Stevens (1989) was among the first to stress the strategic importance of collaboration in the supply chain. On the other hand, some recent studies point out that supply chain collaboration is no guarantee for success (Van Wassenhove et al, 2003; Vereecke et al, 2004; Holweg et al, 2005) and that there is a need to investigate what makes a collaborative relationship successful. Building on the work of Mohr and Spekman (1994), Monczka (1998) and Solis (2004) and several other researchers (Bowersox (2000), Mentzer (2000), etc), we have identified three key antecedents of supply chain collaboration: collaboration attributes, systems & processes and conflict resolution techniques. To measure these antecedents and the link between the antecedents and the performance improvement of the relationship, we developed a survey to measure the least successful and the most successful strategic supplier-and customer-relationships. Based on a cluster analysis on the operational benefits of collaboration, we identified 4 types of collaborative relationships: stagnant, internally-focused, externally-focused and best-in-class collaborative relationships. We found that the characteristics of the relationships are different according to the type of collaborative relationship. Based on the differences in the antecedents of these clusters, we identified different paths to improve supply chain collaboration and we identified 4 types of capabilities to improve the performance of a relationship: cumulative, internal, external and progressive capabilities. This categorization helps management to highlight which aspects of the relationship require more attention, depending on the kind of benefits one wants to accomplish through the relationship.
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