collaboration maturity level discussion with the greatest expertise in collaboration, or maturity level five.  In this measurement I am taking a page from the project management maturity level rating of one through five because I have come to realize that there can be significant differences in the various maturity levels and it is important to provide the ability to measure levels between a simple low, medium and high.  This provides gradients that help to refine the measurement and allow for clarification of the capabilities related to each maturity level.


At the highest level, level 5, you find a partner that can essentially ‘plug and play’ new partners into their collaborative network.  This means that these partners have the processes, practices and a culture that embraces collaboration up to the highest levels of information and practices both within their own organization and with their collaborative partners.  These level 5 capable collaborative partners will easily be able to maintain a large network and they probably already are maintaining a large network of partners.  In addition to their heightened collaborative capabilities, these level 5 collaborative partners will also be identified because they display a heightened capability and desire to help their partners improve their collaborative capabilities.


I think that one of the key identification factors of the heightened collaborative skills and capabilities is the realization that the benefits and value of the collaborative network increases as the collaborative skills and capabilities of the partners increases.  This is the classic ‘the tide raises all boats’ explanation.  The benefits of the network and all partners within the network increases as the capabilities of the individual partners increase.  In other words, a trait of the more capable partners is their recognition that helping others will bring additional value and benefits to them.


The traits, or practices, of these level 5 collaborative partners include sharing business critical information within the network; sharing business critical services and practices within the network and sharing business critical resources within the network.  This level of collaboration extends the boundaries of the partner to include all of the partners in the network.  In other words, the partners’ come together into essentially one organization.  Don’t get me wrong though, this level of collaboration capabilities does not translate into reckless abandon in sharing information and services, it requires a high level of trust and an equally high level of agreement across the partners. 


The collaboration agreement at this level is much more than a non-disclosure, the agreement at this level must clearly outline the services and information that will be shared and also the protection of these same services and information from organizations outside of the partnership.  At this level of capability though the partners would already have a standard type of agreement document and arrangement that will protect and enforce the interests of all parties.  


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?

Collaboration maturity level measurement will allow each partner to understand and evaluate the effort and level of management that is required to successfully build the collaborative partnership.  Collaboration is a very popular concept and everyone speaks to collaborating about this or partnering with that organization.  This is why it is important that everyone enters into the relationship with a sound definition and understanding of the concepts and expectations.  This requires that you, along with each of your potential partners clearly define expectations and review and agree to this document of understanding when entering into a partnership.  Definitions and expectations are important and are a major contributing factor for success or failure. 


As I previously discussed the starting level of maturity is a level one and at that signifies an organization that has only practiced collaboration within their own organizations and even at that it may only have developed the collaborative partnership across limited divisions within their organization.  This would signal to the leaders and collaboration champions the requirement for a greater level of effort required to manage and maintain the partnership.  When starting to build an external collaboration network each partner would be required to focus a great deal of attention and management in defining how the network would work together. 


In addition to the increased effort and focus required, the low maturity rating would also signal that the types of collaboration would be simple.  What I mean by simple is that the types of collaboration would not initially include what could be defined as business critical information.  Each partner must identify the type of collaboration with which they are comfortable.  When the partners start with a low maturity level this would start with very simple collaborative activities such as collaborating on shipments to gain reduced rates. 


The organizations at a level one collaboration maturity level are new to collaboration and must develop the level of trust that comes with practice in order to mature up to more progressive levels.  These organizations also must confirm the value and gain the initial benefits that can be achieved through collaboration as a way of proving the concepts.  This confirmation and development of trust in the partnerships only come with time and delivery of the benefits.  This also requires a great deal of management time and coordination to achieve the level of trust that is required to move to the next level of maturity.


The partners should complete a questionnaire that will help to identify the maturity level as a prerequisit to entering into the partnership.  As I’ve stated above, it is necessary to understand the maturity level and the initial expectations of each partner as you enter into the agreement.   This questionnaire would be in addition to the partnership agreement that would define the terms of the agreement.


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?

It seems to me that there should be means to measure the maturity of your collaborative network and also your internal collaboration maturity.  In other words there there should be a method to define and track the growth and development of your collaboration capabilities and methods.  This maturity model would help you to clarify and understand your internal collaboration capabilities and practices so that you can understand the potential level of effort to expect when adding new partners to your network.  I am thinking of a method that is similar to the CMM Project Management Maturity Level rating or the CSCMP Supply Chain Maturity Model rating.


This rating method would help you to determine the level of effort and types of activities that would be required for collaborating with partners within your network.  I envision two ratings; one rating would be the internal rating or your own capabilities and experience in collaboration, the second rating would be focused on your collaborative network and the network capabilities and experience in collaboration.  I think it is necessary to measure both internal and collaborative network capabilities and experience to determine the effort required to develop and maintain additional network partners.


For example two organizations that only practice collaboration within their own organizations and only across certain divisions within their organization would have a low maturity rating.  This would signal to the leaders and collaboration champions that when starting to build an external collaboration network they would be required to focus a great deal of attention and management in defining how the network would work together.  In addition, the low maturity rating would also signal that the types of collaboration would be simple and also would not initially include what could be defined as business critical information.


By the same method if two organizations have a high collaboration maturity level they would not only display a high level of experience and strong collaborative network both internally and across a wide variety and number of external partners.  This would signal that the organization has developed a standard method to add partners and has the methods to quickly ramp up new partners to collaborate on what would be considered business critical practices and information.


As you can see, this collaboration maturity level model would provide value both in developing and maintaining your collaborative network.  This value would be delivered both internally and externally and would improve the process to add new partners and maintain your network.  It is important to enter into the collaborative partnership with your eyes open and understand the effort required to develop and maintain the partnerships.  This understanding will support and encourage the acceptance and even participation from leadership within your own organization and across your partners.  


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 Bubble

Posted by tbrouill Oct 4, 2014

I suggested previously that collaboration may become a victim of hype, especially if the market allows the hype to get ahead of the capabilities.  This is what I am referring to as a collaboration bubble, I am borrowing the term from the financial market because I think it is appropriate in my discussion regarding the collaboration hype.  As I previously stated, I do not know if the hype is overrunning the capabilities and for this reason I do not really know if we are in a ‘collaboration bubble’ of hype.  My suspicion however is that we are either in a collaboration bubble, or dangerously close to a bubble situation.


My suspicion has grown because of the increased use of the word collaboration in business discussions and in market publications.  I am seeing many situations and involved in conversations that reference collaboration that seem to be using the word as another way to say ‘go ask that person’.  I will be the first to admit that I may be overly suspicious, however, I have seen trends in the past that have heated up in the same manner with the same type of general acceptance in professional circles that have collapsed under their own hype when the new car shine grows old. 


I do know that without the investment in time and effort your collaborative efforts will fail.  I also observe that the attention span of the market and participants has been shortening over time.  This leads to a quick fix mentality that unfortunately does not support the type of long term effort required for a successful collaborative network. I have suggested over and over again that a successful collaborative network initiatives requires continuous maintenance which requires a serious investment in time and effort.  This also requires patience and perseverance to maintain the initiative and achieve the potential benefits.


In other words, success in a collaborative network initiative basically requires the opposite traits displayed in most business environments.  Success of a collaborative network requires a time horizon of multiple years rather than multiple weeks or months.  Its not to say that you will not achieve initial benefits and value in the initial weeks and months, however success in your collaborative network requires a change in culture.  This change in culture requires dedication, focus and effort over a longer time horizon in order for it to replace a current culture.  This change in culture requires a consistent level of patience and dedication on the one hand and it also require a consistent delivery of benefits in order to maintain the long term support of both internal senior management and partner senior management.


Success requires a tight-rope type of balancing between delivering value and maintaining momentum.  These requirements must outlive the short term hype.  This is a great deal to require and that is why I am suspicious of a collaboration bubble.


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?

Collaboration has shown a great deal of interest and especially the potential for a robust collaborative network to deliver value and business improvements.  If you were to focus only on the industry trade journals and LinkedIn groups you would believe that collaboration is the next greatest business trend.  If you have been following my discussions you would understand that I too believe in the potential for the collaborative network.  I believe the collaborative network can be one of the greatest influences on both business capabilities and also driving value and even competition to new levels in the market.  I have also lived long enough to have seen many promising practices just miss the point of changing the market, only to fail.


I have come to the belief that the failure is not necessarily the result of any fault of the trend or practice.  I think that one of the greatest influences on the failure is the result of unreasonable hype.  Early in a trend the hype can run far ahead of the capabilities and this will eventually catch up and impact the trend.  As an example, in the early days of the Internet when dial up internet access was the norm for the majority of the people there was also a great deal of hype regarding the potential of the Internet.  The internet was going to change everything people do according to the hype and also this hype caused the Dot Com stock market bubble.  This bubble popped when the hype crashed into reality, the reality was that until high speed Internet access was pervasive for the majority of people the Internet the people would only be frustrated with the potential capabilities.  Now, however the capabilities caught up with the previous hype and the Internet has made a significant impact on people’s lives.


I worry now that the hype surrounding collaboration is starting to get ahead of the capabilities.  I still believe that the potential of collaboration can, and will, be dramatic as it relates to many aspects of both professional and personal life.  It is important though to remember and understand that collaboration doesn’t just happen, there is a lot of work involved in building and maintaining the collaborative network.  As I have previously discussed, developing the framework from both a relationship and process model require a large investment in time.  These steps along with the on-going relationship management require this investment in time and cannot be overlooked without a serious impact to your success. 


I do not know if the hype is overrunning the capabilities and for this reason I do not really know if we are in a ‘collaboration bubble’ of hype.  I do know though without the investment in time and effort your collaborative efforts will fail. 


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?