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?