The growing academic interest in collaboration in alliances and networks raises the question of whether managing alliances will become a new professional role in organizations or a transversal skill

Jaap Boonstra

Collaboration between organizations is increasing enormously in order to tackle social issues. During this year’s boom, four books will be published about collaboration in alliances and networks. This raises the question of whether alliance management is becoming a profession. 

Alliance management as a profession 

Is entering into and managing alliances a profession or a discipline with its own methodology, practiced by specific professionals who have been trained for this purpose? Or is it about insights and principles of action that are important to all members of an alliance?  

Alliance management is about bringing people together and looking for a common identity and meaning

Looking back at the concepts, examples and best practices in the book Alliances for a sustainable future, it is an art to take failure factors, success conditions and all kinds of paradoxes into account when forming, founding, evolving and transforming alliances. But is alliance management therefore also a specific profession? 

Multidisciplinary thinking and acting 

Knowledge from multiple disciplines is available when forming, founding, evolving and transforming alliances. An overview of these different knowledge sources makes it possible to act in a well-considered manner in all phases of the alliance's life. 

Forming and founding alliances involves searching for the most suitable partners and developing the dream thanks to a valuable ambition, choosing the most suitable tax-legal construction, formulating objectives and choosing a transparent management model. It takes skill to enter into relationships and to work on mutual trust based on a clear ambition and shared values. Moreover, it is about bringing people from different worlds together and looking for a common identity and meaning. We work on establishing a strategic vision, formulating goals, searching for a desired approach, naming concrete activities and dividing tasks and roles. 

Organizational knowledge and process skills 

Organizational knowledge is essential in the formation and functioning of alliances, as are process skills and an eye for mutual differences in the collaboration. It is an art to recognize paradoxes and to deal with differences and to identify and discuss stagnations when creating and developing alliances. Looking at problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives is essential, as is genuine involvement. Setting up a learning environment to continuously improve the functioning and cooperation of the alliance is a skill that requires a lot of experiential knowledge. 

Broad field of knowledge 

Successful cross-border cooperation between organizations requires knowledge about alliance forms, financial-legal constructions, organizational possibilities, administrative structures, relational anchorages, organizational cultures, differences between global cultures and socio-dynamic processes. Creating and developing alliances can be seen as a broad field of knowledge that arises from bringing together multidisciplinary knowledge and experience. The knowledge from this multidisciplinary knowledge field is relevant for everyone who works in alliances. 

Social skills 

Creating and developing values-driven alliances requires the involvement of people who not only have this knowledge, but who also have an open, flexible and multicultural mindset towards others who want to get involved. Only in this way can conflicts, if necessary, be bridged. Bringing this knowledge and mindset together and developing a methodology for forming, founding, evolving and transforming alliances is without a doubt a skill.  

Alliance management is not a unique profession, but a skill for all participants in the alliance

This skill can be practiced by all people in the alliance along with experienced executives, skilled scientists and specialist advisors who want to contribute to the success of values-driven alliances. Alliance management is not a unique profession, but a skill for all participants in the alliance.

This article is based on Jaap Boonstra's recent book, written together with Marcos Eguiguren: Alliances for Sustainable Futures (Edward Elgar, 2023)

All written content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.