The Hype Will Let You Down!
No business executive can escape the onslaught of breathless headlines advertising new technologies and promising a sunny future for early adopters.
Nowadays, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, often wrapped together in an enterprise digital transformation initiative, dominate the headlines.
Vendors, industry analysts and business experts predict a bright future and a quick return on investment in these promising technologies if you only follow a small number of seemingly simple steps. And it seems that many businesses rely on optimistic analyses and are lured by lofty promises and jump on the bandwagon for fear of missing out.
And most of them will fail.
Most companies—over 70% of them—fail to see the pitfalls of digital transformation and are unable to realize the benefits promised by enterprise digitalization. In fact, many Internet of Things digitalization initiatives die prematurity and seldom progress beyond the proof of concept stage.
And the experts do not offer much help, especially in emerging technology areas where real-world experience is scarce. In fact, the generic advice offered by some consultants makes you wonder if these self-proclaimed experts have the same battle scars your industry cohorts and competitors have. Would it not be more useful to learn from their experience?
The word consortium is derived from the Latin word “con” (together) and “sors” (fate). Indeed, a consortium is a business collaboration framework for companies to work together and share both the risks and the future rewards of common business goals.
Consortium members share experience and know-how, and act as a sounding board for one another. Members pool resources to develop and share methods and standards to drive the kind of transformational change that individual organizations struggle to achieve on their own
For instance, the Industrial Internet Consortium offers members a portfolio of development testbeds: standard-based experimentation platforms upon which IoT solutions can be deployed and tested in an environment that is close to real-world conditions. These testbeds are funded by member companies or by government agencies, and the work products are co-owned by the funding agency and the participating members.
This type of collaboration can help organizations accelerate and improve the effectiveness of innovation by connecting and engaging key players in a dynamic and collaborative environment. It accelerates research and development and shortens time to value of new technologies and offers a compelling competitive advantage over non-members.
Not Just for Technology Vendors
It is a common misconception that consortia cater more to the interest of technology vendors and give them more power to shape the market and influence governing bodies. While there may be some truth to that, end-user companies will find joining a consortium just as beneficial.
A company seeking expertise in certain areas or connect with partners and solution providers to solve a large scale problem can leverage the consortium’s reach and project management experience. For instance, the Industry Connect Service assists technology users in defining, developing and deploying industrial IoT projects.
Similarly, a consortium can act as neutral business broker, helping technology buyers create requests for proposals, review and vet responses, and increase the likelihood of successful technology acquisition and implementation projects.
Furthermore, a consortium can serve as a unified body of technology users to lobby vendors. This is not just to put pressure on vendors (although end users might find it desired from time to time…), but to help vendors better understand market needs and focus their development efforts where they are needed the most instead of being pulled in different directions.
Collaboration is the New Competition
Consortia activities complement the growing tendency over the past decade or two toward the formation of business partner ecosystems. Airbus was originally a consortium of individual European aerospace manufacturers that evolved gradually into a standalone company. The consortium provided the operational framework to join forces to develop aerospace technologies and manufacturing that eventually became a commercial company. Similarly, companies join a consortium to pool resources with partners and even competitors to leverage foundational technology development that will benefit their businesses.
But to some, the notion of sharing goals with potential competitors and funding activities that would benefit them still doesn’t sound very attractive.
In a Harvard Business Review titled Collaboration Is the New Competition, Ben Hecht writes: “While collaboration is certainly not a foreign concept, what we’re seeing around the country is the coming together of non-traditional partners, and a willingness to embrace new ways of working together.” The author suggests five guidelines for driving change through collaboration:
- Clearly Define What You Can do Together: Develop a clear purpose that articulates “what can we do together that we could not do alone?”
- Transcend Parochialism: Leaders should acknowledge the inherent limitations of their own organization’s approach and put aside their short-term interests in pursuit of the goals of the group.
- Adapt to Data: Continuous learning and innovation and the use of data to understand what is and is not working is crucial. Set specific goals and commit to data-informed decision making.
- Feed the Field: Share what you learn, both the results and the methods for achieving them. Help participants understand the value that member institutions get by learning and working together.
- Support the Backbone: Progress is best achieved when a “backbone organization” keeps the group’s work moving forward. Empower staff responsibility to continuously support, nurture, and feed the collaborative Provide continuous support, nurture, and feed the collaborative.