Its Not About Who Is In. Its About Who Stays Out!

Collaboration is nothing new. Many industries have embraced the aspiration towards collaboration for many decades, albeit with timely innovations in the collaboration eco-system. The mammoth size of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) industry is a proof in point of the manufacturing and automobile industry using collaboration to build efficiencies. In many industries, integrated hierarchical organizations have been replaced by nonhierarchical entities that are permeable, interconnected, and modular. At the core, the business case towards collaboration is to accept that ‘we’ may not be the best at everything, and it is better to bring the best global minds together to deliver a lightning fast, high quality and disruptive outcome. Unfortunately, the IT industry, which is expected, due to their core of delivering technology solutions, to be ahead of the curve, has not been able to embrace collaboration so far.

To understand why the IT industry may not have been so welcoming of collaboration, we have to look into the cultural environment of the industry. True collaboration means each entity in the value chain look at each other as partners and not vendors, and therefore, maintaining the quality of each module the offer, respectively. As the IT industry was traditionally a licensed based industry, there was, more often than not, a vendor-company relationship rather than a partner one. The open source revolution has brought in a pleasant change in the industry enabling it to find partners & contributors rather than vendors.

It may seem that collaboration is only to reduce time and effort of building capabilities internally, but there is more than what meets the eye. A strong collaboration can leverage strengths of each entity with one architect painting all the modules together. Many times, as there is focus on one aspect, strong and deep expertise, and shared ownership of the final outcome, the painting will be a masterpiece. Apple seems to know exactly what they are good at and want to do; they want to conceptualize and build the future. They are content with building partners for manufacturing, distribution and even, after sales care, and while the naïve may want to suggest they build these capabilities themselves; the current valuation of the company quiets any critics.

A strong collaboration in the IT industry requires an eco system. A platform where selected partners come together, view the different job requirements, and raise their hands or click through the requirement they want. This could be imagined as a closed network micro-jobs platform overseen by the architectural design thinking team putting all the pieces together into a ‘masterpiece’. This process can increase time to market, ensure high quality and allow, instantaneously, offering of advanced technologies capabilities, by inducting a new partner into the collaboration eco-system. This eco-system can also build capabilities by integrating bite size upskilling modules and assessments. This new culture will lead the IT industry into its next stage of growth.

Sounds like an easy plan, then, why is it actually a painstakingly difficult task? The reason is the rules of engagement. The strength of the collaboration eco-system is purely on the expertise, depth and abilities of the partners, which means one misfit can adversely affect the end outcome. The painstaking step of building this collaboration is to have strict protocols and processes of who you let it. They need to be evaluated and assessed, not only from a capabilities perspective, but on a cultural, behavioral and ethical index as well. Only then will we, as an industry, will be able to truly unlock the potential of collaboration.

Abhijit Lahiri

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