Companies that follow a structured process in the creation and management of their alliances have a higher chance of success than companies who jump in ad-hoc. You knew this already and you followed a process. Based on your strategy, you decided that establishing a partnership was the right choice to pursue the business opportunity you were facing. You made your assessment of the potential partners and you started conversations and negotiations with one of them.

Your two companies are pretty well aligned and the whole alliance design process and negotiation took place in a pleasant atmosphere. It feels like you have already been working together for a long time. The event has been scheduled where both your CEO’s will formally sign the contract. All good, the alliance is a smooth go from now on!

Think again!

Just signing a contract is not enough for a proper alliance launch. It happens often that organizations put too much emphasis on the signing and creation of a deal that they forget to plan a proper launch. The alliance launch is a phase in the alliance process, not just an event. As Tjemkes c.s. write in their book*, the alliance launch phase is about “a smooth transition from the alliance formation stage – including partner selection, negotiation and design – to the alliance management stage”.

This means that more work needs to be done than just the signing of a contract. It is a phase in which an alliance needs to transition and the actual work of the collaboration needs to start. Thus far we’ve been designing the alliance, now we need to start working together. Many companies have their own alliance launch processes or checklists, like a first 100 days checklist. These checklists and processes describe what actions need to be taken together to give the alliance a successful start.

Tjemkes c.s. describe in the aforementioned book* that a successful alliance launch depends on the interplay of five alliance launch attributes:

  • Assemble a launch team that is responsible for articulating and implementing the alliance launch strategy,
  • Articulate the launch strategy that entails a detailed and interrelated set of plans, activities and (short-term) milestones,
  • Create launch speed for rapid development of collaborative processes and outcomes,
  • Organize communication to stakeholders in a timely manner to involve them and gain their commitment,
  • Align measurement of short term milestones and metrics that will provide the right focus and maintain commitment.

The alliance launch phase is a crucial phase for the success of an alliance. Some people will want to dive right in and do not want to do such a thorough preparation. If such people happen to be in your organization, then start with explaining them why this is an essential stage that can not be done on the fly. It is as the saying goes “well begun is half done” and that applies to many stages in the alliance process: a proper design and a solid alliance launch are cornerstones for a “well begun” alliance.

Further reading:

* “Strategic Alliance Management” by Brian Tjemkes, Pepijn Vos and Koen Burgers has been released this fall in its second edition. Loaded with real cases, the book combines the theory and practice of alliance management excellently.