Collaboration: The Formation Phase


YTKO programme director Helen Trudgeon leads us through phase three of the business collaboration process

Once the partners to the collaboration have been identified and the project decided, they need to agree an operational structure. Roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of the individual partners must be identified so that everyone is clear regarding what is expected of them. In addition, it is of equal importance that everyone understands and agrees the goals.

Identify Key Benefits and Key Risks

Each partner must understand the strengths and weaknesses of who they are working with, and what each member is bringing to the collaboration in terms of skills, knowledge, technologies and strengths. It is also helpful to understand the motivation of each collaborator – ‘why are you doing this?’; and their objectives – ‘what are you hoping to achieve?’. Individual partners may well have different motivations and objectives, but provided all parties understand and agree the ultimate physical goals and how they are to be achieved and measured, then there is every reason the collaboration should succeed.

To ensure all elements have been addressed prior to proceeding, it is useful to have a checklist, which is outlined briefly below:

Confidentiality/Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

This is the most basic level by which a business can protect itself, and should ideally be in place from very early in the collaboration process, particularly when a project is commercially sensitive or involves, for example, the use of new technology or customer data.

Project Control

Every collaboration should have a designated project manager and/or project management tool, preferably with some previous experience, to ensure its smooth running and the maintenance of strong communications between partners.

Stakeholder Analysis

This is an effective means of managing the expectations of each partner. Carried out at an early stage, conflicts can be identified and compromises sought. If this process is left until later, the conflict could escalate.

Collaboration Strategy

This needs to be a clear outline of the project to drive forward its implementation. It does not need to be complicated for simple collaborations, although more attention should be paid if the collaboration is more involved, or includes several partners. But the key elements should remain the same – clearly defined targets and critical success factors to measure the success of the completed collaboration.

Intellectual Property (IP)

Intellectual property is potentially the most complicated element of a collaboration, but also potentially the area where conflict is most likely to arise if agreement over ownership and rights of usage are not dealt with at a very early stage. We will cover this more fully in a later article, but in summary, partners must ensure that their patents, trademarks, design rights or copyright assets are protected to avoid potentially expensive litigation at a later date.

Collaboration Agreement

Only when the above elements have been considered should the collaboration agreement be signed. Issues to be considered here include

  • What is the purpose and intended outcome of the collaboration?
  • Who are the parties to the agreement and how is it to be managed?
  • What are the financial provisions?
  • What is the duration of the agreement?
  • Who will own any resulting IP?
  • What are the termination provisions?

Risk is inherent in any joint venture, and ignoring The Formation Phase, which minimises risk, could jeopardise a collaboration. But risk is also inherent in simply crossing the road, and it is by looking both ways that you protect yourself.

Tel: 01872 613000