Today I went to the dentist. While laying comfortably on the seat (and having mouth full of instruments), I watched the skillfully coordinated effort of the team to deliver a service fulfilling my needs. The doctor and the assistant had a predetermined shared goal (fixing my teeth) which was achieved efficiently due to the expertise of the doctor and the assistant and a shared understanding about the process to be followed.
The team work between the doctor and the assistant was an example of a collaboration relationship (by the way, we can also consider myself as part of the collaboration, but let’s keep this as simple as possible). Collaboration is an act of working together towards a shared goal, vision or purpose. The goal or purpose of collaboration is typically something that cannot be achieved by individual participants. In my case, the shared goal for the dental care team was to deliver a service that fulfilled my needs. For delivering such service, the participants of the team utilized their individual skills, coordination, and a shared process to reach their goal.
Sharing a purpose distinguishes collaboration from cooperation. Cooperation is a form of working together where the participants typically have their individual goals. For example, a strategic partnership is typically a kind of cooperation relationship (we work together to achieve our own goals but share resources such as products or services) whereas a joint venture or extended enterprise is a collaboration relationship (we work together to achieve a shared goal or vision).
I believe that collaboration is the “next big thing” what comes to business development. Sure, digitalization, robotics or 3D-printing, or other disruptive innovations, will drive organizations towards new kinds of business models, but collaboration will underlie most of your business in the future. The relative importance of collaboration will increase dramatically. Business will become even more networked due to platformization and emergence of business ecosystems across industries. Market forces (e.g. zero profit tendency associated with operating in markets open to global competition) will further drive firms and organizations towards business models where only highly specialized core competencies and assets are maintained within the firms. In such a setting, operating in markets and delivering value to your customers requires collaboration with partners providing complementary resources.
From the operational development perspective, collaboration will become part of organizations’ dynamic capabilities. Dynamic capabilities provides means to adapt to changing customer and technological opportunities, and even lie at the core of enterprise success and failure. Collaboration relationships will be considered as intangible strategic assets that are measured, managed and continuously improved under the organizations’ management systems.
We already can see evidence of this movement across industries: ISO standardization organization is currently preparing a management system standard that enables rigorous management of collaborative business relationships. The standard is to be published in December 2016. QPR Software is taking part in this standardization, among big international companies.
So why am I so interested in collaboration between organizations? As I wrote above, collaboration will be the next big thing in business and operational development. It will provide competitive advantage, business sustainability and strategic agility for players fluent in forming and managing collaborations. As a specialist working at QPR Software in the operational development business, I firmly believe that collaboration capability can and must be included in organizations’ management systems. This requires analysis, measuring and monitoring of operations related to collaboration. With standardized best practices and especially tools like the QPR Suite, this is achievable.
In my next blog posts, I'll further discuss the concept of collaboration, and especially how collaboration can be turned into a strategic asset. We will also discuss how collaboration can be managed and continuously developed within organizations. Some further reading and references for this first blog article about business collaboration management can be found below:
- ASAP Announces Growing Support for ISO Standard for Business Collaboration, January 15, 2016.
- Business collaboration gets standard treatment, December 2015.
- Teece, David J. "Explicating dynamic capabilities: the nature and microfoundations of (sustainable) enterprise performance." Strategic management journal 28.13 (2007): 1319-1350.
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