The Intercompany Collaboration Imperative: Why It's Important And Why Vendors Need To Support It

For those of you who have followed my research of the collaboration software space, you'll find that I have argued that the real whitespace for vendors is in facilitating interactions between different companies (see examples here and here). This advice, though, has always been given in the spirit of helping vendors enter the market and tell a differentiated story; my goal is always to get product marketers away from spinning tales of travel savings (which everyone does). Recently, I finished a report that explored why intercompany collaboration is important to the actual running of a tech industry business. Like any good story, it's a three-part narrative:

  1. The definition of a B2B tech customer is changing. There was a time when a tech vendor selling to businesses only had to deal with the IT department. As such, the product design and messaging revolved around fulfilling the requirements of a techie audience: speeds and feeds, interoperability and security. Now? Business leaders are involved in technology decisions, shifting the design points of technology and its marketing to ease of use and ability to solve business problems. Further muddling this view, individual information workers are increasingly able to provision their own hardware and software, thanks to Web-based technologies and consumer technologies -- like Apple laptops and iPhones -- that IT departments are grudgingly accepting. The pull of these many groups on tech vendors has complicated the job of tech product managers and marketers: They now have to develop their product for and market it to a wider range of people with different interests.
  2. The channel has to change to meet shifting customer requirements. The evolution of the tech buyer has affected how technology is delivered (e.g., cloud technologies) and the types of services business leaders need to make the tools work (e.g., business process alteration). To remain relevant, the traditional value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SIs) that delivered vendor products now have to alter their business model and services structure to meet the challenges of this new reality. For example, when vendors roll out cloud offerings, like software-as-a-service (SaaS), it cuts into VARs' traditional revenue stream related to implementations, which means they have to find other sources, such as application development on top of cloud-based platforms.
  3. Vendors need to work with both clients and their partners to meet both groups' needs. Taken together, the more complicated buyer landscape and the channel's need to address this reality requires vendors to take a more intimate, interactive approach to their dealings with both groups. Client input becomes essential in all phases of product development to ensure the vendor gains customer buy-in to -- and take a bit of ownership of -- the features and functions in a product. Likewise, vendors must work closely with their channel to ensure that they are creating the products and services necessary to resolve the problems of the customer base.

While there are many process issues that hinder intercompany work between companies, collaboration technology vendors are only now starting to build toolsets that actually facilitate work between businesses. Of course, the product managers at these firms can't move fast enough because this is the next battleground of the collaboration software market: We see vendors starting to build customer and partner communities to interact with these constituencies for purposes of ideation and support. There are still issues that need to be sorted out by the collaboration vendor community, though: Standards, federation, and access control are but a few of the issues that hinder certain tools for intercompany collaboration. But the mandate is clear: Intercompany collaboration is a vital business necessity, and collaboration vendors have an opportunity -- an obligation -- to help their clients accelerate the associated business processes. The vendors that are slow to move will find they are left out as their competitors that can facilitate both internal and external interactions gobble up market share.

Comments

You are on the money

You are on the money. At this point, programs are too boxed in. Would like to share with you a way that delivers a low cost/overhead way to connect all sides, in real time. By 'all sides', I do mean all sides.

Happy to speak with you

Thank you for commenting, Dave. I'm happy to discuss this with you; if you have a product that can facilitate connections between multiple entities, feel free to set up a briefing (http://www.forrester.com/forr/reg/Briefings.jsp).

Great. Please be patient, I

Great. Please be patient, I have to jump to hospital where my friend had an operation via blood clot.

I work with Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO of Novamente and Biomind...the acknowledged world authority in AI.

When I get back from the hospital, let me send your interesting (and on point) post to Ben....

Dave

Sorry for slow response

Have to jump once again. We are in the process of funding the finish of the product mentioned yesterday. I didn't know if that was a problem or not.

Let me know and I'll get things set up.

Thanks for your patience.

Dave

Whenever you're ready

No worries, Dave. Feel free to set up a briefing whenever your organization has something to discuss.

Interesting concept

So Dave, is your concept mature enough to share ?
This could be interesting for some of our customer.

Gad
info@teamonweb.com

Toward the halfway point this

Toward the halfway point this year we should have materials that would be of interest. What I'm referring to is in the arena of moving from today's AI into a higher cognitive realm moving toward Artificial General Intelligence.

The end run product requires seed capital and at this point understanding the different realm is somewhat hard for many to get their head around...and the one source who is definately interested has had a run of some bad luck...better to know now than in the middle of finishing out the ALPHA.

The biggest issue currently is so many investors either want to jump on to a fad that is not that disruptive and/or others that can only think linear. I don't mean that as criticism since it has been the pattern for all things disruptive and slightly exponential.

Are you adressing our business issues ?

Company A has a huge intranet powered by Sharepoint
Company B has a huge intranet powered by Livelink (or even Sharepoint)
Both companies are convinced by the benefits of CC solutions to support team work.
They need to collaborate on a project but they both want to keep their favorite platform : establishing sort of "bridge" between A & B plaforms could be a solution...
How far is your concept from this ?

Give me a few days please.

Give me a few days please. I've been doing the overtime with the onset of inner ear infection (sinus). My e-mail is dwbaldwin100@gmail.com if you would like to send me any more detail.

Sorry for the trouble, just have that low ringing in my ears and the start of the dizzy thing, plus have to go do robots tonight at school and answer questions via a open house pushing the entrance of ladies into tech/engineering.

Plus try to write up a easy to read guide regarding the cub robot telling jokes on TED...not a critique but a breakdown in a fashion for the aspiring young adult to see all the niches in AI, Robotics and the new venue of communication/collaboration just around the corner.

Thanks

Vendor and Partner issue / case escalations

Hi TJ,

If you have a few minutes, I'd like to invite you to check out Hubcase Exchange http://www.hubcase.com/exchange.html, it facilitates intercompany collaboration in resolving customer issues that need to be escalated to vendors along the supply chain. And this background might be helpful: http://blog.hubcase.com/2011/01/hard-to-believe-your-crm-is-liability.html .

Thanks,

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase
ray.zhu@hubcase.com
http://www.hubcase.com