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How to operationalize partner selection

Earlier we wrote about 10 ways to raise your alliance management game. In one of our earlier posts, we suggested some questions to ask of your stakeholders to develop a sound growth strategy for your alliance portfolio.

Here we discuss how to develop the attributes and criteria that you look for in a potential partner and how technology can help in the process.

Developing criteria

For this purpose, we favor pithy frameworks that have been developed by the alliance management function in consultation with key business stakeholders and that can be easily and clearly communicated across the organization.

Your framework could have a multitude of dimensions. These depend on the complexity of your industry and company and on the size, nature and maturity of your alliance portfolio.

For example, the ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management produced by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (2013) offers three assessment categories (strategic, operational, chemistry) that align with your growth strategy. Measurable outcomes could also be developed around four leading indicators (market impact, organizational effectiveness, innovative capacity, competitive advantage) and one lagging indicator (financial return).

In addition, an analysis of alliance enterprise risk along with a mitigation path should always be part of any criteria framework. Why? Only once an alliance function goes beyond managing day-to-day problems and starts to manage alliance risk in a forward-looking way will an alliance function have the capacity to also focus on healthy portfolio growth, extending relationships, capturing value and embedding alliance management practices across the organization.

No matter how you approach partner selection, it is important that your criteria are applied consistently and are updated frequently as new information about a future partner organization comes to light.

The role of technology

Selecting the right strategic partner is a mix of art and science. The cognitive load is large, and it is all too easy to emphasize “hard” factors over “soft” factors. Yet we know that “soft” factors can have impact on “hard” factors very quickly, so it’s best to have these visible and out in front.

Many of you will have developed your checklists or detailed guides outlining criteria that you want to see in your future partner. How about automating these guidelines? Could you have better discussions with your C-suite and with your partners about what’s important to capture full value of the relationship?

At allianceboard, we have solved this challenge with our evaluations tool. With it you can easily design as many evaluations as you want to suit any number of types of alliances in your portfolio. The figure below shows a simple framework that we have created using allianceboard’s evaluations builder:

Of course it is possible to also reflect more complex evaluation frameworks.

Being able to define and ensure adherence to the selection and due diligence standards across your organization should deploy is just one of many advantages of using technology for this purpose. Updating as new information becomes available is easy, allowing you to be efficient by eliminating a potential partner as soon as the lack of fit becomes apparent.

The same tool also evaluates your existing relationships over time. Coherent scorecards that allign to the purpose of each type of collaboration in your portfolio allow you to seamlessly transition the winners from business development to alliance management and evaluate holistic performance of multiple partners of a similar genre over time.

The result is a tremendous time-saver that decreases partner performance risk while short-cutting the manual work for your internal stakeholder updates and quarterly steering committee meetings.

No matter what framework you choose, allianceboard is ideal to choose the best partner with whom to innovate and grow.

Contact us at to learn more about our 10 Factor Framework for Strategic Impact.


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