Collaboration is without a doubt a key component in many companies’ strategic initiatives. The touted benefits (the good) are significant and they extend well beyond the financials, to include service improvements and risk sharing. While some companies have begun the journey with collaborating with their customers, others have elected to start on the supply side. In virtually all cases, the challenges of making collaboration successful are a series of painful lessons in the dynamics of people, process, and technology. Attempts to initiate collaboration without a careful consideration of all three elements (the bad) can lead to projects that only deliver a fraction of the promise. This in turn leads to faulty conclusions concerning the value of continuing the journey.
I was recently exposed to a project where the customer collaboration project was focused on establishing a clearly defined process leveraging the limits of the existing legacy systems. The ugly result was overtly complex and I seriously questioned it’s sustainability. In this case, the relevance of technology as an enabler to simplify and accelerate the exchange of data was being ignored. On the other hand, investments in technology without serious consideration on the impact to the people and processes can be equally fatal.
I would strongly encourage any company traveling down this path to evaluate how new technologies are dramatically simplifying collaboration tasks. My experience in implementing lean systems has shown that high quality results are best achieved when the human component is simple, repeatable, and designed with mistake-proofing in mind. Consider whether the tools currently at hand will meet these standards and if not, then invest in learning what is available to help deliver the full value of the collaboration promise.