Even if you’re willing to take the plunge and start sharing information more closely with your customers and suppliers, where do you begin? Hau Lee, professor of operations, information and technology in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, says CIOs need not reveal all to enter into meaningful collaborative relationships. It is safer to err on the side of sharing less data, rather than more?at least until a sense of trust has been established.
“CIOs do not need to share everything,” says Lee. “To achieve 80 percent of the benefits [of collaboration], you only need to share certain information.” A good start is the exchange of basic forecasts?demand, consumption and capacity information.
The touchiest type of data concerns product development. No one has yet straightened out the intellectual property issues of who owns a product design that was developed jointly, says Scott Griffin, vice president and CIO at Boeing in Chicago. That kind of knowledge goes to the heart of how each party makes a living. A misuse of design info, or even a misunderstanding over who can use what, can cause real problems for each business and for their relationship.
“What you really want to do is figure out who is going to make these rules, and I don’t think it’s the lawyers,” says Griffin. “I think business-to-business collaboration is going to be worked out between boardrooms?between the C officers of the companies, including the CIOs.”