No Man Nor Organization is an Island | A Meditation on the Importance of Partnerships for Scientific Innovation
Graham McGibbon, Director of Strategic Partnerships, ACD/Labs
Do you have a problem?
If so, and you are a problem solver, you may have interesting ideas to share.
The sharing of ideas, concepts and information enables the creation of software that make users more productive, more satisfied and better able to foster new scientific insights. With this in mind, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on ACD/Labs business relationships, which have contributed instrumentally to ACD/Labs successes in devising and delivering innovative software solutions for science-driven organizations. Anticipating such relationships will continue to be invaluable, it seems timely, after a quarter of a century, to offer some reflections and a forecast on them. So I started by asking myself some fundamental questions: How do Partners arise? Why? and How can one maintain effective relationships?
Abundantly clear to me is that foremost among our relationships are those with our existing and prospective clients. Learning why they need what they require, and what preferences or constraints they may have, is a vital part of recognizing where products will be apt or which gaps can be addressed by new developments or technologies.
That sharing takes place between our clients and ACD/Labs staff who meet, listen, discuss, and contribute with their own tactical ideas or strategic concepts. Furthermore, motivated by curiosity, they tend to garner information from various other sources. All this often helps in shaping requirements, but is also key to building confidence and trust between people in each organization as well as in the developed and delivered solutions. In these cases, significant value is clearly achievable for all parties.
Across scientific business ecosystems, organizations seek partners for a give-and-take to gain a competitive advantage through access to some distinctly useful IP, product, technology, service, or (co-)marketing/sales arrangement. From mergers & acquisitions to informal alliances, partnerships of more or less legal responsibility and liability may be established. These may involve reciprocal exchanges, as co-operative or joint ventures, and/or including financial compensations of some kind. Two organizations which provide services, products, or technologies that are symbiotic or complementary are obvious prospects for partnering together for mutual benefit. ACD/Labs has some excellent relationships of these kinds, being either a recipient or as a provider of a specific software component, such as one that renders chemical structures or provides predicted properties for them. ACD/Labs software can search for and return information from a variety of third-party content databases because of solid relationships with many providers including, for example, Coblenz Society, Elsevier, FDM, PubChem, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), S.T. Japan, and Wiley.
I would differentiate between a partner and a ‘supplier’, in that the latter typically provide information, a product or a technology as a commodity via a simple financial transaction. Obviously, for instance, ACD/Labs software is developed and tested on computers and virtual machines sourced from commercial suppliers. Of course, one may have valued or preferred suppliers because they have demonstrated reliability and perhaps convenience but the relationship is primarily transactional rather than offering a significant mutual advantage. Any consideration of types of possible partners wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging two more. Competitors may disclose and advertise a feature of their products that incite us to form new ideas or which cause clients to encourage us toward alternate tactical directions. Also, the public can be a source of strategic concepts, of information, and of certain useful products or technologies.
Although the basis of a successful partnership in our arena is usually some particular technology or product, or the information on which those rely, that inevitably isn’t enough. It is essential to nurture, maintain, enhance, and in some situations dissolve a partnership. It is important to periodically assess co-alignment and to ensure that the stakeholders from all parties are meeting their obligations and receiving their anticipated benefits. The keys to that are effective and constructive communication. That is easy enough to say, but the modern world encompasses people of diverse backgrounds from distinct personal and organizational cultures, often from very different locations and time zones. It is safe to say that an ever-present challenge is achieving a common understanding.
Fortunately, the incredible pace of technological advancement has led to a common awareness of the growing value of data and the information and knowledge that can be derived therefrom. This increasing “Focus on Data” is certainly making it easier for us at ACD/Labs to engage in initial dialog and build relationships aimed at producing and providing more innovative analytical data and knowledge management software solutions. One of the primary aspects of this is simply being able to handle a variety of analytical data types from different sources. Sustained by strong customer enthusiasm over decades, excellent relationships have been cultivated and maintained through mutual effort between ACD/Labs and many vendors of analytical equipment. Those enable ACD/Labs software to handle analytical data of over 130 different generic and proprietary formats. See our ever-expanding list of supported formats here
Further partnerships help with handling of chemical structures provided from molecule editors via many formats, including the by now ubiquitous *.mol and *.sdf file types. Worth noting in this context is that partnership between ACD/Labs, ChemAxon™, and a mutual client provide the possibility for certain enhancements with respect to reaction handling in ACD/Labs innovative software for automated planning, execution, and analysis of high throughput experiments: Katalyst D2D
I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to all of ACD/Labs Partners. I will continue to strive to live up to the words I’ve written in working with you and to invite potential partners to contact us and begin sharing your ideas so we can create extraordinary “To-Be” states together.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of our friend and colleague, David Adams, who was a truly an inspirational man of relationships. I am grateful for Sanji Bhal’s thoughtful inspirations for a title, which I aptly based on John Donne’s Meditation XVII.