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Turning Snipers, Hostages, and Cheerleaders into Alliance Champions

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/11/2013

Stepping in for Tom Halle, senior director of global alliances at Savvis, who was unfortunately down with the flu, Norma Watenpaugh, founding principal of Phoenix Consulting Group, began her talk at last week’s 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit by noting that according to her research, stakeholder alignment takes up a significant chunk of alliance managers’ time—anywhere from 50 to 70 percent, in fact. (Some in the audience jokingly ratcheted that number upward, to 150 percent or more.)

In this presentation, entitled "The Hardest Job: Managing Internal Alignment with the 'Apostle Loyalty' Model," Watenpaugh noted that the challenges associated with alignment include the fact that stakeholders can reside at all levels of buy-in (more on that later); they may be scattered across the enterprise; and they may have very different motivations and incentives. Given these conditions, she asked, "How can we get a grasp on the challenge in a way that gives insight into the solution?"

Enter the “Apostle Loyalty” model. This model looks at stakeholders based on their commitment and accountability to the alliance. Watenpaugh broke this down a little more simply: “Commitment means hearts and minds; accountability means necks and butts.”

The Apostle Loyalty model divides stakeholders into four categories or quadrants: Champions, Cheerleaders, Hostages, and Snipers. Champions are very evangelistic about the alliance; they believe in what they’re doing and can influence the organization accordingly. Naturally, alliance managers should be in that quadrant and, in the ideal world, everyone would be.

But of course, the real world often falls far short of ideal. The next category, Cheerleaders, is made up of “great supporters” who “don’t have skin in the game,” said Watenpaugh. They can be fickle if things start going south in an alliance, and they may bail on it when the going gets rough by saying, “I don’t want to be associated with this one!”

Hostages—or “oxygen thieves,” as one audience member labeled them—do the bare minimum to support the alliance and nothing more; “you’re not going to get much more out of them,” Watenpaugh acknowledged.

The final category, Snipers, are not supporters of the alliance at all; far from it. “They can be dangerous—they can really undermine you,” said Watenpaugh.

So how to get Cheerleaders, Hostages, and Snipers into the Champion category? Is it possible? Not 100 percent of the time, of course, but it can be done, Watenpaugh said. She used the example of a successful alliance between Savvis and SAP, which have partnered to provide SAP’s Hana memory-based database on a hosted model. SAP has the product, while Savvis excels in hosting and network capabilities and is a leader in the cloud, with a rich network of OEMs, VARs, and systems integrators.

To drive this alliance forward and ensure maximum alignment, stakeholders were identified, listed, and scored according to their commitment, accountability, and influence, and by role (i.e., sales, marketing, etc.). Important questions to ask include: Who do the influencers influence? What do they care about? What are they accountable for? How are their contributions measured and rewarded? What do they want out of the alliance?

The next step for SAP and Savvis involved leveraging the influence of a senior executive champion, developing a draft alliance marketing plan, and investing substantially in the alliance. This executive assigned sales quotas, gave salespeople new leads, and “made them money” while publicizing early wins, according to Watenpaugh. With the ever-difficult Snipers, a “bandwagon strategy” was employed—building on visible wins and continually inviting them in. But Watenpaugh cautioned: “Sometimes you can move [Snipers] over, sometimes you can’t; sometimes the only recourse is to move them out.”

As for the other categories, the strategy for Champions was to “keep them in the game, use their enthusiasm to influence others, engage them to break down barriers, and give them the data they needed to demonstrate value,” Watenpaugh explained. Cheerleaders were kept aligned by conferring more ownership of the alliance on them, getting them more involved by, for example, having them present in key meetings and other forums. For Hostages, the emphasis was on helping them understand the big picture, recognizing their contributions, and showing them how the alliance’s success was actually their success.

This strategy for alignment was directly responsible for the success of the alliance and the Hana product, said Watenpaugh. In fact Hana was recognized as revolutionizing the cloud platform market segment by Bloomberg, Reuters, CNBC, and other media outlets. It was good for both companies, and as an added benefit, it boosted their global alliances people so they got “a seat at the grown-up table.”

Finally, the success of this alliance and its stakeholder alignment strategy led to some “Aha! moments” noted by Watenpaugh, including these: Gaps in what you know about stakeholders are insights in and of themselves; sometimes just having the conversation about alignment can drive alignment; success breeds success—everyone wants to be aligned with a winning project (this is the bandwagon effect); and even when you think people are not listening or are not receptive, they actually are—“no” may mean “I heard you,” while “maybe” just could mean “help me say yes.”

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