During a recent conversation, I was asked what Alliance Management is. A seemingly simple question that goes back to the essence of our profession on which many books have already been written. We had a great conversation about it! Later on, looking at my own website I learned, to my surprise, that in the 13 years of writing this column I have written about many aspects of Alliance Management, but never about the basic question of, “What is Alliance Management?” 

In essence, Alliance Management refers to the practice of effectively managing strategic alliances between two or more organisations. It involves developing, maintaining and enhancing relationships with alliance partners to achieve mutual goals and maximise the value derived from the collaboration.

Alliances come with their own set of challenges, such as aligning different organisational cultures, managing conflicting priorities and ensuring effective communication. Alliance Management encompasses a range of activities and processes aimed at addressing these challenges and ensuring the success of the partnership. These activities follow a structured process based on the alliance lifecycle and typically include elements such as:

  1. Strategy Development Defining the purpose, objectives and scope of the alliance, and aligning it with the overall business strategies of the participating organisations.
  1. Partner Assessment Identifying potential alliance partners and evaluating their compatibility, capabilities and understanding where they differ from your company. It is especially those differences that you’ll need to bridge during the lifecycle of the partnership.
  1. Negotiation and Agreement Collaborating with the partner organisations to negotiate and establish the terms, conditions and legal agreements governing the alliance.
  1. Relationship Building Developing strong relationships with key stakeholders within the partner organisations through regular communication, trust-building activities and fostering a collaborative culture.
  1. Governance Establishing clear governance structures, decision-making processes and mechanisms for resolving conflicts or disputes that may arise during the alliance.
  1. Performance Management Setting performance metrics, monitoring progress, conducting alliance health checks and evaluating the alliance’s success against predefined goals and benchmarks.

This list of activities is far from complete. Additionally successful Alliance Management requires effective leadership, strong communication skills, a collaborative mindset and the ability to navigate complex dynamics within and between organisations. 

So, you can see that the Alliance Management profession spans a broad spectrum across organisational functions. As such, Alliance Management needs an orchestrator to guide an alliance to success. The person in that essential role is the Alliance Manager. I like to explain the role of an Alliance Manager by comparing it to being a conductor in an orchestra. The role of the conductor is to unify the performers and to ensure that the orchestra plays in tune. The conductor does not have to be a specialist in all instruments, but needs to sufficiently understand  music to lead the orchestra into a cohesive performance. Similarly, an Alliance Manager doesn’t have to be a product specialist, but needs to understand enough about their own business’ specialties to unify the alliance partners and their team members to alliance success.

What would you add to this description of Alliance Management?