I think everyone knows and accepts the common definition of collaboration as working together with one to many partners with similar goals and objectives to achieve a common benefit, or goal.  I have come to realize that another clarification to the definition involves sharing of skills, capabilities and resources across partners with similar goals and objectives to achieve a common benefit, or goal.  This is an important addition to the definition because it highlights the need to share across partners in order to achieve success.  This sharing is the key to a successful collaborative partnership and especially a long term partnership.

The challenge to success is in the long term view and the steps required to develop  and maintain this long term view.  This long term view is very much at odds with the short term view that is general focus of many business activities.  The short term is the generally accepted practice to view projects in a short time-frame; in other words project and initiatives are executed with short term goals in mind (three to six months) and this makes it difficult then to focus on a three year objective.  I know that these short term activities are a simple fact of life now in the business world and I am not saying that you should focus only on long term goals.  I am saying though that you should develop your plans in a manner that allows you to put together short term projects in a manner that not only delivers immediate benefits but also provides a framework, or foundation for future short term projects to develop and deliver long term business change.

This is where the sharing aspect of collaboration comes into play; to support and develop these building blocks to develop and enhance a long term partnership based on mutually beneficial goals and benefits.  Sharing is the flip side of working together, it is the glue that encourages and supports working with your partners to build a collaborative environment that supports your common objectives.  Sharing is the give-and-take that develops understanding and a strong bond across partners to carry the efforts in defining and reaching common goals.  As the collaborative bond grows stronger, the amount and types of sharing will increase bringing a stronger and more valuable partnership.

Sharing information, best practices lead to a greater bond across organizations, which also leads to greater value and return for all partners.  This requires a long term view and commitment that is supported by short term deliverables based on a framework that is robust and flexible enough to support the growth and changes that will be experienced over the long term.  It is important to remember that you do not need to deliver the end objective, it is better to build towards you end objective is steps that allow revisions to support the changing business and consumer demands.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?