Collaborative process competence as an enabler of supply chain collaboration in competitive environments and the impact on customer account management

Author:Peter M. Ralston, Scott B. Keller, Scott J. Grawe
Publication Date:12 Oct 2020
Collaborative process competence
as an enabler of supply chain
collaboration in competitive
environments and the impact on
customer account management
Peter M. Ralston
Supply Chain Management Department, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA
Scott B. Keller
Marketing, Supply Chain Logistics, and Economics, University of West Florida,
Pensacola, Florida, USA, and
Scott J. Grawe
Supply Chain Management Department, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA
Purpose The purpose of the current research seeks to understand what role supply chain (SC) collaboration
plays in effectively managing customers of a firm. The research also investigates what role industry
competitive intensity plays on SC collaboration formation.
Design/methodology/approach The current research utilizes empirical survey data from professionals
whose companies collaborate within a SC. Structural equations modeling is employed to assess the relationship
of collaborative process competence on SC collaboration as well as the moderating impact of industry
competitive intensity. A further boundary condition is examined with the partner interdependence SC
collaboration relationship. Additionally the SC collaboration account management relationship is also
Findings The paper provides empirical insights on how SC collaboration contributes to focal firm customer
account management. Additionally, results suggest that collaborative process competence and its relationship
with SC collaboration works differently in the presence of partner interdependence and the moderator of
industry competitive intensity.
Research limitations/implications While the findings help to promote the generalizability of the new
research, future research could seek to understand how firms could develop specific account management
value propositions through SC collaboration in specific contexts.
Originality/value The main contributions of the work include empiricalanalysis of a proposed theoretical
model, a better understanding of the role collaborative process competence plays on SC collaboration formation
and the discussion of customer account management as an outcome of SC collaboration.
Keywords Supply chain collaboration, Collaborative process competence, Account management
Paper type Research paper
Challenges stemming from ever-evolving markets make the concept of supply chain (SC)
collaboration as important today as when it was first discussed in the literature 20 years ago
(Bowersox et al., 2003;Dyer and Singh, 1998;Mentzer et al., 2000a,b). For years, firms have
collaborated to achieve successful outsourcing and offshoring initiatives. Today, firms also
collaborate to gain the advantages associated with reshoring opportunities (Tate, 2014).
While SC collaborations have been shown to increase efficiency and effectiveness,
collaborations also are undertaken to achieve innovation and to strengthen risk mitigation
strategies (Ho and Lu, 2015;Yang et al., 2018). Regardless of the overarching business
impetus, SC collaboration attempts to leverage the strengths of partners to achieve
SC collaboration
and customer
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 7 November 2019
Revised 4 April 2020
30 June 2020
Accepted 16 September 2020
The International Journal of
Logistics Management
Vol. 31 No. 4, 2020
pp. 905-929
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/IJLM-11-2019-0310
synergistic benefits, improve operational performance and enhance competitiveness
(Daugherty, 2011).
SC collaboration is defined as long-term relationships where participants generally
cooperate, share information, and work together to plan and even modify their business
practices to improve joint performance(Whipple et al., 2010). Fawcett et al. (2008) explain
that the foundation of SC collaboration includes a relationship commitment beyond that
found in a fundamental discrete market transaction. Collaboration requires the commitment
of partners to share resources, risks and rewards, with the ultimate goal to create differential
advantages that generate competitive value for firms and product/service value for
consumers (Davis-Sramek et al., 2019;Esper et al., 2010).
Effective customer account management may be a specific collaborative benefit
achievable by some firms. Ramaswami et al. (2008) define customer account management
as an approach that uses customer insights and analysis to identify and understand
value generators to fulfill customer needs as completely as possible(p. 99). Christopher
(2016) suggests that customer loyalty and preference to a firm may be engendered
through that firms effective use of SC management. In this manner, and after
understanding customersneeds and wants, firms may collaborate with SC partners to
deliver enhanced value to their customers. This differentiated offering assisted by SC
collaboration may create a competitive advantage and sustained, successful customer
For some firms, deriving benefits from SC collaboration may be difficult (Fawcett et al.,
2012). Collaborations can be complex, ambiguous, and risky, causing frustration for firms
within the SC (Ralston et al., 2017). Collaborations may become tenuous when a firm thinks
collaboration is the only answer to a given issue (Ralston et al., 2017;Whipple et al., 2010).
Without a well-defined reason to collaborate or a process in place to manage collaborations,
partners may have misaligned collaborative goals, a hesitancy to share information, an
inability to properly communicate between organizations or performance metrics that
measure competing interests (Adams et al., 2014;Barratt, 2004;Fawcett et al., 2012). While
each potential conflict may appear obvious and avoidable, researchers consistently indicate
that SC collaboration failures exist. Firms need guidance to fully understand how to initiate
successful SC collaborations that will lead to desired results.
One potential method for firms to enhance SC collaboration, and consequently
performance, is to actively develop the internal processes needed to generate successful
collaborations. In other words, firms should develop a collaborative process competence.
Zacharia et al. (2011) note that a collaborative process competence encompasses the
intraorganizational skills needed to manage SC collaboration initiatives. SC collaboration
is not a standardized solution to all business problems, but collaborative process
competence establishes the foundation to enable successful SC collaborations (Whipple
et al.,2015). Collaborative process competence will lead to stronger SC collaboration
because managers have a deliberate and distinct understanding of what their
organization desires from a collaboration, what types of partners have taken part in
previously successful collaborations and what key success factors have been associated
with initiating collaborations. For managers, this means to develop processes to capture
and utilize this information, for example, to identify and resolve conflicts between
partners so that a collaboration may be strengthened as it matures. If a firm wants to
better serve and manage customer accounts through SC collaboration, then having a
collaborative process competence will be an important precursor to SC collaboration
Other factors may influence the connection between a collaborative process competence
and the resulting success of SC collaboration. Scholars encourage further evaluation of
potential boundary spanning factors and conditions (Goldsby et al., 2013). Our research

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