Forging Sound Strategic Alliances

Article excerpt

Joint technology projects or alliances between and among companies require clear and logical planning up front, appropriate monitoring during the project's lifetime, and clear criteria for ending the relationship. Do this, paying attention to some critical details listed below, and you can realize tremendous leverage.

Up Front

1. Define the value you each expect from the project/alliance.

* Articulate the expectations you have of each other and the project.

* Discuss and clarify the needs you each have before, during and after product commercialization.

* Define the strategic impact/fit of the alliance for each side.

* Articulate the advantage to both of you from the relationship.

2. Define the benefits/rewards you each expect from the project.

* Clearly articulate both the tangible and intangible benefits: solely profits or exclusive suppliership, lead time on the market, patent rights, publications and presentations.

* Discuss the timing required by each side before gaining the reward/benefits.

* Come to closure on the risk associated with the reward, and if you both agree to it.

3. Discuss each of your cultures and general practices--culture always wins out; compatibility and flexibility are critical.

Discuss each of your processes/criteria for project selection to assure strategic fit.

* Agree on project planning and monitoring processes to indicate level of detail and presentation style.

* Discuss your levels of risk tolerance or aversion, and gain agreement.

* Communicate your corporate values to assure they are compatible.

Set-up

Once you have laid the groundwork for the interaction and believe there are reasons for mutual benefit, the alliance must be able to codify, in some manner, the agreements reached in points 1-3, above.

4. Develop and finalize formal agreements.

* Through joint development and confidentiality agreements, define rights to technology, timing for commercialization, patent or trade secret rights, cost recovery, and technology exclusivity.

* Define clearly the processes for amicably following up and assuring compliance with written agreements.

5. Define roles and resources--there is no silent partner in a true cross-functional team.

* Define the role and responsibilities of the project team, who they report to and how.

* Spell out the resources each side will supply--equipment/facilities and people.

* Articulate the priority of this project to each partner, and the time available.

Planning and Monitoring

With the legal documentation and resource allocation clearly defined, the team must now get the job done. …