Last week I was asked a question about where would be the best location for an alliance & partnerships team in an organisation for reporting purposes. Like with many things in alliances & partnerships there isn’t one single answer that fits all organisations!

If you read my previous column about the differences between alliances and partnerships, you will understand that there are many different types of alliances and partnerships. The best location in any organisation for the alliances and partnerships’ function depends on the type of alliance or partnership and also on the organisational structure of the company. 

It’s incredibly hard to give a “right” answer as there’s so much involved, so asking me could result in a rather lengthy answer that could well cover the length of a whole book, it’s just so diverse! To simplify an answer, for the sake of this column I would need to distinguish between three situations:

R&D Partnerships

In R&D partnerships I see the alliances & partnerships function mostly reporting into the corporate development department. This is what we most often see in pharma and biotech alliances. Corporate development develops the alliance agreement and the alliances function is responsible for managing the alliance during its existence. 

A common challenge with this situation is the handover moment. If done correctly, alliance management gets involved early on in the process to ensure a proper handover, trust building and alliance relationship management.  

Commercial Partnerships

In commercial partnerships the function often resides with sales or marketing. Think for instance, about channel relationships in ICT. As these types of partnerships have more of a commercial sales creation focus, it makes sense to include their reporting line through a commercial department. 

In these types of situations, we often see a mixture of direct sales teams working with alliance partners. In some cases this might lead to channel conflicts and in other cases to challenges in measuring the real contribution of each of the teams. 

Diverse Partnerships

In companies that have a blend of several types of partnerships, the function frequently resides on a central level under the strategy department. In these cases the alliances & partnerships function often acts more as a centre of excellence that supports the business units in their alliance endeavours. Operational alliance management and reporting then takes place within the business unit. 

The challenge here is often a reluctance of independent business units to reach out and involve the central team. These business units want to stay independent and feel it is a sign of weakness to involve “corporate”. It would be a mistake not to tap into the experience and knowledge available.  

Handling the challenges

In all three situations above, the answer to the challenges mentioned lies in a true collaborative mindset and professional orchestration. 

How about you, where does your alliance & partnerships team reside and what challenges does that bring you?