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Setting Up the Alliance Function

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

For a century or more, accounting firms like KPMG provided consulting services, according to Gerry Dehkes, director of alliance management at KPMG LLP. This came to be seen as a conflict of interest, so these consulting practices were largely broken up and separated—with the loss of all their associated alliances. Over the last decade or so some of this consulting business has been built back up. Consequently, said Dehkes, KPMG recognized that it needed a formal alliance management function in order to grow its consulting practice. Dehkes was selected to “stand up” the new alliance practice, starting in October 2010.

The story of this “journey,” as Dehkes termed it, from building an alliance management function from scratch up to optimization of alliances within KPMG, was the subject of a presentation by Dehkes and his colleage David Erlenborn, director of strategic alliances at KPMG LLP, entitled “Laying the Foundation: Setting Up an Alliance Management Function in Your Organization,” this morning at the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

KPMG’s auditing and tax businesses don’t grow that fast, according to Dehkes; its consulting services do. So how to set up the alliance management function for this business and organize it globally? “We viewed this as a people and change problem,” Dehkes said. People and groups within the company needed to act differently: sponsors, alliance partners, and account teams.

Erlenborn added that it was important to be clear about purpose and objectives. “We’re not there to build successful alliances. We’re there to build successful business through alliances,” he explained. KPMG sought to move from a situation of “alliance push” to “sponsor pull”: from a more opportunistic approach to alliances to a more proactive strategy focused on alliance optimization. “Nirvana is getting up to ‘how do I optimize this?’” he said.

To get there, the company took it on as a step-by-step process, using various strategy tools, “cheat sheets,” and a sales playbook. “It was more important that we were using a consistent set of proven tools rather than inventing something new,” said Dehkes.

The “last mile,” according to Dehkes, was the hiring of alliance enablement directors (AEDs). The AED is the single point of contact for an alliance, to get KPMG’s and the partner’s sales teams working together. And among all the process steps and points, Dehkes stressed that it’s important to communicate wins and other successes. “People need to feel this is working.”

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