C-level executives are increasingly turning to collaboration with their business networks as a way in which to win new markets and address quickly evolving customer needs.

According to the survey conducted by BusinessWeek Research Services (BWRS) and commissioned by SAP AG , these executives also plan to expand their collaboration efforts even further over the next three years.
Additionally, nearly twice as many small businesses and midsize companies expect to rely heavily on collaboration within the next three years. The C-level executives surveyed emphasized the importance of IT and its role in facilitating integration to support their companies' business goals of increased levels of collaboration with customers, partners and suppliers.
Titled "Getting Serious About Collaboration: How Companies are Transforming Their Business Networks," the research report about the survey finds that large and midsize businesses plan to expand their reliance on their business network of partners by more than a third over the next three years.
Approximately one out of three respondents identified access to new markets and customers as one of the top benefits to collaboration today. Roughly half of the respondents said they are currently counting on partners for R&D, manufacturing, marketing, logistics, distribution, customer service, human resources or other corporate functions – and two-thirds expect to be reliant on third parties for these functions to some extent by 2011.
Large and midsize businesses also plan to outsource 18% of their operations by 2011. They already outsource 13.4% of their operations to date.
The survey findings show that collaboration is skyrocketing for small and midsize enterprises (between 100 and 1 000 employees). These companies now recognise co-innovation with partners as a pathway to growth. Nearly twice as many SMEs are expecting to rely more heavily on collaboration in the next three years.
The survey findings show that the percentage of business operations supported by external partners of SMEs will triple by 2011 and are approaching the level of partnering currently used by large companies.
In addition to gaining access to new markets and obtaining cost benefits, SMEs emphasise improved quality as one of the most important benefits for collaboration.
As the role of collaboration changes, the need for a robust IT infrastructure becomes even more important to drive success across partnerships. Only half of the C-level executives responding to the survey are confident that their IT infrastructures will be able to support their collaboration strategies during the next three years.
This result underscores the crucial role IT plays in facilitating collaboration and enabling business transformation. While CEOs are embracing the concept of developing customer-centric business models by optimising the company's network of employees, suppliers, customers, partners and distributors, IT needs to play a strategic role to make it all work.