Tip 14: Create an internal strategic alliance definition

All too often we assume that my understanding of a term is also your understanding of that term.

Unfortunately the world is not that simple.

We need to make sure that we are properly understood, or we need to make sure that we are both connecting the same meaning to a term.

For example, do you feel a “joint venture” is a joint company with a separate legal entity that you and your partner established together and that you both have equity in?

Or do you feel it is a temporary short term partnership with another company that is product or project focussed?

These are two completely different ways to look at the term and they are both used. They are two meanings of partnering which are both within the collaborative business spectrum, but each on a different point and with different complications.

The same applies to the in-company use of terms.

I have seen many organizations where one department had a different understanding of what a strategic alliance is than another department. Both meanings still can fit nicely within the collaborative business or alliance spectrum, but having a different understanding can create undesired complications.

In one situation, a business unit of a client was working to establish a marketing alliance with a reseller. This unit was seeking support from the central strategic alliance department.

This central department was established to support business units that wanted to create strategic alliances. In their opinion a strategic alliance is a partnership where a new product is being created together with a partner.

Even though the same strategic alliance principles can be applied to a marketing alliance, the expectations were not set properly as a definition, and with that the scope of their support was not made clear inside their own organization. It led to a lot of confusion and irritation, that could have been prevented by having a clear internal definition.

Don’t make assumptions, but ensure you have one common understanding in your organization of what a partnership or strategic alliance is. Creating your own internal alliance definition helps to align people and departments while going forward.

Here is the definition I most often use for a strategic alliance:

A strategic alliance is a strategic cooperation between two or more organizations, with the aim to achieve a result one of the parties cannot achieve alone.

What definition do you use for your partnerships and alliances? 


This article is part of a series of articles extending upon the 25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances article.  These 25 tips have been rewritten and published in the eBook “25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances” that can be downloaded for free.


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