4 Key Ways to Build the Right Balance with Your Alliance Partners and Channels
To start this series on partnering, alliances, web 2.0 and social media, I’d like to begin by offering up some fundamentals. Let me begin by talking about some core principles of building the right balances in the relationships with your business partners.
In the 90’s, I had the opportunity to represent AT&T in one of the first Information Technology (IT) benchmarking studies facilitated by the Nolan, Norton Co. The two founders and principals of the company were David Norton and Dick Nolan. David Norton became famous for his development and use of the balanced scorecard while Dick Nolan was one of the leading professors of Information Management at Harvard. Their company Nolan, Norton Company eventually was bought out by KPMG – but I believe it may be independent again or at least reincarnated.
Our 9 month IT benchmarking study that was geared to highlight IT best practices (world-class best practices actually) was conducted with around 10 companies including Boeing, American Airlines, Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada, Sprint, Ford, etc. We used a number of techniques and as I recall it was an initial exposure to David Norton’s balanced scorecard which had just come out about that time. You can read more about it below and there is The Balanced Scorecard Institute for further information.
Applied to partnering, alliance managers can use these principles to measure:
- Partnership financial performance
- Customer satisfaction and increased customer interaction
- Internal learning through understanding of complementary products and services
- Process improvement through incorporation of best partner practices
Those 4 important balances apply to alliances and partnerships in the following way:
- Process: Too much process and paperwork can overrun the alliance with unnecessary bureaucracy. Too little and there is not enough of a framework to work within. Having a defined go-to-market partner framework puts boundaries around where to focus.
- Management: Too much executive interference may kill off the groundswell and viral effect while too little will surely doom its failure as evidence of no real commitment between the partners.
- Customer Interaction: Too much customer interaction early on in the relationship will result in lack of focus and potentially dissatisfied clients especially if the partners paint the expectations too high. Too few early customers will stall the partnership from lack of concrete success stories and references. Early customer interaction can also help drive new areas of co-innovation that might go seemingly unnoticed.
- Financial Results: Expectations that are set too high, too early will damage the credibility of the partnership, while too few results ends in a non-start eventually. It’s also important to build a compensation neutral programs with early incentives for both partners so that the line sales people that drive the success of the deals are appropriately compensated. That’s a subject of its own – but is quite important in the overall financial success of most partner driven relationship.
In summary, partnerships naturally imply balance, not necessarily in exactly equal amounts, but more in terms of relative commitment. Lastly, using a balanced scorecard approach can be an important lens into looking at your valuable partnerships and is another way to make sure that partnership success can be equivalently measured and improved.
For more information around the Balanced Scorecard
What is the balanced scorecard?
The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is widely applicable to organizations regardless of size or type of business. The system, extensively used in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide, provides a method of aligning business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improving internal and external communications, and monitoring organization performance against strategic goals.