ASAP is an acronym, of course, but in this case stands for “Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals”. ASAPs global summit (Mastering the Art and Science of Alliance) was held January 31st to February 3rd in Atlanta–although there are countless local chapters around the world that hold meetings on a more regular schedule.
Its membership hales mostly in the technology or pharmaceutical industries, although literally every industry is represented (spanning B2B and B2C categories). The one thing all members have in common is that they are alliance managers by profession. However, “alliance” as it turns out is a broad term, including: sales channels, joint ventures, strategic outsourcing partnerships and a host of other categories that separate strategic business relationships from mere “vendor/supplier” or “vendor/merchant” relationships.
Progressive companies are using strategic partnerships to enhance product offering, open new markets, and improve customer retention as a faster, more efficient alternative to developing new capabilities in-house. According to ASAP, such alliances now account for up to 40% of revenues for the top 1000 US public corporations. Further, it was noted that up to 50% of all alliances that exist today are between competing firms (coopetition). With this much responsibility thrust upon its members, it’s no wonder that ASAP is taking off. In fact, of the 500 or so summit attendees, about 30%-40% were new members (including yours truly). So there must be something to this rapid growth of strategic alliances that makes it compelling for progressive companies to build entire departments, products, and GTM strategies around.
Considering the disparity in titles, roles, industries, and partner definitions represented at the summit, one would think that there would be little commonality between members to form a basis for an entire week-long conference. Well, as it turns out it’s quite surprising how much these members have in common in terms of challenges:
• 60% of all alliances fail because of a cultural mismatch between organizations, creating a communication breakdown that focuses on their differences rather than the complementary attributes that brought the organizations together in the first place.
• Many organizations jump into alliances and then put them on autopilot in hopes that the relationship will evolve on its own—only to find that the partnership under-delivers against initial expectations.
• Alliance Managers, by and large, are perpetual cheerleaders that have to represent their partner’s perspective to their own team as well as act as the person responsible for delivering any bad news to their partners. This bi-representation (is that a word?) essentially assures that they’ll not likely win a popularity contest from either company. Indeed, they may even risk being branded as a traitor by their own employer.
To combat these common challenges, Alliance managers have to spend 80% of their time coaching internal audiences to assure all resources are aligned in the best interest of the partnership. Gee, as channel managers tasked with the responsibility of creating a “win/win” environment for your company and your partners, you can relate to those challenges—can’t you?
I left with the impression that ASAP is both a great organization and a great resource. They even have a certification program that helps members in this growing profession learn how to design and manage strategic alliance relationships using guiding principles founded on their library of best-practice content authored by some of the best in the business. (After all, it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, isn’t it?). I encourage you to investigate the organization’s attributes for yourself: http://www.strategic-alliances.org/.