The definition of customers as it relates to collaboration must be expanded now to take into account all of the customers across the the extended collaborative partnership.  Thu customer relationship is extended across the supply chain along with the customers of each of the extended partners in a social network relationship that crosses in many places.  This customer collaboration requires support of customers as they relate to many partners where one customer can be part of many partners network with many different customer type relationships.  These relationships now have blurred the line in many cases in the customer - supplier relationship where one customer may be the supplier of many other customers.  This relationship makes for a much stronger and much more complicated collaborative network because of the navigation requirements demanded by these complicated relationships. 


Where does the one type of relationship begin and another type of relationship end?  This question actually may be inappropriate now in thes new extended networks because the demands crossover between both the relationship types and the needs of the partners at the time of the interaction.  Rather than a customer-to-supplier relationship there needs to be a growth in social relationship where the social network needs are supported by the partner with the immediate ability. 


Let me use Amazon as an example of the changing demands and capabilities of the customer-to-supplier relationship.  I am an Amazon customer that places an order for a particular product and as I am shopping I evaluate all of the other customer product rating and evaluations and then I review the questions that other customers have posed that have also been answered by customers that previously purchased the product.  I decide to make the purchase based on all of this information and then after the purchase I join the circle of marketing the product by providing a product review and responses to other customer questions.  These responses may go positive or negative and in the event of a negative response the product seller may engage the customer to both understand how to improve the product and also to resolve the negative situation.  At this point, as a customer I may engage with the seller on redesign of the product to improve ad resolve my issue so that I in turn will provide a positive reaction to the seller’s response. 


These types of activities are going on thousands of times a day in thousands of situations and technology provides the foundation to extend and expand these relationships.  Everyone in the network has effectively become a customer.  This is why the collaborative network is so important and must be nurtured and supported by the extended collaborative network of customers.


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?