Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Collaborating with outside parties

Jon Udell has succinctly summarized the benefits of collaborating with outside parties who just may be your competitors, too:

If you're working on a problem, odds are that someone else is working on the same or a similar problem. That person might work in your department, elsewhere in your company, or in a department like yours in another company halfway around the world. Vital collaboration can happen within any of these scopes. A public discussion space for users of your company's products or services is an excellent way to build a brain trust. Corporate and Usenet newsgroups and email lists can also gather valuable brain trusts.

There are, of course, limits to what you can say in public forums. Nobody should give up a competitive advantage by sharing the wrong kind of information. Nevertheless, collaboration among competitors is not a bizarre or unrealistic idea. Clearly you don't want to divulge company secrets, but not all information is competitively advantageous. You and I might both be working on proprietary applications that exploit certain features of HTTP basic authentication. We needn't reveal details about our respective projects in order to clarify our mutual understanding of how authentication works.

Nor need we collaborate altruistically. As in the case of open-source software, the guiding principle can be enlightened self-interest. The benefit of sharing information, measured in terms of the value of information received in turn, can outweigh the cost of sharing, measured in terms of the effort of collaboration and any competitive exposure that it entails.

We've been saying all of this stuff, but not as elegantly.

I'd seen Jon's book before, but I wasn't sure that there would be much useful in it since it was five years old. And from a technology standpoint, it is fairly out-of-date. But, there is a lot of good stuff in there beyond the technology-specific information that is quite useful today.


Blogger Guy said...

O'Reilly cites Dylan's Mr. Jones in the forward !?!

I just may have to own a copy, pub date be damned ..

1:11 PM  

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