What’s in a name?

What is an alliance for you?

Ask that question to a colleague or a partner and there is a good chance that you’ll receive an answer that is different from your own view of what an alliance is.

The past weeks I have been in a few conversations about alliance definitions.

The first conversation was with Erik who said that he did not really like the word “alliance” at all. Erik works a lot with startups and SME sized businesses in the Netherlands. We discussed what an alliance is and how it can be used within his business. However, we also concluded that the word alliance doesn’t really live there, so what would be a better word? Partnership or “samenwerken”, the Dutch word for collaboration, is more commonly used, but does not cover all of the elements.

The second conversation was about the perception a CEO would probably have about alliances. Are they focussed on the long term relationship that will deliver solid, lasting, results, or will alliances deliver immediate results in the coming quarter? I’d argue that the first type of alliance is a strategic alliance, whereas the second type would be more of a reseller model. In each of the cases you need a different type of person managing the alliances.

The third conversation was with a lady who is tasked with building the alliance program for her company. She noticed that it is not only about building the program, but maybe even more about educating the senior management; they don’t have a clue about what alliances really are and can do for their company.

The discussion about what an alliance is, is a returning topic and I’ve written about this topic a few times before. In these kind of conversations I prefer to look at the whole spectrum of business collaborations, rather than just at one single pillar. In the end it doesn’t really matter what word you use, as long as you have a common understanding about the words used.

When people have a different perception about what an alliance is, it can lead to a lot of confusion, not only in your own organization, but also with your partners. Hence it is essential to create clarity about what an alliance is for you, your company and your partner!

Enjoy your week!


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