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08:32 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Customer, Partner, Or Both?

Here's a question for you: Who are your most important business partners? Which ones bring significant value to your company? Is it your top suppliers? Your top dealers? Your product distributors? OK, how many answered "my customers"? What role do they play in the value-creation process? If it's not significant, and you haven't altered your infrastructure to account for such a role, then your ability to compete in the future could be threatened.

That's a sentiment that renowned management strategist C.K. Prahalad has been voicing for several years. I first became familiar with Prahalad's provocative ideas about how consumers are becoming the types of business collaborators whom he believes have as much to contribute to the value creation of a company as the company itself when he and Venkat Ramaswamy, his colleague at the University of Michigan, wrote an article for InformationWeek in April 2000. There was hype and rhetoric about the so-called "new economy" swirling around then, but there also was a clear indication to these professors that a transformation of the industrial system was under way, albeit largely unnoticed.

Prahalad, who is a valuable member of InformationWeek's Editorial Advisory Board, and his colleague spent several years researching how the role of the consumer is moving from "passive buyer" to "active participant," the results of which will be detailed in their book, The Future Of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value With Customers, to be published in February by Harvard Business School Press. The authors also will share their views on co-creating value and the role of IT in enhancing the effectiveness of line-of-business managers in the January issue of Optimize, so stay tuned.

Stephanie Stahl

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