When looking for instances of collaboration going wrong (read: not happening), British Leyland counts as a great example on many levels and for many reasons. Though a manufacturer group by name and entity, the various brands that fell under the BL umbrella retained enough autonomy to – sometimes – make a mess of the vehicles they designed and produced.
Take, for example, the Triumph Stag. In the late 1960s during the car’s design phase, Triumph wanted to create its own range of engines based around a common crank, sharing numerous common components. By leveraging economies of scale, they would be able to efficiently produce a variety of versions ranging from four-cylinder 1.5-litre units up to 4-litre V8s. In principle, this is a very sound thing to do and was somewhat before its time, bearing in mind VAG, PSA, GM and others now do this.
The problem lay in that Triumph was engineering its engines exclusively for Triumph badged cars. There was little collaboration between it, and the rest of BL – and certainly scant plans to use these engines in Austins, Rovers etc. And herein lay the problem; whilst the idea was sound, the engineering was anything but and the 3-litre V8 that went into the Stag was notoriously unreliable in numerous ways.
At the same time, Rover was using its Buick-derived V8 – which was robust and very reliable. The insanity of the situation was that despite the fact all these brands fell under one umbrella, there was no collaboration. Rover couldn’t guarantee delivery of enough units to satisfy Triumph’s demand, and Triumph had engineered the car so the Rover V8 wasn’t best suited. In the end, many owners actually swapped out the unreliable Triumph V8 for the Rover unit anyway, and later Triumph variants used it as a matter of course.
Fundamental to success
Collaboration is fundamental to successful business, and this is no more relevant than in the digital arena. The number of operating systems, software platforms, hardware types, data exchange formats… the list is almost endless. As a result businesses, which will inevitably use a number of different systems, need to know that their data is exchangeable, accessible and usable and that disparate solutions can link in to one another without corrupting data.
In our industry, there are a vast number of systems on offer, each of which can cater for different elements of vehicle retail – but there aren’t any true ‘end-to-end’ solutions to speak of (yet, at least). Our view is that collaboration between providers and a reduction in the ring-fencing of data creates solutions for retailers that are of far greater use to them and their customers.
For instance, if you visit our partners page, you will see that we incorporate a lot of solutions into NetDirector and share a lot of business intelligence. NetDirector Auto V10 was built with collaboration and integration as a fundamental to the platform’s functionality. This enables us to create data sharing between all kinds of systems from third parties, as well as integrating some of our solutions – such as CAP Valuations – into websites created by other providers.
Away from what we do, there’s a company in the USA called Valve that takes collaboration to a new level. There is no management or hierarchy. Everyone within the organisation is their own boss, free to create projects, give them the green light and then ship them once complete. The key to making this work is – you guessed it – complete collaboration between staff. They rely on their counterparts to help them deliver projects and to create teams able to do this, all desks have wheels; staff can simply slide into place around their colleagues depending on what they’re working on.
Valve is responsible for creating some extremely well-known and well-renowned video games such as Half Life, Counter Strike and Team Fortress. Recently, the company created online games platform, ‘Steam’ which hosts over 3,500 games – all regularly updated – across PC, Mac, Linux and Windows operating systems and via multiple channels. It has quickly become a firm favourite among web gamers with millions of subscribers to date.
When we collaborate and share our knowledge, experience and abilities we can create great things. When we don’t… well there’s no need to remind ourselves about the fate of British Leyland.