In our third fireside chat I talk with Anoop Nathwani about alliance governance. We discuss what it is and why it is necessary.  Also Anoop highlights an example of alliance governance in the Nokia – Google alliance that he has been involved in from a Nokia perspective.


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Alliance Governance – Video transcript:


Hello, everyone, we’re back. We are Anoop Nathwani and Peter Simoons. 

Peter:   We just experienced some challenges with recording this episode of our fireside chat as technology left us a little bit. So what happened?

Anoop:  Oh, well, I didn’t touch. I had a ghost on my side that didn’t touch my laptop and it just decided to switch off.

Peter:   So let’s hope that we can continue this recording for the next five, six minutes without anything happening.

Anoop:  Exactly. And I think what I will do is I will try and practice Indian greeting etc. and keep my hands together and say namaste or whatever.

Peter:   We shouldn’t shake hands anyway.

Anoop:  We shouldn’t do it, we shouldn’t do it anyway. Yes, exactly.

Peter:   Exactly. So what are we going to talk about today?

Anoop:  So we’re gonna talk about governance and the importance of governance and why do we have governance? What should it look like? What does good look like etc. So Peter, what’s the reason for governance within within any kind of Alliance or partnership, whether it be a strategic alliance or partnership,

Peter:   Governance is basically the system to manage the alliance and to steer the alliance in the right direction and to keep it going into the right direction. And normally, we already have the Alliance manager and I think we spoke in our previous conversations already a bit about the Alliance manager  Well, we, we spoke amongst others about communications, and we assumed that everybody knows what an alliance manager is. So let’s, let’s spend a few seconds there. how I view an alliance manager and Alliance manager is like the conductor of an orchestra. So he makes sure that the whole team within an organization plays in tune towards the other organization where they where you have the partnership with. So from that perspective, the Alliance manager is the orchestrator he is the conductor. The Alliance manager is only one element, one person, one critical person where there’s only one person in the whole governance structure. because ideally, we have a three layer governance structure where you see executive sponsorship, a steering committee, and the operating teams that are actually performing the work. Now why a tree lay or structure it might for some companies, or some people feel that it’s a bit of overhead adding to an alliance.

It’s important because when we talk about strategic alliances we often talk about large corporations that are working together. And everybody knows that somehow within large corporations, people move on every two, three year to a new job. Now, with the three layer structure it helps to provide continuity because it rarely happens that at the same layers, people move on within the same time. I only have seen this once with a client. I think about six years ago when I spoke to the Alliance manager and he said, I’m leaving within two weeks. I said, Okay, so who’s your successor? He said, I don’t know. That’s mistake one. Correct. And I said, So how’s the remainder of the conference structure? And he said, Well, my executive sponsor is leaving in four weeks. That’s mistake two. So there you see the two levels are leaving at the same time. I must admit, after that conversation, I left the client and went home. I never heard of that Alliance again. So it probably faded away.

That’s the importance of the three layer structure to create, maintain continuity, and we see at least an executive sponsor because we need sponsorship. Without an executive sponsor, in my view, an alliance can never be strategic. The Alliance manager is the conductor, the orchestrator who’s keeping the musicians together, and we see the operating teams where the actual work is being done for the purpose of the Alliance. So there are the sales teams, there are development teams, there are the other teams involved in playing the music of the Alliance.

Anoop:  The execution of it, and I think, Peter, just to add to what you said as well, the governance provides the checks and balances, doesn’t it in in the whole Alliance piece, it’s a it’s a communication piece, it’s a checks and balances, you look at the risks and the other sides of it, etc. And I think also, in addition to the Alliance manager that the Alliance manager is, is the conductor of the orchestra, but also the key sponsor for the Alliance they’re working with. They’re the advocates of the Alliance within their own organization. Yeah. And they really need to work together from that perspective. So the importance of that is important.

Peter:   Yeah. And you and I, we’ve both been in that Alliance management role. Yes, we have seen And I remember sometimes being accused by my colleagues, because I was defending our partner within our own organization, and it was accused by them for who’s paying your salary. Correct? Yes. And that’s the role of an alliance manager, sometimes you feel like you’re more a part of the partner than your own company, but you need to make sure that everything is in balance. Correct. So you recognize that as well.

Anoop:  Absolutely. Peter, and I think, you know, if I think about one of the alliances that I managed, I’ll speak about the Alliance when I was at Nokia. So I managed the global alliances with Google, for instance, right. Initially, when I was managing that Alliance, there was no executive sponsor, so it was not strategic. They wanted it to be strategic from a Nokia perspective, but it wasn’t strategic because there was no executive sponsor. from Google, there was no executive sponsor from Nokia, etc. So I as you can imagine, I came into that it was a complete disarray. terms of everyone wanting to do their own thing without alliances, no governance around it.

One of the key things I had to do initially was to develop a very consistent unified strategy and and have a vision and Northstar for that Alliance. And as you can imagine, I’d walk into a room with our stakeholders, etc. and, and and I’d have, you know, 30 40 daggers trying to try to, you know, poke me in the back because they’re saying, What the hell are you doing? We want to do this bizarre business. What are you doing here? My job was to bring everyone in line. So we had a very consistent, unified approach. Now the important thing is I actually got an executive sponsor with me. So this executive sponsor said, he was a member of the executive committee and reported to the CEO of Nokia, globally, right. So I got that person on board. I articulated the division and Northstar that I had for the alliance with Google, he supported that. And therefore, within the meetings that I had the stakeholders, he would help me drive that message home. And he basically said, this is what we’re going to do, people either get with it or get out, if that makes sense. So he was, he was very, very strong from that perspective. And when I didn’t have to sell that new vision into Google, and I made sure that it leveraged capabilities and competencies of just not just Nokia, but leverage the Google capabilities and competencies and made it made of value for them as well. Right. When they got that we tweaked it a bit. We actually got an executive sponsor from Google, who also reported into Eric Schmidt at the time, so we had two senior level people, executive sponsors for that. And then we had the as part of the thing I then created, the whole governance piece I had I managed the steering committee and stuff out and I had the people below then from an execution perspective as well.

Peter:   That’s an excellent example. Indeed.

Anoop:  And it worked, Peter, because had we not done that there will never be an alliance between Nokia and Google, right? The fact that that worked once that once I got in and I crystallized it and created the strategy for the executive sponsorship and the governance together, etc. We actually launched it, we launched it, we actually got the solutions out to the market, we created new value out of it. But more than that, more than that, what actually happened is the trust level of between knocking Google went through the roof. Okay. Google would actually approach me and said, I knew we wanted to do X Y Z with you, which they would have never done. The business model that they used for the solution that we created, they would have never have done this. This is the magical moment that executive sponsorship and governance actually brings into play in the Alliance.

Peter:   Well, I think it’s a perfect example and maybe in one of our next conversations, we can dive into some more learnings you have from this Google Nokia cage because I know there is more to tell about you probably losing the viewers in time when we continue to talk about it right now. We’ll save that for next occasion.

Anoop:  Absolutely. There are good things, and there are bad things as well. So I think people need to be mindful of the good and the bad and learn from that as well. And we will help them navigate all of that because they will come across all those things within what they do as well.

Peter:   Absolutely. Because the bad things can be good lessons. Absolutely correct. Yeah. All right. Thank you very much for this conversation Anoop.

Anoop:  thank you, Peter.