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How to Manage Alliances Better Than One at a Time

Companies are surprisingly obtuse, the authors say, when it comes to the formation of new alliances. What often happens is that a business unit will form a partnership that serves its own parochial interests. All too often, however, the value that such alliances add at the business-unit level is negated by the resulting harm to the company due to the incompatibility of the new alliance with existing ones. Forming a partnership with a company that is an arch rival of an existing partner, for instance, can create such ill will that it leads to the overall destruction of value in the company.

The solution, the authors argue, lies in both structure and process: Companies should create a central “alliance function” an individual or a department at the corporate level that is charged with overseeing and coordinating the formation of new alliances. And the decision of whether to enter into a proposed alliance should be subject to a rigorous set of analytical steps in which the company examines the costs and benefits of the proposed alliance, not only for the business unit that is directly involved but also for the company as a whole.

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