which alliance partnerFinding a partner might be easy, but finding the right alliance partner can be a daunting task. Last week I facilitated an alliance workshop where we discussed this topic extensively.

Questions like: “What to do when the partner is already there?” and “What to do when there is only one partner available?” were among the questions we discussed. Fair questions, because in creating alliances we are not always able to start with a blank slate.

Partner selection is a crucial element for later success in an alliance. In her report “Partner selection: A source of alliance success”, Danielle Twardy concludes that “Partner selection is one of the most critical alliance capabilities for the establishment of successful alliances. The right choice of partner is a precondition for alliance success.”

Even though there is sufficient evidence that partner selection or partner analysis is essential, unfortunately it is often an overlooked element. Companies start a partnership purely based on the fact that two executives like each other or on the fact that this particular partner has access to that one missing element. Then they dive in without further ado and the alliance is often destined to fail.

My advice is simple: always perform a proper partner analysis!

The purpose of the partner analysis process is to understand where there is a fit and also where your partner might be different from your company. This will help you to identify the areas that need extra attention during the operational management phase of your alliance.

In general a proper alliance partner analysis is performed on three main areas. You will assess on Strategic Fit: “do our strategies align?”, on Operational Fit: “do our operations align?” and on Relationship fit: “can we get along?” or in other words “do our cultures align?”.

Some companies add additional elements to the assessment like Brand fit or Compliancy fit. Although Brand fit can be seen as an element of Strategic fit and Compliancy fit as an element of Operational fit, for some companies these elements are such essential elements that they assess it separately.

There is more to it than just the assessment, in fact partner selection already starts in the very early stage of strategic rationale and it is a continuous process. The moment you start thinking about an opportunity, you will need to assess what you need from a partner to fulfill the opportunity. All these steps will need to be refined until the contract is signed.

Finding the right alliance partner can be a daunting task, but it does not have to be. There are some common best practices that can be applied to partner selection. The 4-step guide to successful partner selection is a guide about partner selection that I wrote in 2013. Equipped with tools and templates, the guide will lead you through a structured, yet pragmatic approach to partner selection.

The partner selection guide is available for your Kindle from amazon.com or in PDF from my website.

Some additional reading:


ketensennetwerkenPS: October 6 I will be lecturing in the lecture series “Succesvol samenwerken in allianties en netwerken” at the Nyenrode Business University. Read more about the full program here (in Dutch).