A successful alliance program begins at the top with the support of the CEO. Like many other things, the CEO influences company culture, models the behavior, and sets the priorities in collaborative relationships. CEO support and that of the CXO staff fosters the environment where alliances can thrive and deliver results.
When you look at the management model of strategic alliances, it becomes clear why this level of support is critical. As strategic alliances stretch across a companys value chain, you find that company to company collaboration touches multiple functional organizations “ R&D, Operations, Marketing, Sales, etc. It takes the active involvement of senior management to keep the behaviors of the functional organizations in alignment with the companys strategic goals in partnering with an alliance.
Companies that are well known for alliance excellence not only foster the partner friendly environment from the top down but they assign executive sponsors to shape and manage the strategic intent of the most important relationships. IBM is one of those companies that has a well developed Executive Sponsorship program built into their most important alliances. For the largest and most strategic alliances, alliance strategy and performance is reported at the Board of Directors level and the CEO, Sam Palmisano, regularly meets with his alliance CEO counterpart. Key business leaders are assigned as executive sponsors, especially to those partners that are considered important to the success of those lines of business for which they are responsible. These executives are actively involved in those alliances and have a clear stake in their success.
Secret #4 is the fourth installment to the Eight Secrets of Successful Strategic Alliances webcast broadcast by the American Management Association.