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


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?