How do you select a partner when establishing alliances?
In the ideal alliance creation scenario, you will only establish an alliance with your ideal partner. Your partner will have the right skills or product, intellectual property or market access.
You will definitely look at partner fit, to ensure that the organizational culture of your organization is compatible with that of your partner and to ensure that your prospective partner is not already teaming up with your competitor. Won’t you?
Partner fit can be quite important; when the wrong partner is selected, it might be a cause of future failure for the alliance. A typical example is the teaming up between a large corporate and a small company where the founders are still in charge. The companies will have a different organizational culture and possibly differ in view on employee turnover, decision-making, budget control and criteria for success.
In the classical approach to alliance partner selection one would select the ideal partner and a difference in culture might be a reason to disqualify a partner. The fact that a partner is teaming up with your competitor or has a competing product in their portfolio can also disqualify the partner.
We’ll make it fit
An alliance executive from a pharma company once said to me “We’ll make it fit”. His background for this remark was that he often couldn’t afford to disqualify a partner. Sometimes a partner has that unique element that you need and you will simply need to make it work. In his case the partner fit was not examined; the partner only needed to have the right molecule and then the parties would make it fit.
In the past companies may have been in situations where they could afford to team up with the perfect partner. Today there are probably only a few that could still afford this luxury. As the pharma example illustrates, your prospective partner may be the one with that missing element and you will need to make it fit.
The partner fit element of the whole alliance partner selection process will still have a function though. Even though your partner is the only choice, a solid alliance partner selection process will help you identify the differences and will allow you to manage the differences “to make it fit”.
It is a pragmatical yet structured guide that will help to create the foundation for a successful partnership and will identify the points of attention to make it work.