Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Building Bridges, Creating Partnerships

At the SLA Annual Conference, Rebecca Jones and Craig Wingrove spoke on this topic (and I was the moderator for the session). Collaborating can be fabulous, if everyone is on the same page.

Quick notes from Rebecca's talk....

Driving Forces behind partnerships:
  • Cost cutting
  • Faster market entry / penetration
  • Needed expertise or capabilities
  • Improved client services
  • New client services
Hindering Forces:
  • Threat to Independence
  • Politics of the organization
  • Not having a plan or the time
  • Jargon (no common language)
  • Not wanting to appear pushy/aggressive
  • Significant time and effort
  • Difficult dynamics
  • Loss of control and/or autonomy
Rebecca noted that she faithfully reads Harvard Business Review and encouraged everyone to read that publication in order to know what the business community is thinking.

Partnerships are often based on creative clashes.

Three things to consider:
  • What is the purpose of the partnership?
  • What are the prospective benefits?
  • What are the risks?
The formal framework....(Rebecca will post her presentation, which includes this detailed slide here.) She said the framework should be placed in writing and documented. Yes, communication is further down the list than what you would expect, but by the time you get there, you will already have an idea of the communication style (if the partnership is a "go").

Working Principles & Ground Rules...a list of "hot-to's"...document these to ensure you are all on the same page. I think of this as creating something like a prenuptial agreement between people or groups.

Craig then spoke about partnerships from the aspect of the work he does (content buying). He noted that how he develops partnerships is likely very different from how others do, and so said that he was giving us examples for discussion, not advice.

He noted that content buying has many challenges that include vendor interaction, legal & privacy concerns, pricing, technology, training, and user needs. In building partnerships -- internally and externally -- Craig felt that it is important to recognize that people may be uncomfortable with the partnership building process. However, as Rebecca and Craig both said, it is important to make people comfortable and to get them on the same page. There are indeed many people who much be "on the team" including people are varying levels in the organization, as well as key stakeholders.

It is important that there be a team leader for the partnership. That person should be seen as a coach and initiator. The team leader must have a clear vision (and be able to communicate it). Whether or not the team leader is a member of the team or a supervisor will be up to how the organization functions.

During his presentation, Craig mentioned the book Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology by Lipnack & Stamps (Wiley, 2000).

It is was interesting to hear both Craig and Rebecca talk abut using technology to keep the team on the same page. Since Web 2.0 and communication are a focus of this conference, it was good to hear them talk about the tools in relation to building partnerships. The tools mentioned included:
  • Conference calls
  • Collaboration tools
  • Video conferencing
  • Web conferencing
Finally, you must keep in mind that there are keys to success, when forming partnerships:
  • Understand your organization and its values
  • Get buy in from the right people
  • Be flexible
  • Understand that a partnership required hard work
  • Understand that every situation is different
During the Q&A I mentioned that the documentation that Rebecca feels is needed for a partnership is similar to a prenuptial agreement. A prenup lays the groundwork for how the relationship will function as well as what will happen if the relationship fails. We need to realize that our partnerships need us to understand and document our expectations, roles, responsibilities, etc. as well as what will happen not only if things go well, but also what will happen if the partnership needs to be dissolved.

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