To maximize the value of an alliance, it’s important to effectively employ and appreciate the full mix of participants—from your sidekick partner to the trainer and sponsor in the background. That was the focus of the session “People, Process, Culture: Building a Winning Alliance Program” at the 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. The discussion was led by three individuals who built highly successful collaborative programs from scratch: Joe Havrilla, senior vice president and global head of business development & licensing, Bayer Pharmaceuticals; Gerry Dehkes, CSAP, global cyber ecosystem lead at Booz Allen Hamilton; David Erienborn, CSAP, director of strategic alliances at KPMG. During the session, they spent a considerable amount of time plying the question of how to create a thriving dynamic between your alliance team, partners, and even ex-partners.
Joe: At the end of the day, the strategy is about people. Microsoft and KPMG are not going to do anything, since they do not exist other than in our heads they are not going to do anything. You only have the beginning of a strategy until you have taken your strategy from the company down to the people. People come into work not to execute a strategy; they come in with their own strategy. So how do I align their strategy to our best interests? In some cases, you also may need to work with the ex-partner. If you understand ahead of time where you are in conflict with the other company, you can design a way of working together.
Gerald: Here’s the approach we took, which is the secret sauce of this particular alliance program. Typically an alliance director will talk with partners and service leaders, and then bring in sales people. We realized the benefit of 10-20 alliance managers—with each trying to get to that sales force—and decided to take that part of the organization and organize it around the industry groups. Really position the alliance enablement person, and they would have only one person to go to. We found that to be very effective, those folks became part of the team. They decided strategies, winning alliance-based offers, they would always be there for that industry. That model helped us become successful. It’s that last piece that’s critical—getting those alliances out to sales-facing people.
David: It’s important that training people understand what they are trying to accomplish. If you can translate alliances at a company level down into the mind of the educators, and that this whole alliance is to get them to do something, they become aware of the importance of training to do something. It’s important for them to know this is the strategy. How do you set this up so they get visibility and appreciation? You need to make the training people a winner.
Joe: You need to know the difference between sales and revenue, understand what margin is, and understand that finance people will be called on for estimates. If I include them from the beginning, I am a lot more likely to get their support when I need it. Another group that is important to your alliance are the sponsors. I’m an advocate and agent, but not the sponsor. They can bring resources to bear and spend time on building relationships. The alliance should be one of their top four priorities for their year. They have to be someone who can really step up. There aren’t any sponsor schools, they’ve never been trained to do it. We need to help sponsors understand what their job is, invest time in it, determine who can be a sponsor, and make sure they have the training to do it.
Gerald: You need to define the elements of value that all the partners are looking for. It’s not a specific part of the agreement or financial transaction, yet it’s a strongly held expectation of the partner. If you don’t clarify that up front, you wind up being surprised. If there was an expectation that was discussed earlier, but you never codified the agreement or the people responsible for executing the agreement, then you have disconnect and conflict. It’s important that somebody is capturing the expectations. The other tool that is helpful upfront is to do a partner fit as part of due diligence. When you start with a rigorous checklist approach on partner resources, decision process, internal policies and procedures, you can mitigate conflicts down the road.
David: Trust is predictability. I don’t trust my 15 year old to drive a car because I can’t predict. So we do a lot of trust building. As you get more of your people out there dealing with partners, you have to educate them and give them the boundary conditions, not to restrain them, but you want a consistent approach. You want enough leeway to solve problems. You don’t want to inhibit them from creativity, but you want predictability.