You may recall that in December 2011, automobile manufacturers BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation agreed to form a collaborative relationship for developing next-generation environment friendly vehicles and technologies. If yesterday’s rivals became today’s friends, there were several factors leading towards the amity.
For one, the automobile industry was, and continues to be, in the doldrums because of the general economic slowdown. In addition, there’s the rising cost of fuel. Worse, the industry is seen as the villain by the environmental lobby for its role in carbon emissions. Now it may sound like a cynic speaking but perhaps the two manufacturers had no moral choice but to build environment friendly vehicles. Sound logic prevailed and two heads are better than one.
Sharing resources and knowledge isn’t such a bad idea for the beleaguered software industry either.
Think of the customer
If indeed companies truly believed that the customer is king, they’d think twice about replicating an already successful product but instead build in the ability to customize, add new features or provide more capabilities. In fact, it would be great if software were built like Legos, ready-made blocks that can be combined in different ways to build entirely different and new structures. This way the customer can truly be king and order software that’s unique to their own company without having to wait for years before it’s assembled to specification.
Think of production costs
Imagine that you are collaborating with a third-party to develop building blocks that can be reused by a competitor. Or that you share the cost of standard building blocks – in fact, divide it up between three or four software developers. Slashing production costs right at the beginning of the cycle saves precious cash for a time when it may be truly needed.
Think of lower selling price
Collaborating at the development stage will lead to lower total cost of production. This can and in fact should, translate into lower sales price. There are tangible and intangible benefits to this. Tangible benefits include buyers returning for more or better yet, spreading the word about the affordability of your product compared to others. The intangible benefit is the sheer goodwill you’d create leading to long term customer loyalty.
Think: do individuals collaborate?
People may compete fiercely with one another if pushed, but they work happily together if the atmosphere is conducive and if they have the right collaboration tools. Technology companies have realized that employees need to have better information and connections with coworkers and the company vision. Such aims can be met by deploying tools like Yammer – a corporate social networking company that Microsoft bought for $1.2 billion. Yammer allows employees to communicate, find the right person and get information they need quickly wherever they are. Armed with data, they can then make informed decisions.
Why repeat? Why repeat?
Another company that recently got a fair amount of capital, Mode, has stated that its goal is to ensure that data analysts working together don’t duplicate work that’s been done before.
And Alpine Data Labs, the leader in advanced analytics software, has Alpine Chorus, the industry’s first collaborative Advanced Analytics solution for Big Data.
In a media release sent out in February 2014, Rodrigo Barnes, CTO at Aridhia, a health and biomedical informatics leader said that the medical profession had been looking for decades for a way to collaborate across campuses and countries with more transparency and security. “With Chorus, researchers can build upon each other’s work and benefit from the data-cleaning and predictive modeling efforts others have put in before them. This collaborative process allows the entire community to save time and makes insights available to doctors earlier,” Barnes stated.
Corporate cooperation, coopetition
While individuals may find it relatively easy to cooperate, entire companies may hit roadblocks during the process. In fact, more often than not large companies’ idea of collaboration is to swallow a smaller one for its expertise. Buyouts, acquisitions and mergers happen routinely. For those who believe that you can compete as well as cooperate, keep in mind the following:
- Clearly define what each of you can do. This will set the tone for who’s doing what and avoid misunderstandings.
- Get a great set of lawyers each to draw up foolproof agreements.
- Designate a neutral zone where collaborating employees from both teams can meet to informally discuss where their development is headed. This will help in owning up to mistakes and avoiding delays.
Companies don’t exist without their people. If individuals can collaborate, corporations can do so as well.