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?