To collaborate or not ?

Taking your own USP, product or service to a client to offer them the solution you have painstakingly created can be extremely rewarding, and if the client welcomes this you may be home and dry. However, it’s more likely these days that the solutions your clients require are more complicated and whilst your offering may have its place, on its own it may not be enough.

Clients in all sectors are addressing cost issues and one element will almost certainly be a review of their supply chain. At the start of a review the list of “approved” vendors will more than likely be too extended and the use of this can be an expensive burden on the procurement process. One of the solutions to this dilemma is look at how products and services may be grouped together, thus reducing the number of vendors and purchase orders required to source a solution. This may be drive cost reductions, enhance performance or gender greater innovation.

Is collaboration amongst the supply chain an answer? It is obvious that in some case the answer to this is a very definite yes. However there will be times when opposing forces between companies, old rivalries, trade secrets, the threat of losing a hard earned place at the top table, and so on, can all cast doubts and create friction in the process of trying to establish some form of collaboration.

Having been closely involved in numerous collaborative ventures that had the provision of a better service or experience for the client as the diving force, the lessons I learnt in these activities is you have to be open, at times you may have to step up and take control and at other times you may need to concede gracefully for the greater good. My personal experiences have clearly shown me that if it's client or perhaps sector driven and everyone is at the table for the right reason, then it can work and the benefits can be tangible. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" as one ancient philosopher once quoted, apparently!

As a case study I will recount a work scope I was recently leading on in the Oil and Gas sector that was focussed on decommissioning in the Southern North Sea. For the operators this is major expenditure with no ROI. Numerous conferences, workshops, hackathons and study groups have been considering this for a number of years. My challenge was to find a place at the table for the organisation I was with at the time. The findings clearly showed that the narrow range of services we could deliver were not enough on their own to gain us a significant position with those clients we were trying to engage with.

By developing a network of like minded companies, large and small that between could deliver the full gamut of services required to solve the clients issues and allow this turnkey process to be addressed through a single entity that could bid as one, share risk appropriately, drive down costs and ensure a seamless collaboration could be delivered.

The outcome of this was numerous invitations to tender and a significant raising of interest in the collective offering amongst many of the target clients.

The relationships themselves opened up new opportunities in other areas which would not have been available to us had we not gone down this road.

I have had many other positive outcomes over the years as a result of establishing strategic and mutually beneficial partnerships which in turn have improved the delivery and price of the services and products to our clients.

My recommendation is to always consider this as an option, it may or my not be appropriate but I know your clients will always appreciate you going to the effort of looking at ways to provide a better solution.

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