PartnershipsHow can you ensure you and your organisation reap the most from a strategic alliance? Frank Tracey discusses what you must do and the questions you must ask if you are to build a best-fit strategic partnership

The selection of appropriate partners is a core element in building successful strategic alliances. Any collaboration begins with analysing potential partners; this includes both self-assessment and assessment of the potential partner.

If you consider a collaboration continuum, a strategic partnership lies somewhere between a ‘transactional agreement’ and a ‘joint venture’. One of the most important aspects of developing one is to firstly agree on why you want or need it in the first instance i.e. what is its purpose. Once this has been determined there are four phases in the development and management of the partnership…

  • Capability assessment: Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation in relation to the attributes required to achieve your desired outcome through a strategic alliance
  • Due diligence: Partnership assessment i.e. analysis of best fit partner(s), his/her or their strengths and attributes that complement yours and will help deliver the desired outcome
  • Partnership formation: Engaging with a potential partner to agree on the technical terms and conditions of the alliance
  • Partnership management: Screening and assessment of the partnership (partner’s performance, potential and viability for the longer term)

The literature suggests that the critical determinant of how successful a strategic alliance will be is the degree of alignment between the partnering organisations.

The following fifteen questions can help organisations consider the degree of alignment between their organisation and a potential alliance/strategic partner.

  1. What do you want to achieve through a partnership? What results/outcomes do you want this partnership to produce?
  2. Why do you want to engage with this particular partner and why do they want to engage with you?
  3. Does your potential partner share your vision?
  4. How will this partnership help achieve the agreed vision?
  5. What do you need from this partner and what is it they can and are willing to bring to the partnership?
  6. Are your potential partner’s capabilities/strengths complimentary to yours?
  7. Are you both aligned in your values base and organisational culture?
  8. Are there areas where you are competing with your potential partner?
  9. Are there any existing or potential conflicts of interest with the potential partner?
  10. Do you share a similar approach to relationship and conflict management (internal and external)?
  11. What commitments would you expect your potential partner to make and what can you commit to?
  12. What are the non-negotiables in the partnership arrangement?
  13. What are the agreed mechanisms for communication and sharing of intelligence/knowledge?
  14. What level of risk is the partner willing to carry and does this align with your needs and expectations?
  15. What is the potential partner’s track record in successfully implementing strategic partnerships?