There seems to be an inordinate amount of discussion around collaboration and partnering in this digital era, but finding examples of true collaboration are not that easy. Like they say, talk is cheap, but establishing and keeping good partnerships is certainly not.
While telcos continue to ponder whether to partner or do battle with the so-called over-the-top (OTT) players, other industry sectors are finding just how effective, and profitable, collaboration can be.
As I mentioned in my last blog, with regard to the ‘internet of Things,’ logically a trusted partner would be the first choice, but which one? I likened the best collaborative process to that utilized by ants and bees knowing only too well that humans have lost their tribal instincts of working in unison and now tend to become singular entities looking after their own interest as a priority.
That may be a harsh, broad stroke observation but enterprises are acting much the same way. Crushing or acquiring competitors and potential partners is the favoured means of growth these days, and investing in partnerships for joint growth does not seem to carry any favour.
Fortunately, there are exceptions and in the most unlikely if places. One glowing example of what can be achieved ‘when the penny drops’ is Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) Bank that has developed a tax portal for its customers to help them through the complexities of determining what taxes were payable, filing them electronically and paying them online.
Not such a big deal you say? Well, when the tax authority doesn’t have the facility for electronic filing it is a big deal. The bank not only provided its customers with current tax information and an easy means to calculate tax liability and file, it also saved them many hours in the process. One customer was able to reduce staffing numbers in their tax computation department from 60 to 2 and able to utilise these skilled resources in other areas.
The bank is now collaborating with the authorities to share its technology and extending its use by the tax department itself - a much cheaper option than developing a system from scratch.
The bank is attracting new customers because of this service and charges transaction fees to offset the cost of developing and maintain the system. These fees are much cheaper than using accounting firms or large teams in-house. A win-win-win for all sides, surely?
But it doesn’t have to be a bank providing such an innovative service. It could have been a firm of accountants, an association of taxpayers, even a telco. If the spirit of cooperation and collaboration is established properly anything is possible and any business or consumer sector could be addressed. Right now, it’s all about minimizing risk and acquiring or investing only in projects that have a very good chance of return.
There are exceptions like eHealth initiatives in the Philippines where mobile operators working with government agencies are successfully diagnosing and advising people in remote areas using smartphones connected to specialists in medical centres sometimes thousands of miles away.
Home security is another area where telcos are working with specialist third parties to deliver 24x7 monitoring and home management via redundant fixed and wireless dual channels. Partners orchestrate the services that are monitored and managed by the operators.
Even mobile payments and remittance services, often misrepresented as telco-only services, rely on partners such as banks, retail outlets and convenience stores to operate effectively.
The collaborative process of those ants and bees, making things happen by working in a framework where each plays a role and works together with seemingly hidden communication, is making even more sense. Can we learn from them? Definitely.