The growing importance of inter-organisational collaboration

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 14 March 2008



Clegg, B. (2008), "The growing importance of inter-organisational collaboration", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 19 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The growing importance of inter-organisational collaboration

Ben CleggGraduated from Loughborough University (UK) with a BSc (Hons) in Management Science. Simultaneously he completed a Diploma in Strategic Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a sponsored studentship with the General Electric Company and subsequently worked for them as a project manager. He completed a PhD at De Montfort University (UK) in Systems Engineering funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Rolls-Royce Aerospace and BAE Systems. He spent a year in 2000/2001 as a visiting scholar at Stanford University (USA) researching into business simulation tool development, organisational theory and operational improvement and worked for a university spin-out company. He acts as a consultant to companies in the area of business process modelling, improvement and simulation. He joined Aston Business School in 2003. He is a Chartered Engineer.

The growing importance of inter-organisational collaboration

This special issue has been drawn from papers that were published as part of the Second European Conference on Management of Technology (EuroMOT) which was held at Aston Business School (Birmingham, UK) 10-12 September 2006. This was the official European conference for the International Association for Management of Technology (IAMOT); the overall theme of the conference was “Technology and global integration.” There were many high-calibre papers submitted to the conference and published in the associated proceedings (Bennett et al., 2006). The streams of interest that emerged from these submissions were the importance of: technology strategy, innovation, process technologies, managing change, national policies and systems, research and development, supply chain technology, service and operational technology, education and training, small company incubation, technology transfer, virtual operations, technology in developing countries, partnership and alliance, and financing and investment.

This special issue focuses upon the streams of interest that accentuate the importance of collaboration between different organisations. Such organisations vary greatly in character; for instance, they may be large or small, publicly or privately owned, and operate in manufacturing or service sectors. Despite these varying characteristics they all have something in common; they all stress the importance of inter-organisational collaboration as a critical success factor for their organisation. In today's global economy it is essential that organisations decide what their core competencies are what those of complementing organisations are. Core competences should be developed to become a bases of differentiation, leverage and competitive advantage, whilst those that are less mature should be outsourced to other organisations that can claim to have had more recognition and success in that particular core competence (Porter, 2001). This strategic trend can be observed throughout advanced economies and is growing strongly. If a posteriori reasoning is applied here it follows that organisations could continue to become more specialised in fewer areas whilst simultaneously becoming more dependent upon other organisations for critical parts of their operations. Such actions seem to fly in the face of rational business strategy and so the question must be asked: why are organisations developing this way? The answer could lie in the recent changes in endogenous and exogenous factors of the organisation; the former emphasising resource-based issues in the short-term, and strategic positioning in the long-term whilst the later emphasises transaction costs in the short-term and acquisition of new skills and knowledge in the long-term. For a harmonious balance of these forces to prevail requires organisations to firstly declare a shared meta-strategy, then to put some cross-organisational processes into place which have their routine operations automated as far as possible. A rolling business plan would review, assess and reposition each organisation within this meta-strategy according to how well they have contributed (Binder and Clegg, 2006). The important common issue here is that an increasing number of businesses today are gaining direct benefit from increasing their levels of inter-organisational collaboration. Such collaboration has largely been possible due to recent technological advances which can make organisational structures more agile (e.g. the extended or the virtual enterprise), organisational infra-structure more connected, and the sharing of real-time information an operational reality.

This special issue consists of research papers that have explored the above phenomenon in some way. For instance, the role of government intervention, the use of internet-based technologies, the role of research and development organisations, the changing relationships between start-ups and established firms, the importance of cross-company communities of practice, the practice of networking, the front-loading of large-scale projects, innovation and the probabilistic uncertainties that organisations experience are explored in these papers. The cases cited in these papers are limited as they have a Eurocentric focus. However, it is hoped that readers of this special issue will gain a valuable insight into the increasing importance of collaborative practices via these studies.

Ben CleggAston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK


Bennett, D, Clegg, BT, Greasley, A and Albores, P (Eds) (2006), “Technology and global integration”, Proceedings of the Second European Conference on Management of Technology, IAMOT/Aston Business School Birmingham, UK, 10-12 September.

Binder, M. and Clegg, B.T. (2006), “A conceptual framework for enterprise management”, International Journal of Production Research, Vol. 44 Nos 18/19, pp. 3813-29.

Porter, M. (2001), “Strategy and the internet”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 79 No. 3, pp. 60-79.

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