I was going to write a letter about your The Beat
column "What Is a TMC?"
but my thoughts fit better in a blog. The column tackles the almost metaphysical question of whether bricks and mortar, or financial ownership are necessary to "have a business." It's a huge question in an era where Nissan's and Toyota's may have more US content than Chevy's, and the primary objective of catalog is getting recipients to vendor web sites. Fortunately, The Beat
drilled into some specific questions. [more]
First, is it essential that a partner be wholly (completely) owned? Well it's not essential but it makes some things a lot easier! As long as members of any partnership or consortia (regardless of ownership structure) have the independence--which gives them that valuable local knowledge--then they have some flexibility regarding process. And the more flexibility they have the harder regarding process, the harder it is to have uniformity. If I'm a multinational account looking for consolidated management information, there is no substitute for the absolute control that a 100 percent owner can impose.
The distinction suggested between wholly owned and "fully owned" seems to be another chapter in the marketing bamboozlement created around the creative ownership structures that, in the end, exist because alliances are cheaper, faster and easier than buying space. Kudos to ace reporter Jay Campbell for even seeking a definition of fully owned, but "our agents on the ground...in an Indian center (run by an external vendor)" sounds more like a sublease than a new ownership paradigm.
I haven't heard the term "fully owned" and I found nothing in Google, BusinessWeek.com, Wikipedia, or a couple of online business dictionaries. Maybe its an Anglicism, but it either means wholly, completely, 100 percent, or it doesn't. The bottom line is that a corporate customer either can get response from the vendor they have a contract with, or that vendor needs to depend on a third party for support. Virtual relationships cannot and do not give the same responsiveness as ownership.
Finally, its fun to see the TMC world still wrestling with the term iTMC. Having been around when that term was coined, I understand why both iTMC's and traditional TMCs are uncomfortable with it. Nobody wants to admit that another company or business model offers benefits to customers that they can't. However, as long as the industry recognizes it as shorthand for Egencia, OfB, and TBiz, the term will survive. The only way out, I'm afraid, will be through acquisitions and name changes, and I don't think a fully owned partner will change the perception!