Strategic alliances are a key component of organization life in the 1990s. Records managers need to understand what strategic alliances are, what organizational structures produce the most effective strategic alliances, and the effects that strategic alliances have on their human resources. Approximately fifty percent of strategic alliances are successful. The author reviews a successful and unsuccessful strategic alliance in two records management programs to assist readers in identifying critical success factors for their ventures.
Strategic alliances are an increasingly preferred method of conducting business in the United States and internationally. Records managers need to know that organizational entities are engaging in strategic alliances. Records managers themselves need to be innovative about creating strategic alliances to improve program effectiveness and broaden program opportunities. Records managers must also understand that strategic alliances require fundamental changes in how organizations are managed.
Strategic alliances can work well and benefit all participants. However, strategic alliances initiated without adequate preparation and planning can set back the organization and demoralize employees as well as result in protracted litigation. After fifteen years of research in studying over a thousand strategic alliances, scholars suggest that the failures are managerial in nature and therefore controllable.
This article will provide a brief definition of strategic alliances as well as a description of who is participating in them and some relevant numbers about their increasing use. The conditions that prompted this "emerging age of cooperation" will be reviewed, and the managerial human resource factors that have proven to be effective in creating successful strategic alliances and those that have harmed strategic alliances will be summarized.(1) Finally, two case studies of strategic alliances involving records management efforts will be discussed, one of which was successful and the other of which was not. These experiences will highlight the salient issues raised in the literature. This article is not intended to, nor does it serve as, an exhaustive study of strategic alliances.(2)
WHAT ARE STRATEGIC ALLIANCES?
A tremendous synergy can take place when two or more people or organizations unite, blending their talents and resources to accomplish an agreed upon goal. The objective of such an arrangement is to create outcomes for both partners that are possible only if they collaborate, in essence, a win/win situation. A strategic alliance is such a unity of organizations and accentuates collaboration and cooperation. Money and skills contributed need not be given equally by the partners, but hoped for rewards must be substantial for both.
Alliances permit organizations to share resources, enhance their competitive position, and internalize the appropriate strengths of their partners.(3) Throughout the decades these alliances occurred most often under the auspices of research and development partnerships, technical exchanges, co-productions, technology transfer agreements, equity investments, sale and distribution agreements, and cross-distribution agreements.
Strategic alliances differ from the traditional interactions of organizations. Strategic alliances are mutually sought after collaborations emphasizing and combining particular strengths in an effort to overcome the weaknesses of each organization if it were acting as a lone competitor. Strategic alliances are not traditional outsourcing relationships simply dressed in new clothing.
The traditional ventures are quite asymmetrical. Strategic alliances are more symmetrical in that goodwill and creative problem solving are dominant features rather than power and control. The traditional hierarchical power dynamic is absent in well founded strategic alliances. Such alliances are well suited for "suppliers, service contractors, customers, and even unions. …