Alliance management is an often misunderstood profession. Over time I have met many people who don’t understand the alliance manager or don’t even see it as a separate profession. That also shows on my website, where over the past 9 years the search term “alliance manager” is by far the most searched keyword.
So, what is an alliance manager?
I would almost start answering that question with “it depends.” Many answers to questions in alliance management start with these two words. That is because every alliance is different because the partners will be different and the purpose will be different.
However, the role of an alliance manager is similar in all alliances. I often explain it by comparing what the alliance manager is to an alliance, with what a conductor is to an orchestra. The role of a conductor is to unify the performers and to ensure the orchestra plays in tune. Similarly, an alliance manager will need to unify the alliance partners and their team members and will need to ensure that these performers play in tune.
Diplomat and lobbyist
The alliance manager might need to be more of a diplomat than a conductor needs to be. The alliance manager, in general, has no hierarchical connections with the performers in an alliance. To get things done, the alliance manager needs to gain buy-in from colleagues and alliance partners by persuasion and by winning them for the greater purpose of the alliance. Diplomacy and lobbying will be useful skills for an alliance manager.
A conductor will need to be a critical listener to understand the performance of the orchestra. The alliance manager will also need to “listen” to the performance of the alliance teams. With listening comes understanding. From that perspective, the alliance manager needs to be an analyst, analyzing the information that comes to him or her from the alliance stakeholders.
Where a conductor sets the tempo for the orchestra and orchestrates the execution of the music, the alliance manager needs to orchestrate the execution of the strategy of the alliance. It is, however, not just about executing the strategy, it is also about suggesting adjustments to the strategy when the alliance developments require so.
To understand what is going on in the performance of the orchestra, a conductor needs to have excellent musical skills. Similarly, to understand what is going on in the alliance, the alliance manager needs to have the skills of a business manager. Financial insight, business insight, and depending of the type of the alliance also sales insight and negotiation skills. The alliance manager might even need to be a more all-round business manager than a business general manager is.
Being in alliance management is one of the most rewarding roles to have. At least, that is my (tiny bit biased…) opinion. The skills mentioned are just a few of the skills an alliance manager needs to master. During an Alliance Masterclass, we will discuss many more of the upsides, characteristics, and skills of alliance managers. Also, we will provide many practical tools to make the life of an alliance manager even more successful and pleasurable.