The Collaborative Business era

The Collaborative Business Spectrum
The Collaborative Business Spectrum

In my presentations and workshops I often use a slide that explains the alliance spectrum to the audience. On the left side, this slide shows the transactional relationship; on the right hand side it shows mergers & acquisitions. Everything in between is considered to be part of the alliance spectrum. The slide is always good for some “aha moments”; it helps the people to understand that an alliance can be more than just one type of relationship.

Over the last few weeks, I have received more and more questions on areas of collaboration that are on the outskirts of the current spectrum. Collaborative supplier relationships move up from the transaction area into the collaborative space. Networks and ecosystems make the pure strategic alliance area burst apart at the seams. Some look for inter-department collaborations and so smaller companies and entrepreneurs question their role in the spectrum.

Collaborative businesses are on the rise in every aspect of business. That is a good development; it is obvious that for organizations and sectors to flourish, we need more collaboration, both on the inside and in between companies. The alliance spectrum expands and becomes the collaborative business spectrum.

Are we entering the collaborative business era?

In 1993 Peter Drucker made a timeless quote when he said “Today businesses grow through alliances, all kinds of dangerous liaisons and joint ventures, which, by the way, very few people understand”. In 1998 Yves Doz and Gary Hamel used the short, but powerful, sentence “No Company can go it alone” as the opening statement of their book “Alliance Advantage”. Both the statements are fully applicable when we talk about collaborative businesses.

The collaborative business spectrum covers new areas that can, to some extend, use the principles and best practices used to create and manage strategic alliances. On the other hand, these areas bring new dynamics that make them different and in some cases more challenging to manage. For instance, ecosystems and multi partner networks will have a different dynamic than one to one strategic alliances. Partner selection may be similar to selecting a single strategic alliance partner. However, a multi partner network adds a whole new level of complexity to the management of the network compared to the management of one to one strategic alliances.

In the collaborative business era no company can go it alone and very few people will yet understand how to effectively collaborate between organizations. But there is an obvious need for more collaboration.

Last week I attended a presentation about new ways of working and how to improve quality in the construction sector in The Netherlands. Almost all errors in the construction sector could be brought back to the lack of collaboration between the parties involved. It is so deeply engrained in the sector that to my astonishment the presenters constantly talked about mistrust instead of trust.

This is only one sector where the lack of collaboration leads to distressing errors. There are more sectors that operate in an island mode rather than collaboratively. In many cases efficiency can be improved and costs be decreased by better collaboration.

We see the clear need for more collaboration on one side and on the other side we see the indication that more and more organizations are showing their interest in new collaborative ways of working. Many organizations will yet need to learn how to collaborate effectively.

Are we entering the collaborative business era?


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