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The Next Wave in Collaboration? Lessons from Platform Ecosystems, Part 2: From Diagnostics to Data Monitoring

Posted By Contributed by Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, Thursday, January 10, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In my Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly article about the emerging profession of the ecosystem manager, I mentioned that the most extreme examples of ecosystem management were found around platform organizations like Facebook and Apple. What inspiration can we draw from the way these companies manage their ecosystems? Many existing alliance best practices do not fit well with these characteristics of ecosystems. To deal with them, new best practices are emerging that require us to rethink at least four of the tenets of alliance management. In my first article, I address the shift in the alliance lifecycle from phases to “minimum viable partnerships” or MVPs, as Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, described in her presentation at November 8-9, 2018 ASAP European Alliance Summit. In the second of three blogs on this topic, I examine how monitoring and partner selection are evolving in ecosystems.

Monitoring: From Diagnostics to Data

The standard way of diagnosing alliances is to send surveys to people involved in the alliance and ask them to rate, on a scale, to what extent various success factors are in place. Measures may relate to goals, trust, governance, operational effectiveness, and the like. By creating spider web diagrams, alliance diagnostics visualize where the strong and weak points of an alliance lie. In 2007, my own research into the effectiveness of different alliance tools showed that companies using such diagnostics are more successful than companies that don’t.

Recent technology developments enable us to monitor and diagnose alliances differently. At the ASAP European Alliance Summit, Laurent Valroff, worldwide global alliance lead at Dassault Systèmes, presented a software system developed in-house that ties into the CRM systems of alliance partners to ensure that both sides work on the basis of common information. At the same Summit I also ran into an executive from WorkSpan, a software maker that actually scales such a system in such a way that all ecosystem partners of a company can easily share and get access to relevant alliance information. (To learn more, see the Member Spotlight on WorkSpan in the Q4 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly.) From this it will not be a big step to turn the diagnosis and monitoring of alliances into a real-time system.

By following how often partners log in to the system, where they spend the most time, and where they do not spend time at all, a picture emerges of how these relationship are doing. In the future, adding a few diagnostic questions may give results similar to traditional survey based tools, only faster and at lower cost. Whether such systems will be complements or substitutes for traditional diagnostics will remain to be seen, but it is clear that companies are already building the foundations for a new way of monitoring and diagnosing alliances: online and real-time.

Partnering: From Partner Selection to Partner Seduction

Another interesting feature of many ecosystems is the absence of partner selection. Instead, partners are seduced to join platforms by the promise of access to an interesting market. Standard rules apply that each partner must follow. If a partner does not adhere to the rules, that partner will be barred from the ecosystem. In place of partner selection, ecosystems rely on partner seduction followed by partner curation.

This is especially interesting because partner selection is such a key aspect of traditional alliance management. Traditionally, partner selection requires the study of strategic, cultural, and operational fit between partners, because fit predicts whether it will be possible to establish a strong relationship. Ecosystems turn things upside down: “Let’s start working together and find out whether there is a fit.” Again, this speeds up the process and it enables platform organizations to engage in many more partnerships than the traditional method.

In the third and final blog in this series, Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, examines how, in managing ecosystems, the governance process shifts from committees to principles, and then considers what the rise of ecosystems means for the evolving practice of alliance management. De Man is professor of management studies at the School of Business and Economics of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. A longtime ASAP member, he also is a consultant to companies and not-for-profits.

ASAP Media encourages diversity of thought and opinion as partnering practice and the profession of alliance management continually expand and evolve. To contribute your voice to the conversation, on this or other seminal topics relating to business collaboration, please contact John W. DeWitt, editor and publisher of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance magazines, at 646-232-6620 or jdewitt@asapmedia.org.

Tags:  alliance  alliance-specific strategy  Ard-Pieter de Man  ASAP European Alliance Summit  ASAP Strategic Alliance Quarterly  governance  John Deere  launching  managing  negotiation  partner selection  Philips Light  planning  structuring  traditional alliance diagnostics  transformation  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

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