Companies are increasingly looking to pursue cross-border partnerships to augment their global expansion strategies. Large and midsize firms alike are scouring the world for partners to bring greater economies, talent and efficiency to their operations. Almost 75% of firms in a worldwide survey of 497 senior executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit for AT&T plan to increase the number of collaborative relationships they hold with third parties overseas.
Making such relationships work will require the support of new collaborative technologies. The survey shows that firms are deploying an entire range of tools to communicate with overseas partners, rating web conferencing and videoconferencing as most useful for helping collaborative relationships succeed in this age of virtualization. They are also experimenting with an array of other technologies—including mobile IP applications and social networking tools—in order to forge better links with their partners.
Businesses have only scratched the surface of the flexibility and resourcefulness that IP networks can bring to global partnerships. IP’s main role in supporting collaboration, according to survey respondents, will be to enable the secure sharing of information between partners. More specifically, they look to IP networks to foster collaborative online work on project documents by dispersed teams. Making applications available to remote workers involved in collaborative engagements is also considered an important role for IP.
Fundamental to making collaboration work are people skills—the human factor. Almost half, or 47%, of survey respondents agree that the skills of personnel assigned to a partnership is vital to its success. Employees managing alliances need to be versatile and mindful of factors beyond the immediate project objectives. They not only need to keep a firm eye on the safety of the company’s intellectual property, but also to gauge when the team needs to meet face to face, whether tools are being used effectively and whether cultural misunderstanding is dogging progress.
The benefits of collaborative partnerships also bring risks, chief among them being the potential loss of intellectual property. Secure networks will help reduce such risks, but most critical will be managers’ prudent control of information, and of partners’ access to it, in collaborative engagements.