LegalBusinessWorld Posts

The Partnership Advantage: Achieving better business outcomes through collaboration

December 3, 2018

Partnerships are a company’s collaborative advantage

A key part of business today is about forming alliances or partnerships between companies. In a global study by IBM, more than 75 percent of the 765 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) surveyed placed a high priority on forming partnerships outside of their organisations. 

 

Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter terms this as a company’s a “collaborative advantage” - where the ability to create and sustain fruitful collaborations grants companies the competitive edge needed to perform in the global economy. 

 

In my experience in the legal technology world, this has been absolutely true. While some partnerships have been nothing more than short and quick interactions, others have been meaningful collaborations that serve as a prelude to a possible merger of companies.

 

In this article, I will be sharing on some of the benefits of partnerships and the key considerations that must be reviewed. These insights hold true to both legal technology companies as well as law firms. 

 

Benefits of Partnerships
There are a few key benefits of partnerships: 

 

  • Profit, Cost & Risk Sharing

  • Decreased Time-to-Market

  • Resource Sharing

  • Entry to New Markets

  • Access to Justice
     

Profit, Cost & Risk Sharing

Firstly, partnerships allow for the optimization of time, money and other resources. Depending on the exact nature of the partnership, it is possible for partners to receive a percentage of the profits for a particular product or service. At the same time, just as profits are shared, the associated costs and risks are shared as well. This enables smaller or less established companies to take on more valuable and large scale projects.  

 

Decreased Time-to-Market

Secondly, by pooling together resources and technical knowledge, partners can bring products or services to the market in a shorter amount of time. The creation phase of a product or service is often accelerated as partners can produce results faster together.

 

One example that I witnessed was the private-public partnership in the legal sector. Specifically, under the Tech Start for Law programme, Asia Law Network and was able to work alongside the Law Society of Singapore as one of the approved technology providers. This accelerated the adoption of our online marketing tools. This year, both Asia Law Network and tessaract.io - our latest product in case and document management are listed partners of the Law Society of Singapore. This has helped us greatly in terms of getting positive exposure amongst the legal market.

 

If you are a company that is operating in a regulatory grey zone, it is important to take a proactive approach when engaging the regulators. Regulators should be treated as important partners. By adopting a more collaborative and open approach, businesses can foster better business outcomes. 

 

Resource Sharing

Thirdly, partnerships also allow parties to share resources. In some cases, parties may not wish to jointly develop new products and services. Instead, they may choose to leverage on each other’s products and services to provide their users with access to a holistic offering of resources. 

 

In my personal experience, one instance of resource sharing was Asia Law Network’s partnership with AML Accelerate. Through this partnership, clients of Asia Law Network were provided access to a money laundering and terrorism financing compliance platform. At the same time, Asia Law Network did not need to invest resources to develop an independent anti-money laundering tool. 

 

Entry to New Markets

Fourthly, partnerships give businesses the opportunity to test their products in new markets. By structuring a partnership with companies based in a foreign market, businesses can gain access to a new target market and formulate an effective market access strategy.

 

One such personal experience was Asia Law Network’s partnership with Australia-based Legally Yours. Like AsiaLawNetwork.com, LegallyYours.com.au is a legal marketplace that matches clients to lawyers. This partnership allows both companies to promote access to legal services across Asia-Pacific.

 

Access to Justice 

Finally, partnerships can allow businesses to better achieve their objectives. As the CEO of Interstellar Group, one of my company’s objectives is to promote access to justice. The beautiful thing about the legal technology tools that we build is that they can be used for commercial cases, as well as pro-bono ventures. 

 

Through our partnership with the Global Pro Bono Bar Association and the Legal Clinics in Hong Kong, we have provided these organisations with access to our case management tool, tessaract.io. Tessaract.io empowers these organisations to deliver pro bono services effectively and efficiently. 

 

Similarly, our Quick Consult has also been adopted by non-profit organisations, allowing needy individuals to dial a lawyer for pro-bono hep. The same synergy can be achieved for other companies, as long as they seek out partners that share a common vision and value system. 

 

Considerations for Partnerships

Nevertheless, partnerships do not always take off. The operational and cultural challenges of working with another party may result in deadlock or conflict. If you are an organisation contemplating a partnership, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:
 

  • Are the leaders of both companies integrated strategically? 

  • Are the members in both companies integrated operationally?

  • Are the members in both companies integrated interpersonally?
     

The key considerations for each of the questions will be elaborated in the section below.

 

Are the leaders of both companies integrated strategically? 

It is important for top management to be in constant contact. There must be continuous discussion on goals or changes in each company. Having that conversation allows management to figure out how to work out differences in vision.

 

Are the members in both companies integrated operationally?

It is also important for individuals in both organisations have updated and timely access to information. One way of keeping operationally integrated is to conduct training programs for all members in the partnership. This allows parties to develop a common vocabulary and understand certain standards that must be achieved in content strategy, sales and even product development. 

 

Are the members in both companies integrated interpersonally?

The best partnerships work when the people in both companies know each other personally. By building rapport and personal ties, parties will have the openness and willingness to work out minor differences when they arise. 

 

Strong interpersonal relationships also allow members to navigate differences in culture and communication. If members are able to demonstrate interest and respect, companies will be able to overcome any cultural and organisational differences that arise.

 

Key takeaways

Partnerships are never easy. However, when structured and managed properly, partnerships allow companies to achieve better business outcomes.

 

In summary, here are the key takeaways you should bear in mind:
 

  • Partnerships can yield benefits for parties. These include immediate benefits like profit, cost and risk sharing. It also includes future benefits like opportunities in new markets and the sharing of resources.

  • Partnerships are living systems that require strategic alignment between the leaders of both companies as well as operational and interpersonal integration amongst the members of both companies.

About the Author:

Cherilyn Tan is the CEO of Interstellar Group Pte Ltd which builds technology based on the current needs of the legal professionals. Trained in processes and technology, Cherilyn currently is also the product manager of Tessaract.io. She uses design thinking as a research methodology to understand the pains of lawyers and together with the team, develops technology to make the lives of lawyers better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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