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?