Global Management consulting company McKinsey & Company considers management’s next frontier is about making the most of the ecosystem economy. An article on its website listed a series of managerial skills and capabilities that conform what they believe will be the key to success in a new economic environment and markets increasingly based on these ecosystems. Guess what? They are all about being able to collaborate better.
Understanding where to find value is one of the most precious skills in a manager. Managers have been traditionally trained and rewarded for finding and adding value to assets such as customer relationships, talent or market opportunities. Choosing the right partner, the one able to add value to a company, should be included top of the list on managerial skills. Being able to properly evaluate collaboration opportunities in order to complement the managed company with the right capabilities, markets or technology will become an essential factor to achieve success.
Any partnership must be based in a value proposition that is compelling, attractive, open and relevant to all parties involved. Forging any relationship will also need of the investment of not a small amount of energy and resources (also by all parties involved and based in expected returns). Managers in charge of partnerships should be able to properly communicate and/or evaluate this value proposition and be aware about the investment needed (and risk involved to get it). They should also include in their negotiation teams executives and managers from areas such legal, business development, technology or corporate development, and know about the need to rise questions and agree on them in areas such intellectual property, data ownership, cybersecurity, licensing, privacy, profit sharing, liability, regulatory compliance, or customer management.
Finding the right partner is just a first step that will result in no value if the relationship is not accurately kept. Many partnerships fail because of a lack of attention put into the relationship. Good managers in charge of partnerships are aware these do not work just because rules and intentions were written in a piece of paper. They know they have to stablish the right management infrastructure in place. For instance: dedicated staff, good communication and information channels between the different players involved, tracking performance of the relationship (after establishing common standards and metrics), etc.
Building an adaptive and collaborative culture
A shift towards collaboration makes more valuable the right knowledge about new tools and methodologies to make the most of it. The right managers would be able to foster collaboration putting in place proper protocols or implementing incentive programs that will be quite different from the ones managers are used to apply (for instance, rewarding for the performance on the whole ecosystem instead of just the one from individual players). Besides, these leaders must become role models for the desired behavior of the whole organization on attitudes such as treating ecosystem management as a top priority or spending time with external partners.
Managing entangling alliances
Partnerships and other kinds of collaborative relationships take many forms. Some are informal, other more formal; some are simple other more complex. Structures can be diverse too: from joint ventures to mergers, exclusive and nonexclusive partnerships, etc. Right managers are able to find the right combination of complementary partners and allies. Relationships in ecosystems are evolving so quickly that traditional management approaches are no longer valid. Successful companies and managers are finding new ways to manage relationships and corporate collaborations.