Organisational self assessment
To assess the potential for collaboration, an organisation must review and reflect on its management and operations as well as conduct a thorough assessment of the benefits and risks of any proposed collaborative venture.
Before collaborating with other organisations, an organisation must have a clear picture of its capacity and a documented and formally endorsed statement of its priorities and aims. This is usually presented in a business plan format which details the organisation's vision, purpose, services, human and financial resources and time frames for achieving outcomes.
The business planning process should also provide an analysis of the organisation's key assets, such as databases, technology, systems, people, and funding, and of its operating environment, internal processes and external relationships. This enables the organisation to see where it might overlap with other services, identify any gaps in its capacity to meet client needs, and how improved links and collaboration with others might assist.
Where an organisation has already developed a business plan, it is important to review this in the context of a proposed collaborative venture, and to check that:
- the proposed venture fits within the aims and business of the organisation, and
- the organisation has the resources and capability to take on the venture.
Once an organisation has developed or reviewed its business plan, or used some other method to assess its capacity, it can then assess the potential of any proposed collaboration. A business case for collaboration can provide a useful framework for this process.
Collaboration assessment: the business case
Preparing a business case is a way of thoroughly examining the specific details of a proposed collaborative structure or venture, assessing whether the proposal is viable, and enabling the organisation to make an informed decision about whether to proceed.
Preparing a business case involves assessing:
- how well the project or venture will fit with the purpose of the organisation
- how likely it is to be successful and achieve its objectives
- the costs and benefits of the proposed venture
- the risks and likely impact of the project or venture on the organisation
- the partner/s and the likely partnership benefits
- fit with the organisation's purpose. It is critical that there is a strong alignment between the organisation's aims, the potential partner/s' objectives, the project outcomes and client benefits to be achieved through the collaboration.
Likelihood of success
Assessment needs to be done in conjunction with the assessments of costs, benefits and risks. It needs to be informed by the input of key stakeholders, people with specific expertise relevant to the project, organisations that have attempted similar projects or ventures and background research on relevant areas.
Costs and benefits
This will include:
- details of project costs, including human, capital, recurrent financial, risk and legal costs
- estimates of project benefits, such as service improvements, client benefits, operational efficiencies, increased competitiveness and market share, improved reputation and community engagement, reduced governance and compliance risk
It is essential to make a detailed and critical evaluation of the potential risks associated with a proposed collaborative activity before negotiating any agreements with other organisations. Time, money and energy spent in assessing the likelihood and impact of potential risks of a project can make the difference between an innovative and successful project and an expensive failure. For more information visit the Collaboration Risk Assessment section.
It is also important to assess the attributes and suitability of potential partners as part of assessing the potential benefits of a collaborative venture. Suitable partners will be ones that demonstrate:
- aspirations for their organisation and for the collaborative venture that are compatible with your organisation's
- organisational cultures that are complementary to your organisation's
- complementary services, activities, client groups and client outcomes
- something to contribute and something valuable to gain from the collaboration
- capacity for a similar level of investment to make the collaboration work, and
- transparent processes that will form a basis for reciprocal trust and accountability.
Ongoing commitment to the partnership is also necessary to ensure the benefits outweigh the costs and that collaborative effort delivers improved outcomes for clients.