You just had a conversation with your boss and HR and they have assigned you with the task of alliance management. You always knew it was something special to be in alliances and so you proudly accepted.

Now, on the brink of a new adventure, a lot of questions cross your mind. What does alliance management really entail? Perhaps the most urgent question that bothers you is: Where to start?

Become knowledgeable!

The first step is to determine what you need to do to increase your knowledge about alliance management. Do you know enough, or do you need to educate yourself? If there is an alliance training course available, then I would suggest to follow one. It will allow you to immerse yourself into the full alliance life cycle in one day. You will learn about the theory, exchange thoughts and experiences with your classmates and practice on exercises that will force you to think outside of the box. Also reading some essential books on alliances will be very helpful. The “alliance readinglist” on my website will provide some links to great books on alliances.

Assess the alliance

It might be an existing alliance and existing partner, but it is a new partner for you. To create an unbiased view, it will be good to perform a partner analysis. The purpose of the analysis is to understand the partner’s company and in what way they are different from your company. It will provide you with many elements where you will need to focus during the actual alliance management phase.

Additionally it is important to assess the alliance and its performance. Know who the stakeholders are in the alliance, create a peer to peer map and a plan to involve the stakeholders. Work with your alliance counterpart to (re)create the needs- and contribution matrix. This will help you to understand the expectations from both partners. Assess the performance of the alliance. See what reporting or dashboards are available and assess whether the alliance is on track. Additionally, consider to perform an alliance health check.

Create an alliance improvement plan

By now you should have a pretty clear picture about your tasks and the state of the alliance you’ve taken over. Now it is time to craft an alliance improvement plan. There is always room for improvement, thus every alliance has room for improvement. Look at the outcomes of the assessments and craft an action plan. Do this together with your counterpart of the partner organization. After all, the alliance is a joint effort. The plan as such should be jointly owned as well.

Don’t go it alone

Two people see more than one. It is a simple fact. It is good to work with a sparring partner. You can look for a peer who can be your sounding board, or for a mentor in your organization who has been there and can guide you through the rough waters of alliance management. Also, an outside alliance coach can be a great way to work with an independent and unbiased sparring partner. With the right sparring partner you will be able to get up to speed faster and better. In the end, this will lead not only to more fun for you, but it will also lead to better results in the alliance and for your company.