Partnerships & Alliances

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The Long-Tail Strategy for IT Outsourcing

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 24 min 

No longer just a cost-saving measure, IT outsourcing has emerged as an important strategic tool for acquiring cutting-edge ideas. Many companies are expanding their portfolios of IT suppliers to include smaller, highly innovative companies. But this expansion increases the complexity of managing supplier portfolios. To take full advantage of the innovations that diverse suppliers provide, organizations need to reimagine their strategies to be dynamic, diversified, and still disciplined.


How to Avoid Platform Traps

Many of today’s most successful technology businesses— including Apple, Facebook, and Uber — are built on a platform-based business model. But the increasing popularity of platform strategies masks a difficult truth: Such strategies are hard to execute well, and they are prone to several common pitfalls. Those platform traps include growth with no strategic focus, pursuing an intermediate approach between the mass market and a niche, and overlooking the value proposition of partners.


The Art of Managing Complex Collaborations

The only way to move forward on society's biggest challenges may be through consortiums. But it's not easy to assemble such groups or to keep them together. The experiences of The Biomarkers Consortium, a nine-year-old public-private partnership in the health industry, presents five lessons in managing these kinds of complex collaborations. These lessons are useful for anyone trying to build consensus to address broad societal challenges among multiple stakeholders with both common and divergent interests.

Image courtesy of Mediatek

Developing Effective Intellectual Property Partnerships

All too often, companies from emerging and established economies talk past each other when discussing intellectual property. The result is that often fail to consider all their options for a productive collaboration. The authors detail five ways that companies can structure such IP partnerships, and say that it’s important for a company to choose the one that’s the best fit for the project: "The choice of IP business models is a strategic decision, not merely a legal matter."

Free Article

From the Editor: Innovation and China

In today’s global economy, there aren’t many large companies that can afford to ignore China in their plans for growth. The Summer 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on China, with insights about how to learn from China, what the future may hold for the Chinese economy — and how to do business in China despite the challenges of protecting intellectual property there.



Raising the Bar With Analytics

More than half of managers surveyed strongly agree that their organizations need to step up analytics use, according to a 2013 global survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS Institute. In addition, survey data suggests that in companies where analytics has improved the ability to innovate, managers are more likely to share data with partners and suppliers.


Rewriting the Playbook for Corporate Partnerships

In fast-changing markets, some companies are developing flexible, adaptive strategic partnerships to leverage the resources of both customers and suppliers. Incentive arrangements focus partners on joint value creation, and companies are sharing information extensively to solve problems together. These partnerships make the most sense when the product or service is of strategic importance to the customer, when the vendor has superior expertise and when there is uncertainty in the relationship.


Strategic Decisions for Multisided Platforms

Some of the fastest growing businesses in recent years — companies such as Facebook, eBay and LinkedIn — are “multisided platforms” that enable interactions between two or more sets of participants. The spectacular success of some of these MSPs has caught the attention of many entrepreneurs and investors. But building a multisided platform business requires savvy decisions on everything from design to governance to pricing.


Video: New Opportunities in the Transformed Music Industry

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 1 min 

It’s been a difficult decade for any company that’s been in the recorded music business. But at Universal Music, the company is using external partnerships, technology, new platforms and “democratized data” to surmount challenges in one of the first industries to go digital. Universal’s Rob Wells explains how he and his colleagues have dealt with massive change and how they take advantage of new opportunities to put the company at the forefront of the industry landscape.


Bringing Sustainability Metrics to Purchasing Decisions

When hotel chain Hilton Worldwide looked at supply chain sustainability, it lacked tools to help weigh sustainability factors. Hilton partnered with sustainability consultant BSR to create the Center for Sustainable Procurement. In this interview with MIT SMR’s David Kiron, Hilton’s VP of supply management William Kornegay and Eric Olson of BSR discuss how the initiative evolved.


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From the Editor: Beyond the Organization

Business executives today are figuring out how to harness the energy not just of the talented people within an organization, but of those outside of it as well. The fall 2013 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on leveraging external innovation, from the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to an investigation of what motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects.


Capturing the Value of Synchronized Innovation

How can companies coordinate their product development efforts? Research by Jason P. Davis (MIT Sloan School of Management) shows that synchronization can take three forms: proactive planning with partner organizations; reactive action to signals by other companies; or combining these two in a hybrid. Each approach has its own implementation costs and challenges. Moreover, the network of relationships that already exist within an industry affects how quickly synchrony emerges.


Outsourcing Business Processes for Innovation

Although many organizations initiate business process outsourcing to reduce costs or acquire new skills, it can evolve into much more. Sometimes, service providers deliver substantial long-term improvements to the client’s operating efficiency and strategic performance. But these improvements seldom happen unless clients and providers implement a process that combines acculturation across organizations, a method for generating ideas, adequate funding and a system for managing change.


Experiments in Open Innovation at Harvard Medical School

What happens when an academic institution rethinks how research gets done? In an experiment in open innovation applied to scientific research, Harvard Catalyst, a pan-Harvard agency, modified the traditional grant proposal process to bring greater openness into every stage of research. In the end, 150 new hypotheses were proposed. The Harvard Catalyst experience suggests that open-innovation principles can be applied to a well-established research organization.

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The Importance of IT-Enabled Flexibility in Alliances

Strategic alliances are arguably more critical now than ever before. In this highly digital age, organizations rely increasingly on Internet-based or computerized products and services that require the simultaneous cooperation of multiple organizations. The authors’ research has shown that flexible IT systems can help enable successful partnerships. But the opposite — that inflexible IT systems can hinder partnerships — is true, too. And it’s something about which organizations should be careful.


Image courtesy of Blue4green.

What You Can Learn From Your Customer’s Customer

Innovative companies fund internal research and development to gain an edge in the marketplace. They also work closely with suppliers to offer greater functionality and performance for their customers. However, some critical new product insights don’t come from suppliers and customers working together but from the customer’s customers. Drawing on numerous examples from technology companies, this article explores the various ways parties can collaborate so that everyone benefits.

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"Let Me Come Right Out and Say It: You Cheat"

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 3 min 

”As long as we cheat by only a little bit, we can benefit from cheating and still view ourselves as marvelous human beings,” writes behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his new book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone — Especially Ourselves.”


Building Effective Business Relationships in China

As China’s growth and integration into the world economy continue, many companies are looking for ways to build effective business relationships with Chinese companies. China’s ways of doing business are becoming more Westernized, but non-Chinese executives must still work hard to build trust in relationships with their Chinese business partners. But developing trust between Chinese and Western executives takes time. This article explores methods for developing cross-cultural trust.

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