An alliance manager is a job role that asks for a special kind of professional. In a recent conversation someone asked me what was the ideal profile for an alliance manager and I mentioned a couple of characteristics that would be required in the ideal profile. In many ways an alliance manager may be like Antoni Gaudi was. He had a grand vision for the Sagrada Familia and knew to convince the community of Barcelona to build it. He found the funding to get started and build his dream, while knowing that he would never himself see the final results and receive the credits for it. Some will say he was an artist or an architect. Maybe he was an alliance manager and who faced his share of diplomacy, lobbying, analysis, strategy and managing the business too while pursuing his dream?
Without the illusion of being complete a couple of the characteristics that an alliance manager will need to have to be successful in his role:
Diplomat and lobbyist
The alliance manager has in general no hierarchical connections with his team mates that he can rely on. To get things done he needs to gain buy in from colleagues and alliance counterparts by persuasion and by winning them for the alliance. Some will be champions and easy to convince, some will feel to be involved in the alliance against their will and will not cooperate as easy as desired. He will need to be the spider in the web, connecting people and companies to get things done for the sake of the alliance and influence without authority.
While having the role of connecting people and companies the alliance manager will need to be able to gain and remain overview too. Overview over the alliance, over what is happening at the partner and what is happening in the own organization. The alliance manager needs to be able to connect the dots on what he sees happening. Connecting can only be done when the analytical skills are well developed. Crunching the data he observes and connecting information, analyzing and concluding.
It is not just the business strategy that the alliance manager needs to be able to understand. Based on the analysis done he needs to be able to create his strategy to get things done. But also needs to be able to architect and suggest adjustment for the strategy of the alliance when developments require so. Not that the alliance manager needs to adjust the strategy, but be able to notice the need for it and suggest the adjustment to his management and the steering committee for the alliance.
To understand what is going on in the alliance the alliance manager needs to have the skills of a business manager. Financial insight, business insight, depending of the type of the alliance also sales insight and negotiation skills. The alliance manager might even nee to be a more all round business manager than a general business manager is.
When done well as an alliance manager you will make it all possible without receiving first hand credits in the spotlight. As mentioned before in an article you as the alliance manager will be the lubricant to grease the alliance and the glue that holds it together. The importance of lubricant and glue however are often only noticed when they are missing.
What other characteristics do you feel to be essential for successfully fulfilling the role of an alliance manager?